The Best of the WBO...

Archives 1998-2004

 

September 2005 – In the summer of 1998, when we published our first issue, Brooklyn, New York City, and the world were very different places.  More peaceful, to be sure.  Less in thrall to the aggressions of money and power. Willliamsburg, although the neighborhood had recently been “discovered,” still seemed adrift in some alternative postindustrial universe, an autonomous zone happily uncoupled from Manhattan’s treadmills. There was a freedom in the air that had much to do with low rents and the larger economy’s apparent lack of interest in us.   I think of the spontaneous voodoo artwork at the old Amtrak yards along the waterfront at North 7th.  The intoxicating vapors wafting from that spice warehouse on Berry Street.   Sunbathing and picnicking on the piers which were quickly collapsing into the East River.  Swimming in the river at night, with Manhattan’s lights spread out before us like strange constellations.  Time seemed to flow a little more slowly here, the sky was broader, and the breeze often smelled of the sea...

 

Looking back through the W.B.O.’s  past issues and choosing what to include on this site, I was suddenly struck by how drastically things have changed.  The first years of the 21st century have been ominous, to say the least, and it is difficult to ignore the signs that we are on the brink of even larger catastrophes.  Much of the work collected here bears eloquent witness to this urgency, at the same time speaking from a faith that another, more sane world is possible.  To have offered this forum to our contributors has been deeply gratifying.

 

In 1998, of course, the great engines of real estate development and gentrification had already begun to grind here.  Williamsburg had become home to a “new Bohemia,” as New York Magazine said on its cover, and with an endorsement like this it was only a matter of time—as one commentator put it, “Artists are like pilot-fish—then come the sharks.”  Today, on North 8th Street, the ironwork for a tower of sixteen-stories rises on block where the highest building is four.  On Kent Avenue in the Southside, Schaefer Landing’s 135 condo units are mostly sold, with one-bedrooms starting at $650,000.  The Domino Sugar property will almost certainly become high-rise condos, and a wall of 40-story residential towers is rumored to be on the drawing board for the remainder of the Northside’s undeveloped waterfront.  And throughout the neighborhood nearly every block has a smaller project underway.  Opulence, luxury—one sees these words posted everywhere, shamelessly.

 

What originally attracted many new residents here, aside from lower rents, was a neighborhood which had preserved a certain human scale—a scale where people do not feel dwarfed and inconsequential, where an ecology of human interaction can flourish in a give-and-take among equals. The redevelopment of Williamsburg was necessary, and no doubt, inevitable.  Will it be possible to keep development from going to far?  Does New York—or the world—really need more opulence, more luxury?

 

Ando Arike / arkay@panix.com

Editor

 

 

 

 copyright ©Williamsburg Observer Publishing 2005 Human Rights Reserved

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Archived Issues:

 

August 2004 Anti-RNC

Convention Issue

 

June 2003 Empire Issue

 

September 2002 Cultural

Collapse Issue

 

July 4, 2001 Autonomy Issue

 

October 1998 Nietzsche

Birthday Issue

 

September 1998

 

 

 

 

More to come...

 

Contributors

1998-2004:

 

Mona Harden

Reverend Billy

Jill Rapaport

Carl Watson

Tsaurah Litzky

Trystero Montevideo

Roman Stoad

Carri Skoczek

Vic Thrill

Eric Redlinger

Lex Grey

Ebon Fisher

Bill Not Bored

Surveillance

   Camera Players

Andi Kovel

Meghan Mahar

Jim Lundquist

Kinko the Clown

The Bindlestiff

    Family Circus

Maiden India

Turk Stuzel

Honey Porter

Ecume des Jours

Anita DiBanco

k*

Rasha Refaie

Nancy Donskoj

Berit Anderson

Ben Williams

Doreen Bowens

Kathe Burkhart

Noam Mor

Kirsten Youngren

Jillian McDonald

Brian Kelly

Sarah Barker

j.u.l.i.e.t.a.

David Kay

Kevin Kosar

Jenna Pignato

Edwin Diaz

Joe Maynard

Trong Nguyen

The Butter Network

Edward Thirst

Axis of Eve

Naomi M. Melendez-Mekkaoui

 

 

Supporters

1998-2004:

 

Two Jakes

 Vera Cruz

Main Drag Music

86 Used Books

The Read Cafe

Go Yoga

Mikey’s Hookup

Brooklyn Animal

    Resource Coalition

BQE Pet Supply

Spoonbill & Sugartown

    Booksellers

Metaphors

Roebling Liquors

Brooklyn Brewery

Southside Lounge

Fly Right StudioTattoos

Blackout Books

Big Genius Art Supply

Ocularis

The Stable Dance &

    Yoga Studio

Squeeze Bar

Affinity Healing Arts

 

     & special thanks to

Kerry Smith @ the

Right Bank Café