I may be new to the company, but I’m not new to the neighborhood. Going on my fifth week working in Williamsburg, it occurs to me that I’m also going on my fifth year living here, and just as the neighborhood seems subject to even more scrutiny than usual, I now feel doubly obligated to defend it.
The NYTimes is <a href=”http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/08/nyregion/08trustafarians.html?_r=1″>trying it’s best</a> to codify what young twenty-somethings have been doing for decades into a new hipster “lifestyle”, one that’s so integral to Williamsburg’s very infrastructure that you’d think we were literally watching business dry up as a result of mom and dad tightening their wallets. Gawker stalks the <a href=”http://gawker.com/tag/hipster-grifter/”>hipster grifter</a>, not because it’s a particularly interesting story, but because she represents that girl we’ve all met at one point or another in our lives (and no matter how they try to convince you that this girl could only exist in Williamsburg, believe me, she exists in every city on this earth). I’ve lived here for over 4 years, and sure I’ve seen a lot of hipsters hanging out at coffee shops in the middle of the day, and I’ve wondered to myself “What do these people <i>do?!</i>” I’m sure people asked the same question about me while I made my way through grad school, enjoying leisurely weekday brunches with my Powerbook. (I guess a student loan is sort of like a trust fund, except with actual responsibility.)
But you know what else I’ve seen? Successful people moving in from the city, college grads just starting out their careers and working their butts off, people like my sister, my friends, and me, who have been working for years and are finally starting to see the payoff, and lots and lots of local businesses. In a 4-block radius of my house there are three small studios, two groceries, a wine store, and a new Brazilian restaurant, all opened within the last two years. I find it really hard to believe that this was all funded by mom and dad. And as someone who lives behind that row of condos on McCarren Park, I can tell you that they are at about 30% capacity – so don’t tell me that was funded by their parents’ either. You see the truth is, there are actually a lot of really hardworking people who live here, and increasingly, hardworking people who work here too. This myth of a neighborhood inhabited by spoiled, grungy trustafarians may be fun to talk about, but it just doesn’t do the neighborhood justice.
When I first heard of Blenderbox, it was because they had just won a web award for their agency site. An interactive agency in the Burg! It made so much sense. While some of my friends and classmates were still laboring under the delusion that Williamsburg was a place where only the uber-cool, fashion-conscious, trendy hipster could hang out, I was starting to see the truth. This neighborhood is full of interesting people who are actually doing and making really cool things. They’re artists and techies and designers and entrepreneurs. They work hard, they make a living, they start their own businesses. Blenderbox was just one example of what I was seeing all over the neighborhood. I bookmarked the site and saved it for later. That was two years ago.