From New York Times
October 24, 2002
Dumbo: Over the River, No Longer Fringe
By PETER HELLMAN
WEEKENDS aren't so quiet anymore in Dumbo, the tiny neighborhood of old red-brick buildings on the Brooklyn waterfront. On a Sunday afternoon this month, workers were trundling rugs and furniture into the new ABC Carpet & Home store, which opened last week in a former Jay Street warehouse. Down on Water Street, St. Ann's Warehouse, a former spice packaging plant converted to a 599-seat theater, was crackling with sound checks for that evening's David Bowie concert.
Two blocks away, at the recently converted Sweeney Building, real estate brokers showed prospective buyers some of the 87 condos there that went on sale this month, many with full views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. One-third of those apartments are priced at more than $1 million. Twenty-seven units were sold over Columbus Day weekend alone, according to Sweeney's sales director, Toby Klein, including a $2.2 million penthouse with a spiral staircase leading to private rooftop cabanas. David C. Walentas, 64, the building's developer and the prime mover behind Dumbo's revival, calls the rooftop "tar beach."
From rooftops to paving stones, hardly anything happens in Dumbo (for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) without Mr. Walentas's involvement. He may be the only person to have put a New York City neighborhood on the residential map himself, having bought up 15 buildings and converted them into offices and apartments.
Today he owns 132 rental apartments and 2.5 million square feet of commercial space in Dumbo. To help lure tenants from across the river, he has given a half-dozen arts groups a total of 100,000 square feet of free space. Jacques Torres, a chocolate shop run by the former pastry chef at Le Cirque, is one of 15 stores that do not have to pay rent to Mr. Walentas for two years. "By enriching the mix downstairs," Mr. Walentas said, "I'm increasing the value of what's upstairs." Mr. Walentas even paid the Metropolitan Transit Authority an initial fee of $90,000 in 1998 to reroute the B25 bus so that it stops in Dumbo.
The 15-square-block district is no longer a post-industrial backwater. Not everyone is happy. As Dumbo gains respectability, with the proliferating galleries, restaurants, specialty food shops and a shopping outlet like ABC, the prices are following. In 1981, Mr. Walentas bought the 1915 Clock Tower Building, a 16-story structure with a mansard roof, for $6 a square foot. After his 1998 conversion, the Clock Tower became a neighborhood centerpiece. Loft condominiums now sell for as much as $740 a square foot, according to Karen Heyman, a broker with Atco Residential Group.
Sheila Metzner, the photographer, lived on the Upper West Side for more than 30 years until she and her husband, Jeffrey, moved to the Clock Tower last year. She works nearby in a spacious loft on Jay Street. "I was born in Brooklyn and spent my whole life trying to flee from it," Ms. Metzner said. "But here I am, and I love it."
To many of the artists who moved into the neighborhood a decade or more ago, however, the gentrification carefully orchestrated by Mr. Walentas is already having a sad impact. Tom Otterness, a sculptor, was forced out of his studio at 55 Washington Street, a building owned by Mr. Walentas, when an Internet company signed a lease at three times the rent that Mr. Otterness had paid.
"I wanted to be treated better after 15 years there," said Mr. Otterness, who now lives a few blocks away.
Elliott Arkin, a sculptor who has been at 20 Jay Street for 18 years, said, "I most likely will have to move out when my lease is up next year." He is currently paying $1,500 a month for a 2,000-square-foot loft.
Earlier this year, Mr. Walentas suffered the indignity of losing the contract as managing agent of the Clock Tower Building ó where he lives. "It was difficult to get anything done," said Jeffrey Metzner, one of the residents to vote against him. "And now it's not. I like David, but since he voted to have another agent, I have seen the less charming side of him."
Also, a spokesman for the M.T.A., Paul J. Fleuranges, has said that Mr. Walentas has not paid his yearly fee for the extension of the B25 bus route since 2000. But the bus still goes to Dumbo.
The criticism has not stopped Mr. Walentas from having an almost monopolistic control over the neighborhood. "It must be interesting to handpick your whole neighborhood," Susan Feldman, director of arts at St. Ann's, the performance space, told Mr. Walentas during the sound check for the Bowie concert. "But you can do it, David, because you're the king of Dumbo."
"I'm the mayor," said Mr. Walentas, dressed in bluejeans, a sweatshirt and tennis shoes. "Well, maybe the benevolent king."
The kingdom wasn't always so charmed. Days after moving to his Jay Street loft 18 years ago, Mr. Arkin came upon the chalk outline of a body in front of his building. Then a desolate stretch of dilapidated warehouses, the street was a popular dumping ground for hit men, detectives told him.
"Is it dangerous for me?" Mr. Arkin asked the detective.
`Not as long as you stay inside when they're dumping a body," he said he was told. That chalk outline was in front of what is now the new entrance to the ABC store.
Mr. Walentas first set foot in Dumbo in 1981. Arriving in a red Mercedes-Benz convertible, he had lunch at the River Cafť, a lonely outpost among shadowy streets that gained a reputation for its food. But many diners also came for the views. Mr. Walentas, already a seasoned developer, had come to see the giant industrial buildings left half-empty by the decline of manufacturing and shipping.
Moving quickly, Mr. Walentas's company, Two Trees Management, bought 11 buildings in the area, including the four largest, known as the Gair buildings, which were used in the late-19th century to fabricate corrugated cardboard. His partners were Ronald S. Lauder and Leonard A. Lauder, whose family owns Estťe Lauder, for whom his wife, Jane, had worked as an art director.
The neighborhood had always been known as Fulton Landing. Taking his cue from the names SoHo and TriBeCa, Mr. Walentas began to promote the name Dumbo.
At first, it appeared that Walentas had made a wise bet. Lehman Brothers Kuhn Loeb promised to move a part of its back-office operations to the Clock Tower. Mr. Walentas also won designation by New York City and State to be the sole developer of the Empire Stores, a string of abandoned, picturesque Civil War-era coffee and tea warehouses facing a scruffy stretch of open land, the Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park, between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. As part of the agreement, Mr. Walentas would get a multimillion-dollar package of tax breaks and other subsidies.
But then, Lehman Brothers walked away from its deal. And in March 1984, Mr. Walentas lost his designation as redeveloper of the Dumbo waterfront buildings, including the Empire Stores, when city officials concluded that he lacked sufficient financing.
With his grand plans for Dumbo in disarray, Mr. Walentas entered what he called his "Stalingrad phase." The siege was lifted in 1986, when the State Labor Department moved 1,000 workers into the Clock Tower. The agency's 10-year, $105 million lease was then the largest ever in Brooklyn.
In 1997, at the end of its lease, the Labor Department vacated its quarters, just as the city agreed to rezone Dumbo for residential use. The neighborhood already had a community of artists quietly living and working in the old factories and warehouses. After decades out of fashion, Brooklyn real estate was starting to heat up as the Internet boom and record prices in Manhattan drove people to look for alternatives. Working this time with his son, Jed, now 28, Mr. Walentas converted the Clock Tower into 122 apartments. They sold out in 1998 for a total of $60 million.
Michael Thomas, the former columnist for The New York Observer, was born and raised on the Upper East Side, but he now rents a loft on Dumbo's Water Street.
After a walk among the studios during last weekend's Dumbo Art Under the Bridge Festival, Mr. Thomas said, "I realize I live in a part of the world that turns out more bad art than any place I have ever been."
But, he added: "I have a better life here. The view is better, the water is closer, the river traffic is more interesting and the people are less pretentious."
For 10 years, Mr. Walentas and his wife, Jane, lived in a smallish apartment in Alwyn Court on West 58th Street in Manhattan, a landmark building that Mr. Walentas had restored and converted to co-ops. "When David suggested the move, I told him no way was I going to live in Brooklyn," Ms. Walentas, an artist, said. "Now I'm sold on it."
The couple's 15th-floor aerie in the Clock Tower, directly below the clock loft, is furnished with Audubon illustrations and 10 Andy Warhol Marilyn Monroe silkscreens. It has panoramic views of all five boroughs through oversized demilune windows on all four sides. It is a single space over 50 feet long, entered from the elevator through a wrought-iron garden-style gate.
The Walentases also own a home and 115 acres in Bridgehampton, N.Y., a property that includes stables where about 110 show horses are boarded in three barns.
Ms. Walentas has her own urban stable of 42 hand-carved horses, frozen in perpetual prance, in a 10th-floor loft on Dumbo's Washington Street. They are from a 1922 carousel bought by the couple at auction for $385,000 in Youngstown, Ohio, in 1984. Ms. Walentas has spent thousands of hours scraping off coats of paint to get down to the original reds, yellows and greens.
The couple had hoped to install the restored carousel in Dumbo's riverfront park. Mr. Walentas was twice designated to develop the park by the city and state, but both plans were scuttled, in part because the community resisted the traffic they would generate. His 1998 plan would have provided a multiplex movie theater and a hotel designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel that extended over the East River.
Though Mr. Walentas is by far Dumbo's largest landowner, he may soon face some competition. A new developer for the mixed-use conversion of the Empire Stores will soon be selected by the Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation, a state agency charged with developing an extensive waterfront park.
This go-around, Mr. Walentas is not a shoo-in, according to sources close to the selection process. For the first time, other developers are becoming a presence in the neighborhood. In fact, Boymelgreen Developers are putting up a 40,000-square-foot mixed-use building directly across the street from Mr. Walentas's office on Main Street.
Mr. Walentas has promised that if he is selected, he will maintain the park's slightly unfinished character. "I don't want to see it too commercialized," he said. "I want to keep Dumbo a little rough around the edges."
"Just like David is," Mr. Thomas said. "A little rough around the edges."
Plymouth Street in DUMBO and Brooklyn Bridge. 4 July 2003.
When I was a kid we used to go down under the bridges and climb into the old Department Of Purchace salvage yard directly beneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The coolest stuff in the world was scattered all over the place...it was amazing. Old lampposts, old ceramic street and hiway signs, garbage trucks, fire engines, cop cars...everywhere. One time we found a police helicopter.
Is that where the Purchase Building is now?
Yeah. In fact, it is visible in 3 of the photos above. *Its that short 2 story brick building that appears to be in the middle of the street under the Brooklyn Bridge. I don't know what they use it for anymore, but since 9-11 you can't even get close to it anymore.
I think there's talk of razing it.
That wouldn't *surprise me. I really is not much to look at. I can only imagine what the real estate it rests on is worth. By far the coolest thing about it is the art-deco stylized lettering over the main entrance that says Department Of Purchace City Of New York.
Dumbo Offices Draw White Collar Crowd
By Adelle Waldman
June 22, 2004
Like the flying Disney elephant, Dumbo office space is taking off with creative tenants and white collar types.
The Brooklyn neighborhood - an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass - has followed its namesakeís tradition to emerge as an up-and-coming neighborhood, drawing not just middle-class residents and retail establishments, but a wide variety of professional and creative office tenants.
In March, Goodtree Media, the brainchild of hip-hop singer and actor Mos Def, leased 1,800 square feet of space, joining several of the music and film industry businesses in the neighborhood.
But the hip íhoodís charm isnít restricted to creative types. In May, KMPS Mortgage Warehouse leased 3,300 square feet in the same building, at 55 Washington Street. That came on the heels of an announcement that the non-profit organization, The International Center for Tolerance Education, leased 11,000 square feet in 25 Washington Street, right down the street.
These recent announcements are part of a larger change. The neighborhood used to attract mostly manufacturers and artists, but is seeing an influx of white collar tenants, says Chris Havens, director of leasing at Two Trees Management. The company owns much of the office space in the neighborhood, including both 25 and 55 Washington Street.
"We got our first lawyer in 1999 - now we have six of them," Havens says. "We got our first accounting firm last year."
Havens attributes the shift both to zoning changes that went into effect in 1997 and allowed old factories to be converted to alternate uses - and intangible attitude factors.
"Brooklyn has become groovy," Havens says.
Itís also a good deal compared to space across the river.
"The price is right for very high end, Class A office space," says Michael Forrest, executive managing director of CH Commercial, which represented Mos Def.
Rents in the neighborhood peaked in 2000 at about $20 to $25 per square foot, Havens says. They fell about 25 percent once the recession hit, and have now come back almost to peak levels, he said. Thatís still a good deal compared to Manhattan prices.
CH Commercialís Forrest says that tenants like Mos Def may not have come to the neighborhood if Two Trees hadnít invested in creating high quality space where there once was none.
Copyright 2003-2004 The Real Deal.
Small music companies band together in Dumbo
Hip, affordable area strikes chord with record labels priced out of Manhattan
By Anita Jain
Spinart records, an independent music label that has released recordings by The Pixies, was priced out of SoHo in the late 1990s. The label's landlord terminated its lease and rented to a dot-com willing to pay a lot more.
The six-employee company moved to Staten Island for two years, but was eager to find space elsewhere in the city that offered an easier commute as soon as its lease came up.
Now, SpinART has found a home: Brooklyn's Dumbo neighborhood, where it has a five-year lease for 3,000 square feet at 20 Jay St.
"We found spaces in downtown Manhattan, but Dumbo was better," says Jeff Price, general manager and co-founder of the label. "We found the buildings here to be nicer."
SpinART has company. Dumbo, considered a more affordable, creative community, is becoming the city's new home for music tenants. They began filtering in from Greenwich Village and SoHo three years ago. In the past 18 months, the number has doubled to 10.
Cool and convenient
"They are coming for three reasons: Brooklyn is cool, the loft spaces are great, and they live in Brooklyn," says Christopher Havens, director of leasing at Two Trees Management Co., a real estate firm that owns nearly all the office space in Dumbo and leases to the music companies.
Dumbo is the 20-square-block waterfront neighborhood nestled between and under the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Ten years ago, Dumbo, the acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, was a derelict strip of land with unused warehouses. As with many areas that had been devoted to manufacturing, it appealed to artists, who grabbed the loft spaces.
Several years ago, Two Trees bought some of the warehouses and converted them into office spaces-not the kind that Goldman Sachs would use, but the type that creative industries would go for. And the price of $15 to $20 per square foot lured arty companies that were paying Manhattan prices of $25 to $30 per square foot.
Two Trees spent $20 million on renovating buildings at 45 Main St., 55 Washington St. and 20 Jay St. It outfitted the buildings, which range from nine to 12 stories, with electrical wiring and fiber-optic cables for Internet use, as well as installed elevators and new lobbies. However, it preserved the loft-space look by keeping the 13-foot ceilings, seven-foot windows and cement floors.
Dumbo's free-form loft space is not the only note that music tenants like the sound of, and Mr. Havens says more such companies are on their way.
"There are three different subway lines here, it's very safe and it's very boutique here," Mr. Price of SpinART Records says. By boutique, Mr. Price explains, he means that Dumbo has a number of specialty shops as well as an arty feel. The A, C and F subway lines stop in the Dumbo area, and the 2 and 3 trains are within walking distance.
Kris Gillespie, general manager of indie label Domino Records, also moved out of Manhattan for Dumbo's accessibility and "boutique" element. Domino just signed a five- year lease for a 1,250-square-foot space at 45 Main St.
"There's all sorts of interesting things happening here," he says, citing the presence of Grimaldi's, a popular gourmet pizza place, and Jacques Torres Chocolates, which sells handmade chocolates. He adds that it takes him about 10 to 15 minutes to travel to business meetings in lower Manhattan.
But the most compelling reason for small music companies to relocate to Dumbo is affordability. "A space of this quality in the West Village would have gone easily for at least three times the price," says Mr. Gillespie.
SpinART Records and Domino Records expect their moves across the river to be permanent.
Copyright 2004, Crain Communications, Inc
Archway in DUMBO Reopens Today
By Staff Reporter of the Sun | September 8, 2008
An archway underneath the Manhattan Bridge in DUMBO will be reopened today, adding additional public space to the changing face of the Brooklyn waterfront.
The Department of Transportation, which has jurisdiction over the area, will open the archway where Water Street bisects the bridge, adding a new passageway connecting the northern and southern sections of DUMBO.
"Now that DUMBO has become a residential and office space neighborhood rather than a manufacturing neighborhood, people in DUMBO want beautiful open space," a local City Council member, David Yassky, who will be present at today's ribbon cutting, said. "We have been pushing for the Department of Transportation to open up this space for a while." The space had previously been blocked off.
© 2008 The New York Sun,
Last edited by brianac; September 8th, 2008 at 01:20 PM.
^^ I don't know if this is the spot.
Photo by Edward.
See more photo's HERE
Last edited by brianac; September 8th, 2008 at 01:21 PM.
I love DUMBO. From the old office buildings and lofts, to the excellent view of the Manhattan Bridge from Water Street, everything about it is great.
^^^ This is an awesome picture. While visiting, BrooklynRider, his partner and I ate at Bubby's, which (I believe) is on the first floor of the gray building on the left side of this picture. Very good food!
Manhattan Bridge Arch in Dumbo Reopened, Getting Makeover
Monday, September 8, 2008, by Robert
The arch under the Manhattan Bridge in Dumbo was officially reopened today after being off limits for nearly two decades because it was being used by the Department of Transportation. For now, it's supposed to be open during the day with more rehab working coming by the bridge's 100th anniversary next year with new lighting, benches and the like. (The Dumbo Improvement District, which also worked on the lighting scheme under the Brooklyn Bridge, is overseeing the redo of the huge space.) Rogers Marvel has come up with the design (above) for what it's supposed to end up looking like. In the meantime, there was an immediate little glitch today called people using the newly-opened space to park. Oops.
Copyright © 2008 Curbed