by Matthew Schneier, 05/01/2012
(From left) Courtesy of Union Pool • Courtesy of Beacon's Closet
Williamsburg, as Walt Whitman once said about himself, contains multitudes. The neighborhood has been flip-flopping through reversals and renewals since its very beginning—circa the Gilded Age, it was a resort getaway for the Manhattan elite; once the Williamsburg Bridge went up in 1903, it became an appealing destination for an influx of Jewish immigrants fleeing the island's grimier districts. Twenty years ago, New York magazine proclaimed the still-grungy enclave "the new Bohemia": "In the seventies, it was SoHo," a resident artist told the publication. "In the eighties, the East Village. In the nineties, it will be Williamsburg."
Right she…well, also he (the quipper in question happened to be a transvestite named Medea de Vyse) was. The aughts showed no sign of slowdown for the neighborhood, and our own decade has continued the trend. The artists who enjoyed the cheap rents of "new Bohemia" have had to trek further east, to Bushwick and beyond for studio space, but the new money and new settlers have given rise to an astonishing variety of restaurants, bars, clubs and shops that rivals any neighborhood in the City for diversity and quality. There is no longer any one Williamsburg. There are many. Read on.