Discovering DUMBO
June 19, 2013

Exploring DUMBO

Among the stories that circulate about the neighborhood known as DUMBO, was that the name was created by locals determined to come up with something so uninviting that outsiders would stay away. Could it also be that the name was chosen to pique the curiosity of young children who think of the famous flying elephant? We doubt either is true (and we made up the second), but regardless the Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass in Brooklyn has a truly unique feel that we thing anyone would want to preserve. Plus, it’s the perfect place to introduce young children to the flavor of post-colonial New York. 

DUMBO is defined by its cobble stone streets, defunct factory buildings converted into loft residences, restaurants, art galleries and theaters, as well as—perhaps most striking of all—dramatic views of the Manhattan Bridge looming above, and the Brooklyn Bridge hovering further south. The sidewalks leading to the East River are fairly steep and narrow, and many of the streets are cut through by defunct train and trolley tracks that speak to the bygone times of a once-thriving port. In 2007, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted unanimously to designate DUMBO a historic district.

Things to Do

Wander! Active community groups, including Dumbo Parents Organization, help ensure that this quaint and off-the-beaten-path neighborhood is a family-friendly place to explore. These groups have worked to add and coordinate traffic lights, to promote pedestrian and cycling safety, and much more. Individually made, striking Belgian block cobblestones are set into streets where horse-drawn carriages carted goods from local factories to ships on the East River. Appreciate the stones while you can: the city has begun replacing them for a variety of reasons—including making the streets more navigable for bikers.

The day we explored the neighborhood happened to be the inaugural weekend for the Citibike bike-sharing program, and the Sing for Hope piano program was also underway. One of our favorite summertime installations, Sing for Hope distributes 88 artist-designed pianos (for the 88 keys on a piano) through the parks and streets of New York City, inviting aspiring musicians to display their talents to friends and passersby. Both events were in full-swing in DUMBO, with a Citibike stand already attracting curious participants and an ad-hoc outdoor piano concert taking place in the public plaza that now resides under the Manhattan Bridge. Both seemed to highlight the feeling of randomness and spontaneity the neighborhood seems to exude.

Orient yourself by heading west down to the East River on either Jay Street or Adams Street. As you do so, keep an eye out for the Robert Gair building, site of the invention of the first cardboard box. Once you arrive at the waterfront, you can stroll or scooter north or south along the Brooklyn Greenway, a project in progress to turn the entire coastline of the borough into a throughway for walking, running, rollerblading, biking, etc.

Getting There

One great way to get to DUMBO is by walking there over the Manhattan Bridge, an excellent journey we described in an earlier post. You can also take the F train to York Street, or the A and C to High Street.








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