East Williamsburg, Brooklyn: ‘Tough industrial vibe’ with pliable boundaries

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In Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood, uptown feels like an afterthought. Townhouses fill the spaces between industrial corridors. The park is just steps away from the scrapyard, where muscular men smash implements with sledgehammers. You can easily find a place to wash your cargo truck.

This is paradise for Laura Alfstad, who moved into a new apartment building on North Henry Street in September 2020 with her husband Thomas.

Ms. Alfstad, a 35-year-old nurse practitioner who had been living in Guam, Pacific, met Mr. Alfstad in South Korea. After their marriage, they moved to his apartment on East 34th Street in Manhattan. Disturbed by the “high energy and tall buildings”, Ms Alfstad couldn’t wait to leave.

East Williamsburg feels like a sanctuary. Their house, which sold for just under $1.4 million, is 1,200 square feet with two real bedrooms and a garden. McCarran Park at the intersection of North Williamsburg and Greenpoint is a 15-minute walk away. The couple frequented restaurants, coffee shops and old-fashioned butchers along Graham Avenue. (“We want to make sure our punching grounds stay healthy,” Ms. Alfstad said.) Mr. Alfstad, who works at the United Nations, commutes on the L train.

Of course, the Brooklyn-Queens Freeway whizzes by a block and a half away. “I’m from Detroit,” Ms. Alfstad said, “and I love the gritty industrial vibe.”

In New York, community boundaries are notoriously resilient, and some geographers might insist that the Alfstads really live in Green Point. What’s in the name? Northwest Brooklyn has long been a vibrant development area, with generations of Italian, Spanish and Slavic neighborhoods eroding, and young people flocking to and fleeing once home prices become unsustainable.

Currently, East Williamsburg is integrated into neighborhoods that share its advantages of asphalt and street art, such as Bushwick to the south and Ridgewood, Queens, to the east. Residents consider the cultural and waterfront attractions of nearby North Williamsburg and South Williamsburg, westward, as a bonus.

The most parsimonious maps define East Williamsburg as a triangle formed by Flushing Avenue in the south, Bushwick Avenue in the west, and Metropolitan Avenue in the north. Google Maps places the BQE on the northern boundary and extends the area to the easternmost branch of Newtown Creek. About half of the total area of ​​1.4 square miles is occupied by the East Williamsburg Industrial Park. Breaking down community demographics is challenging given the uncertainty around boundaries, but the site City-Data defines as the area of ​​East Williamsburg — which includes 2.5 square miles and five zip codes — had 94,473 residents in 2019, Of these, 42.3 percent identified as white, 33.8 percent were Hispanic or Latino, 10.7 percent were black, 6.5 percent were Asian, and 3.9 percent were multiracial.

Even by the narrowest definition, Roberta’s, the beloved pizzeria on Moore Street, is considered a Bushwick icon, technically located in East Williamsburg. According to Nick Tukmanian, 39, owner of a commercial building that rents out co-working spaces at 100 Bogart Street, Bushwick became hot 10 years ago At the time, businesses near the Morgan Avenue L train station, including his own, were happy to hitch a ride. charm.

Last September, East Williamsburg got its own landmark, a 170,000-square-foot Netflix production studio with six soundstages in a former steel mill on Johnson Avenue.

Those nostalgic for 1980s New York will find plenty to warm their hearts. Loft buildings and factory walls are covered in graffiti, and parked trucks look like they’ve been sitting idle for too long, and are tagged to match the buildings behind them. Like Bushwick, the streets are full of trendy young people and tourists.

Mr. Tukmanian recalled that someone had recently burst into his building and asked the front desk when the next graffiti tour would be. “I don’t know the timetable,” the waiter replied. “Left or right.”

For Juan Elias Lopera, an East Williamsburg-based Rhome real estate agent, the area’s warehouses are a happy breeding ground for galleries, photo shoots and dance parties. Our Wicked Lady, 3 Dollar Bill and Sovereign are popular performance venues showcasing their industrial chic.

The neighborhood becomes more residential as one heads north to the 6.4-acre Cooper Park. It was created in 1895 on the land of a glue factory owned by Peter Cooper and has a skate park, handball and tennis courts, pollination garden and playground.

Nearby, the Devoe Street block between Olive and Catherine includes renovated townhouses that are prime residential real estate. The Roman Catholic Church of St. Nicholas is a red-brick building on the corner of Devore and Oliver that dates back to 1886, when its congregation was overwhelmingly German. (Predominantly Latinos now.)

“I just love being in bare spaces,” said Lauren Ball, 42, an artist who moved from her Bushwick Avenue and Varet Street home three months ago but still works at her Metropolitan studio, which she rented for less than $1,000 a month. “I think all artists have a strong interest in the possibilities of space, and for me, that’s what East Williamsburg offers and continues to offer.”

For three years, CNN production assistant Engy Adham, 30, shared a three-bedroom apartment on North Henry Street with two roommates; her share was $850 a month, plus utilities. “I’m Egyptian,” she said. “When I moved to America, I wanted a diverse place.” The mix of race and age “attracted me,” she said.

East Williamsburg attracts young creatives for its relatively affordable prices, but prices there are soaring, as are much of Brooklyn. Real estate agent Mr Lopera said the reason was an influx of remote workers and a shortage of available properties. The median sale price for a home in East Williamsburg in May 2020 was $1.15 million, based on 32 sales, up 8% year over year, according to Redfin data. (In Redfin’s neighborhood map, the western boundary stretches from Union Avenue to BQE)

In terms of rent, the current low-end price for a one-bedroom is about $2,600 to $2,800 a month, while a two-bedroom is typically around $3,300 to $3,400 a month, Mr. Lopera said. But he said he expects more stock to come, based on the rising visibility of construction sites and work permits.

Some of them have already arrived. Developer Slate Property Group describes a new seven-story building at 222 Johnson Avenue, west of Bushwick Avenue, as the first luxury building in East Williamsburg. It offers 116 rental units, 35 of which are allocated to households with annual incomes between $31,680 and $159,640, depending on home and unit size. Market rents for studio apartments start at around $2,850 per month, while two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments top out at more than $4,600 per month. As of late June, the building was fully occupied. Martin Nussbaum, principal of Slate Property Group, said his firm would soon break ground on a 180,000-square-foot tower at 159 Boerum Street.

As of mid-June, 16 properties in East Williamsburg were listed for sale on Compass’s website, using Google Maps boundaries. That includes a one-bedroom apartment in a seven-story building on Maspeth Avenue that is listed for $695,000, with monthly maintenance costs of $1,031 and monthly taxes of $27. A two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom apartment in a four-story building on Powers Street is listed for $1.65 million, with monthly maintenance costs of $675 and monthly taxes of $1,275.

For now at least, Graffiti is a brand of East Williamsburg — and subject to its own gentrification. In a spontaneous explosion of brains, fangs, and smiling faces—moons, cartoons, and raccoons—corporate-sponsored fine art such as geometric murals transform the exterior of 154 Morgan Avenue, a manufacturing building.

PS 196 is Ten Ike Elementary School and enrolls approximately 290 students in Pre-K through 5th grade. For the 2020-21 school year, the student body is approximately 75% Hispanic or Latino, 18% Black, 2% Asian and 1% White. The school has a 96 per cent pass rate in the core sixth-grade subjects (maths, English, social studies and science) for its first five-year students.

PS 147, Brooklyn School of Environmental Engineering Isaac Remsen enrolls approximately 300 students in pre-K through fifth grade.In the 2020-21 school year, the student body is 52% Hispanic or Latino, 15% Black, 13% White and 9% Asians. The school’s previous 5th graders had a 93% pass rate in their 6th grade core subjects.

The Magnet School of Multimedia, Technology and Urban Planning MS 582 enrolls approximately 350 students in grades six through eight. For the 2020-21 academic year, the core curriculum student pass rate was 98%.

East Williamsburg Scholars is a high school enrolling approximately 330 students in grades 9-12. For the 2020-21 school year, 64.8% of the student body is Hispanic or Latino, 29% Black, 2.4% White, and 1.5% Asian; 26% took at least one Advanced Placement class. Of the Class of 2021, 78% graduate within four years.

Williamsburg Charter High School enrolls approximately 980 students in grades 9-12. For the 2020-21 school year, students are 61% Hispanic or Latino, 35% Black and 1% White; 84% have completed approved college or career prep courses and exams. Of the Class of 2021, 83% graduate within four years.

East Williamsburg has Graham Avenue, Grand Street, and Morgan Avenue stops on the L train, and on the western edge, Get off at the Metropolitan Avenue/Lorimer Street stop on the G and L trains.

Nor is the name East Williamsburg now an invention of the opportunistic real estate industry, according to a 2012 article in the online publication “Brooklyn Based.” The neighborhood wasn’t even in Brooklyn at first: “The earliest mention of the neighborhood, then part of the Dutch settlement of Newtown, was found on a 1783 map, west of what is now Ridgewood, Queens.”

The developers of the East Williamsburg Industrial Park chose the name in 1982 to clarify its location relative to North and South Williamsburg. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the brand was acquired and the boundaries of the community expanded.

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