February 19, 2012 Butterfly Diary Team

The Brooklyn Series: How DUMBO Got Its Name (a Walk with ?Made in Brooklyn Tours?)

I felt a bit weird trekking to Brooklyn and staying there for two days to explore the neighborhood. Let me explain, the burrough and I don’t really know each other. In fact, the only reason why? I haven’t had much of a love affair with Brooklyn is because I had dismissed it as a residential landmass, even though I didn’t know anything about it.

I have several friends who live in the area who had constantly voiced their love for their locale. Since there’s a saying that goes, “the more you know, the more you want to know,” I decided that this visit would be just what the travel doctor ordered for the skeptic residing in Weehawken, NJ.

Luckily for me, I had experts who really knew what they were talking about to ease me into Brooklyn-ese. We were in the expert hands of Dom Gervasi who started Made in Brooklyn Tours. Dom, a born and bred Brooklynite, knows the area like the back of his phone, and is a licensed NYC Sightseeing Guide.

Made in Brooklyn Tours leader Dom Gervasi (left)

Dom’s love for Brooklyn is very obvious. A soft spoken leader with a true passion for showing others the gems of his stomping grounds, he tells us of the history of the popular area that you see in the pictures.

This used to be a former Navy Yard, he explains. “It was historically called Fulton Ferry Landing.” The name DUMBO emerged in 1978, at the time when there was a surge of artists in Manhattan. During the late 1970s, manufacturers were leaving the New York City area (in places like SoHo and Tribeca) and moving elsewhere to find less expensive rentals. But since the buildings they left were empty spaces?voids with little use ?the building landlords decided to be smart about putting it to good use. So they started renting out the buildings to the burgeoning artists.

This made sense to me since the SoHo, Tribeca and DUMBO areas were typically associated with artists and artist lofts.

DUMBO, Made in Brooklyn Tours, View of Artists Cafe

A view of the popular The River Cafe, and Brooklyn Bridge

The landlords started making the artist residences pretty hip, and went into a lot of empty buildings to tinker with them and do renovations. But as human nature would inevitably have it, the landlords started getting greedy and raised the prices on these manufacturing residences. Well, the artists living in the DUMBO area at the time (it wasn’t called DUMBO then) were a? bit concerned that the spike in rent in New York would affect them as well, so they banded together and decided to have an unpalatable name so no one would want to move here. Their first idea was to call the area DUMB (Down Under Manhattan Bridge) to detract others from paying a visit to the area and living there. But they (thankfully) added an O (for Overpass) at the end.? An alternatively name was Down Around the Navy Yard Annex?but DUMBO works much better.

Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Somehow, it sounds just right.

The artists’ efforts worked only for a little while, and it would be only a few years later when smart and savvy investors started to recognized the potential of the area. One of the biggest purveyors of the land were the Valentis family ?both David and Jane Valentis (we’ll talk more about them in a future post). ?

DUMBO, Made in Brooklyn Tours, View of Manhattan, Brooklyn Bridge

A view of Manhattan & Brooklyn Bridge from the ferry landing

My weekend journey to DUMBO started off with brisk walk to the former Fulton Ferry Landing, an area where you can get a spectacular view of downtown Manhattan, including the One World Trade Center, the Frank Gehry building and of course, the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges.

I inhaled the fresh air and walked briskly, hearing the pleasant sea-side sounds of seagulls and activity. The blogger group I went with were a lively bunch, and chirped in their love for Brooklyn. What is really interesting to note is how far along DUMBO has come in terms of its expansion. “This area was really declining in terms of industry,” explains Gervasi “and fortunately some people were coming here and looking at the area and saying there’s so much promise here.” Now, you’d be lucky to get a piece of the real estate action, especially if you wanted to live in a building with such impressive views as what you see above. And this area is a haven for artists, featuring movies and music. Barge Music, a popular floating music series, is held right there on the pier, off the former Fulton Ferry Landing.

It is hard not to be completely in awe of the expansive view, cafe-lined streets and what I would describe as a truly bohemian artist vibe. DUMBO is a region that every visitor ?or New Yorker? should visit.

To reach Made in Brooklyn Tours, contact:

Dom Gervasi

Made in Brooklyn Tours

Phone: 718 355 9263

This is the first post in a series of posts about DUMBO and Brooklyn. A big thank you to the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott for sponsoring the tour.