Fulton Landing for most part of the mid twentieth century was a no-man’s land wedged between nearby Brooklyn Heights and Vinegar Hill. It is an area that has been discovered and re-shaped time and again since the mid 17th Century. In 1642, when Dutch settlers built farms on Long Island, ferries ran between Manhattan and the Brooklyn waterfront.
In 1814, Robert Fulton introduced steamboat service from the pier that is preserved today at the foot of Old Fulton Street. This waterfront became Brooklyn’s commercial hub and was dubbed Fulton Landing. Walt Whitman’s poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” immortalized the route.
In the mid-18th Century it had the social and commercial fabric of a downtown center and Main Street had just about everything. The urban street improvement project of 1819 is one of the earliest examples of formal surveying and mapping of roads and the addition of sidewalks. Brooklyn received the nickname the “walled city” because of the mammoth warehouses erected along waterfront.
Throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries the area was a busy commercial hub with taverns, inns, shops and farmers markets. Ironically, when the Brooklyn Bridge was constructed it affected the importance and prosperity of the neighborhood. Ferry service was soon obsolete and commercial life on (Old) Fulton Street died. After the opening of the Manhattan Bridge in 1909 the area was completely bypassed and all but forgotten. In the 1950s, portions of the neighborhood were razed for the construction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and that further isolated it from nearby Brooklyn Heights.
It was rediscovered in the 1970s by artists, who loved the district’s incredible natural assets and began flocking to the waterfront neighborhood. A new acronym was coined in the 1980s to refer to the mostly industrial area located beneath the Manhattan Bridge: “Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass” or DUMBO. Fulton Landing, the area between the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge is being redeveloped by Two Trees Management. Its strategic importance to New York City as a link between lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn is obvious and proximity to downtown Manhattan makes it an attractive residential area.
Old lofts are being renovated and converted for residential use; new parks, delis, and banks are appearing. DUMBO has spectacular views of two bridges and is NYC’s fastest growing and changing neighborhood. It is a mix of new shops, beautiful new apartments, a thriving artist district, and a rapidly expanding business community, in a setting of revitalized industrial buildings. The Empire Stores among the last of the dry goods storage warehouses may be converted into a condominium or used for a museum. DUMBO is an energetic artistic 24-hour community with millions of square feet of space housed in landmark buildings, a vibrant history and stunning views.
Neighborhood attractions like the renowned River Café, Grimaldi’s Pizza, and Olga Bloom’s Bargemusic are very thriving. Retailers such as Jacque Torres Chocolate, ABC Carpet and Home and West Elm, new residents and office tenants are moving in every day as testimony to the vicinity’s new-found stylishness. It has transformed into one of New York’s artistic and cultural centers, with events like the annual Art Under the Bridge Festival, organizations such as GAle GAtes, Arts at St. Ann’s, and countless fine art, photography, fashion and design studios. Hopefully, DUMBO will become a catalyst for the continuing resurgence and re-activation of waterfront neighborhoods throughout the City.