DUMBO: Historical & Geographical features
DUMBO is, in essence, a single real estate development, made by one man, just over forty years ago. DUMBO as we know it was conceived in 1979 by David Walentas, an aspiring real estate developer, who borrowed $12 million to buy what was then known as Fulton Landing, a dying industrial district but containing a thriving avant-garde arts scene. He purchased the area from then-owner Harry Helmsley, once-owner of the Empire State Building. While $12 million was a lot of money in 1979- especially for Walentas- that’s $6 a-square-foot for the entire neighborhood. Since then, Walentas has founded Two-Trees Management, redeveloped a majority of the lofts in the neighborhood, and over 40 years later, that deal has made him a billionaire. DUMBO is a relatively small neighborhood, only about 20 square blocks. It’s bordered by the Brooklyn Bridge and Brooklyn Heights to the west, the East River to the north, The Brooklyn Navy Yard to the east, and the BQE and Downtown Brooklyn to the south. It’s an easy commute by the F at York, or the C at High Street. The East River Ferry also stops at the pier in DUMBO, which is a great ride up to Queens, over to Manhattan, or down to South Brooklyn.
The best of DUMBO
Over the past ten years, DUMBO has become the epicenter of tech startup expansion in New York City. The converted old lofts are perfect for collaborative offices, and are less expensive than the downtown Manhattan neighborhoods with similar architecture. A full 30% of New York’s tech startups are headquartered in DUMBO, most notably Etsy, WeWork, and Amplify. But there are hundreds. DUMBO’s history of artist lofts has evolved to a notable gallery scene, with a gallery walk the first Thursday of every month. The avant-garde character of the 1970s art scene is kept alive in DUMBO walls, a collection of murals around the overpass of the BQE. DUMBO walls is also a Two-Trees project, in partnership with the NYC DOT Urban Art Program.
Wine & Dine
The food scene in DUMBO is also driven by real estate development, with one of the most well-known food hall concepts in the world, Time Out Market, having opened in Empire Stores in 2019. Empire Stores was originally a mid-19th century cargo warehouse, redeveloped in 2013 by developer Midtown Equities as a mixed use retail and office space, with over 20 restaurants, three bars- including a nice beer garden on the roof, and event areas. The Brooklyn Historical Society operates a museum on the 2nd floor, with an exhibit on Brooklyn’s coastline worth checking out. The food hall is insane, with over 20 restaurants across 24 thousand square feet. Every type of food you could imagine, from burgers to sushi, from some of New York’s most popular restaurants. For a more formal meal, the flagship of the DUMBO foodie scene is the Michelin-starred River Cafe, with some of the finest table-side river views in the city, a world-class wine list, and classic American cuisine.
Current Real Estate Scenario
The real estate consists almost exclusively of recently constructed condos. Most of it is luxury, asking an average of over $1900 per square foot. 100 Jay is the most approachable price-wise, with low-floor studios starting around $650k, and you might find a two-bed for close to $1.5m. The premier new development project in the neighborhood right now is Olympia Dumbo, at 30 Front Street.
From the lobby’s mosaic flooring evoking cobblestone screens to the exterior cast-iron façade, the building does an excellent job of complimenting the character of the neighborhood. The amenities leave nothing to be desired, from the indoor lap pool to the tennis court overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge. If you’re wondering where to get back to nature among the cobblestone streets and high-rises, that would be Brooklyn Bridge Park, along the waterfront. The park offers absolutely gorgeous views of the downtown Manhattan skyline, across the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. There are small event spaces, a picturesque walking trail, and you can even go kayaking or bouldering.