New York Magazine, June 22, 1992. Courtesy of Jim Lundquist
In the 1980s, things started to turn over. With increasing rents and a lack of space in Manhattan, artists and young adults started to seek a better place to live. Williamsburg provided low rents and vacant spaces, such as waterfront factories and warehouses, which attracted a new demographic to move into the area. The migration mainly came from Manhattan (the East Village) across the East River to Brooklyn (Williamsburg). Like SoHo in the 1970s and the East Village in 1980s, Williamsburg in the 1980s and 1990s was becoming a destination for artists and creatives in New York City.
When young artists and performers moved into Williamsburg and gathered around North Seventh Street and Bedford Avenue, they also attracted other professionals, including art critics, artistic entrepreneurs, writers, filmmakers, indie music journalists, patrons, and bands to venture over from Manhattan. They transformed abandoned factories, warehouses and empty dwellings into art galleries, cafes, bars, clubs, restaurants, and boutiques. Moreover, media, including newspapers, magazines, and new media (i.e. blog, email, etc.), played an important role in promoting the image of Williamsburg, as did various activities and exhibitions like the “Organism” show, Rubulad (located nearby by the Brooklyn Navy Yard) and other DIY parties, “Out of Town: the Williamsburg Paradigm,” and “Other Rooms.” The media promotion and events successfully attracted public attention and helped Williamsburg become an indispensable part of New York’s artistic and cultural map.
Today, Williamsburg’s real estate prices of both rentals and condominiums have soared. In 2011, after seven years and a 240% rent increase, some artists and creative professionals have already moved to other places, like the adjacent neighborhood to the south, Bushwick, as well as the East Village. The current challenge of Southside Williamsburg in general is arduous: the community is standing at the intersection of dealing with gentrification while maintaining a sense of locality and the goal of an idealized community.