Dumbo, Brooklyn, New York

Living in Bumbo, Brooklyn

Iyna Bort Caruso

The Brooklyn neighborhood of Dumbo is an acronym that stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. It’s about as unique as names go, which is an apt reflection of this waterfront district.

Dumbo is a 10-block stretch that embraces its industrial past. Old warehouses are now tony residences, retail outlets and theatrical venues. Manhattan is accessible by subway, ferry, bus or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge, but the neighborhood’s walk-to-all, has-it-all attractions keep many locals staying put.

Dumbo has some of the best views of Lower Manhattan and certainly the most photographed, particularly the Belgian block street where a glimpse of the Empire State Building is framed by the structural supports of the Manhattan Bridge.

Another spot for epic views is Brooklyn Bridge Park. It functions as a backyard and playground for Dumbo residents with outdoor movie screenings, dining, shops, kayaking and public art. The park features Jane’s Carousel, the first carousel ever placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The century-old carousel, meticulous refurbished, is housed in a glass cube designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel.

The area was a ferry landing that played a pivotal role in the American Revolutionary War. In 1776, General George Washington and his troops, greatly outnumbered by the British army, evacuated under the cover of darkness across the East River to Manhattan, avoiding a crushing defeat and living to fight another day.  Later, the area became a manufacturing district. But when warehouses were abandoned artists moved in and started the area’s revival in the 1970s as a creative district where galleries thrive and public art is everywhere. It’s said that residents coined the Dumbo name to keep developers out.  A curious name, however, was not enough to prevent development of the waterfront into the exclusive area it is now.

Dumbo may have come about as a result of artists moving in, but it enjoys a high profile as New York’s tech center. It anchors a corner of the so-called Brooklyn Tech Triangle along with the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Downtown Brooklyn. In Dumbo alone, dozens of tech firms are located within a short walk of each other.  This community of innovators, makers, designers, artists and developers drive the economy.

Many gravitate to Dumbo for its airy apartments and sprawling lofts in converted industrial buildings, some of which hold landmark status. The area has also seen a burst of new construction. Luxury is the connecting link with amenities like rooftop cabanas and outdoor theaters that reinforce Dumbo’s property market as an exclusive lifestyle buy.