Yesterday a friend told me that, although he’d grown up in New Jersey very close to New York, he’d never heard of Dumbo. Located on the East River in Brooklyn, this is not one of New York’s most famous sights – and also no relation to the cartoon elephant by the same name. Still, Dumbo, which stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass, is a quite cool area worthy of being known. This past weekend when I traveled to Brooklyn, although I’d been to Dumbo before it had been a few years, so I decided to check it out again.
Why such an odd name for an awesome place? Its moniker was born in 1978, a product of residents and property owners who purposefully gave it a silly name to make it unattractive to outsiders who might be interested in buying real estate there. Did the ploy work? Not in the long run. People got over the name, and its population has increased over to 220% since 2000. Still, there are only about 3,600 people today living in this area consisting of a few city blocks, giving it quite the spartan and private feel. It also holds an awesome view of the bridge under which it stands.
Its streets are not only almost devoid of traffic, but many are embedded with old railroad tracks as well, showing off the area’s old transportation route.
From at least one vantage point on these streets you can see both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge in one eyeful.
Immediately under the Manhattan Bridge I found a good-sized park which would have been peaceful, as parks should be, except for the traffic roaring on the bridge overhead, its metal framework creaking loudly with the burden of thousands of cars. It was interesting to see so many people sitting right under the very loud bridge, reading, napping, talking. They must be so accustomed to the noise that they don’t even hear it anymore.
Dumbo is a draw not only for people curious about its name or in search of peace in the city. The area has a few little shops and restaurants and the outside walls of some of these are decorated with some interesting, colorful artwork.
In my opinion, Dumbo’s main draw is not its limited food or shopping but its unique look and personality. After all, there’s not that many places where you can get a peaceful, out-of-the-way feel right in the midst of one of the busiest cities on earth. Dumbo will definitely give it to you.
How to get to Dumbo:
By foot: Dumbo stands just a few blocks away from the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. Crossing this bridge by foot takes about a half an hour (allowing for time to take photos of the Manhattan skyline along the way) and is an adventure in itself. I highly recommend walking into Brooklyn via this bridge.
By subway: The A and C lines will take you from Manhattan to High Street in Brooklyn, from which it is only a few-block walk to Dumbo.
By ferry: A $4 ticket will get you a ride on the East River ferry from East 34th Street or Wall Street, Pier 11 in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Dumbo is only a few blocks away from the park.