I heart DUMBO ~ Brooklyn, NY

Lazy Sunday morning; in bed, watching music videos on my Archos G9 tablet (not an Ipad). One of the most oft-repeated songs on my playlist is the Café Del Mar N O W Remix of Letting the Cables Sleep by BUSH, though today I happened upon the music video for the original version of the song and found myself rewinding & relistening… Was the band’s lead singer, Gavin Rossdale, walking down one of the railroad-tracked cobblestoned streets of DUMBO? Was that the Manhattan Bridge, at the end of one of the neighbourhood’s streets, about 15 seconds into the clip? I couldn’t confirm it while trying to research the video’s filming location on the Net (I did learn that Joel Schumacher directed the video) but it didn’t matter. It was enough to inspire me (and my husband, after some coaxing) to drive to DUMBO for an early afternoon coffee… and to take some photos of the ‘hood… again.

Manhattan Bridge in the background

Railroads and cobblestones

We’ve had coffee at the Brooklyn Roasting Company a number of times, and I’ve taken photos of DUMBO many a time too; I just never tire of doing either. Give me any excuse, and I am there ~ I can wholeheartedly say that I love visiting DUMBO. If it suited my budget, we would have moved here after relocating from the West Coast. And yet, judging by the recent real estate valuations, this just isn’t going to happen anytime soon either. This is the third most expensive neighbourhood in New York; a place where it’s pricier to look at Manhattan than to live in Manhattan.

<Property Shark runs updates on NYC’s most expensive neighborhoods and in Q3 2012 Dumbo came in 3rd place with a median sale price of $1,460,000.>

Brooklyn Roasting Company on Jay Street

Doughnut Plant donut and almond latte at Brooklyn Roasting Company

Mopeds are the new bicycle...

DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Every time I come here, I think of the scene in Bladerunner, when Harrison Ford’s character is having noodles in Chinatown. Now, many people may think otherwise – my husband-the-movie-aficionado included – but for me, the streets here conjure up the same feelings as those when I watch that part of the movie: mystery, darkness, cutting edge. Alot of DUMBO’s life happens under the Manhattan Bridge – it casts a shadow over the neighbourhood’s streets; the sound of the subway that rambles along it can be heard periodically overhead.

Manhattan Bridge Overpass

Life under the Bridge

In the late 1800’s, it was primarily a manufacturing district, housing warehouses and factories including Arbuckle Brothers (coffee and sugar), J.W. Masury & Son (paint), Robert Gair (paper boxes), E.W. Bliss (machinery) and Brillo (soap pads). With deindustrialization, it began becoming primarily residential, when artists and other young homesteaders seeking relatively large and inexpensive loft apartment spaces for studios and homes began moving there in the late 1970s.The acronym Dumbo arose in 1978, when new residents coined it in the belief such an unattractive name would help deter developers.*

The developers do not seem deterred at all.

Residences, businesses and a Con Edison power plant exist, side by side

New loft developments ~ living in a magazine?

Water tower as real estate advertising

The vista from the westernmost part of DUMBO, along the East River, is of downtown Manhattan; the neighbourhood is flanked by the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, yet not overrun with yuppies and fleeing Manhattanites, who still seem to be headed in the direction of Williamsburg – a place I also love (it’s where I Iive) though one that is busting with people, especially around Sunday brunch.

Brooklyn Bridge in background, Manhattan - in foreground.


Located between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges at Empire-Fulton Ferry Park, the carousel is a ‘new’ piece of history in the industrial neighbourhood (cannot be seen in image above) ~ it was opened in September 2011 and costs $2 per ride.

The carousel was built in 1922 by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company, based in Hatfield Pennsylvania. It was used in Idora Park, a private amusement park in Youngston, Ohio, until the early 1980s. In 1984, Walentas, a New Jersey native, traveled to Ohio to save the carousel from being taken apart and sold off in pieces.

She and her husband purchased it for $385,000.

Todd Goings, who specializes in carousel restorations, put the carousel back together for its opening. It is a three-row machine with 48 horses and two chariots.

Two Trees Management Company, LLC, a company her husband David Walentas founded, constructed the building in which the carousel is now housed on Water and Old Dock streets in DUMBO. The construction of the building cost $8 million.

The Walentases commissioned Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Jean Nouvel, to design the building, which is essentially an encasement that allows the carousel to operate year-round. The 72×72-foot acrylic building provides framed views of the nearby bridges as well as the Manhattan skyline.**

Jane's Carousel - looking at the Manhattan Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge through the panes enclosing Jane's Carousel

DUMBO also has a thriving arts community ~ street art is intermittent yet frequently visible; a few galleries can be found here; and, St Ann’s Warehouse, a respected theatre, is located on Water Street.

Since 1980, [St. Ann’s Warehouse] has been putting on cutting-edge music, dance and puppetry productions…[Their] signature programming is just as enticing as ever… (Time Out)

Mural on Water Street

More street art on Water Street

On December 18, 2007, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate the Dumbo section of Brooklyn as the city’s 90th historic district.*

Brooklyn Bridge, seen through a window of The Tobacco Warehouse.


It’s hard to miss this now-roofless, 25,000 square foot warehouse, which is situated directly under the Brooklyn Bridge Overpass in close proximity to Jane’s Carousel. It was constructed in the 1870s as a tobacco customs inspection center, saved from demolition in 1998 and, repaired and stabilized by The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation in 2002.

Intersected: Brooklyn Bridge and The Tobacco Warehouse

The streets may seem deserted in parts, and many of the buildings devoid of any activity, yet the cafes, bookstores, retailers (yes, Bang&Olufsen and West Elm have set up shop here) and the parks are full of life. Maybe that’s what I like so much about it – you can be alone, yet the neighbourhood isn’t a lonely one. And now that it has been decided to repurpose the Con Edison power plant along the East River, Gavin Rossdale will be right on the money with Letting the Cables Sleep.

Arched beauty

Streetscapes reflected

How to get to DUMBO: Walk – accessible via Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge; car – via BQE; ferry – East River ferry; subway – A and C trains; bus – B25, B67, B69.

*Wikipedia **Brooklyn Downtown Star – Jane’s Carousel

32 thoughts on “I heart DUMBO ~ Brooklyn, NY

  1. Why I love the city so much. There are so many gems there. Such beautiful things to see and experience if you only know where to look.

  2. Love this! It looks so cool! Love all the photos – never been to, or heard of DUMBO! On the list for next time – especially Brooklyn Roasting Company, going to check them out, do they roast their own?

    • Shira – you MUST visit Dumbo! I know in my previous post – around NYE and New Year’s Day, I included some photos from the area as that’s where we celebrated. Brooklyn Roasting Co do roast their own – they are actually expanding their space to have room for coffee tastings etc so you may get here when it is bigger than now. A great walk would be to start at Chinatown, head over the Manhattan bridge, you’ll end up in Dumbo… then spend time before walking over the Brooklyn Bridge which ends in City Hall, Manhattan. I’ve done the walk a few times ~ love it. Great views from both bridges. From DUMBO you can also see the Williamsburg Bridge. Thank you for your comment 🙂

      • Sounds wonderful Marina, thank you! I work in the coffee business here in town – you can check out our company http://www.jjbeancoffee.com/ we are a local roaster here too and I love checking out small local roasters when I travel (especially to NY!) This will be on our list for sure on the next trip!

      • That’s so cool – I’ll check out your site for sure. A few other roasters you can pay a visit to when in NY: Cafe Grumpy; Blue Bottle Coffee; Toby’s Estate. They are all located in Brooklyn too so you could make a day of it when in town next 😉

  3. Hi Marina,
    That’s a really cool photoset. I love the black and white with the cobblestones and railroad tracks. Great photo. You’ve sold me on the neighbourhood! Now, where did I put that lottery ticket.. Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Adrian – did you buy the lottery ticket? ha! I always say that i want to win the lotto, yet I never actually enter it :S I am glad you liked these images! It’s fun wandering in that neighbourhood though driving those streets is pretty bumpy. Thanks!

    • Hi Val – I think I need to start profiling other boroughs, like Queens, Bronx and Staten Island! I am so glad to show you these parts of Brooklyn, for example, as they are the best places. DUMBO is just my all time fave. I could go there any old time, and just take a zillion more photos of the two bridges! Thank you!

  4. I feel like I’d love to live there as well 🙂 I have a place in London where I would love to live, a place called St Catherine’ Docks near Tower Bridge. I love those beautiful converted warehouse with spacious flats, overlooking the dock full of white yachts… (I will post it on my blog some time:) ) but just like you say, one thing is to wish and the other thing is to afford 😀 Better start making some money! 🙂
    I didn’t know that DUMBO is the 3rd priciest place to live in NY! I never thought that Brooklyn was that expensive 🙂

    • Wow – I’d love to see a post on St Catherine’s Docks – that would be really interesting. If you click on that property Shark link in my post – near the info about DUMBO being 3rd most expensive – it will show a graph of the ten most expensive neighbourhoods in NYC. You’ll be so surprised as I was! Thanks Kristina!

  5. I was wondering where the term DUMBO came from. What an interesting piece of trivia about how the area got that name. One of the many things I love about your posts, all the insider details! 🙂
    Beautiful imaginative images Marina!

    • Hi Karen! Yes, it comes across very Disney initially, and then it makes sense. Its pretty comical and I am surprised that more people don’t make jokes about it 🙂 Thanks for your comment about the details and images – I so appreciate it!!

  6. Sounds and looks awesome, Marina! And what you said about how it looks like that famous scene from ‘Blade Runner’, well, now that just sounds too intriguing…especially at night I would imagine. Still waiting for some night shots so btw, LOL.

    • Thanks JP – as I mentioned in the post re: the Bladerunner scene, some people may disagree. There’s just something about living under a bridge that is SO cool! I’m going to watch Bladerunner again soon and hey maybe it’ll motivate some night shots. To be honest, I haven’t had too much experience in shooting at night. Any tips? 😉

  7. I love the photos of DUMBO, I had read about the opening of Jane’s Carousel, and this is a place I had hoped to visit earlier in the week, but it wasn’t to be. You have inspired me; to make sure I get to the Brooklyn Roasting Company and to see Jane’s Carousel on Saturday. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

    • I am SO happy that you’ll go to the Brooklyn Roasting Co and to see Jane’s Carousel! Hopefully you’ll be able to take a walk along either of the two bridges that lead into DUMBO ~ Manhattan or Brooklyn? Let me know what you think of the neighbourhood. Apparently Bubby’s puts on a great brunch though not sure if that is reserved for Sundays only? They have a wonderful view of Manhattan. Enjoy!

  8. Great urban photos – I like the off-angle shots. I love Brooklyn, too – coming out there in May to visit my Park Sloper. We’ll have to check out Jane’s Carousel this time.
    You have a lovely site – thanks for creating!

    • Thanks so much Lois! I do have fun angling the camera every which way and snapping. May will be a great time to walk across the bridges, take a stroll around Brooklyn, see Jane’s Carousel in Dumbo! There are some nice coffee and brunch spots there too. Thanks again for your lovely comment!

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