New York City In Focus : Dumbo

New York City In Focus : Dumbo

You may think “Dumbo” is an odd name for a popular upscale neighborhood in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. You’re right. It is an odd name. Dumbo is actually short for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

Dumbo is the area between Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridges that connect Manhattan and Brooklyn. The bridge goes across the East River. The other section of Dumbo is east from the Manhattan Bridge to nearby Vinegar Hill. So, you have Brooklyn Bridge Park and Brooklyn to the west, Brooklyn Heights to the south, Vinegar Hill to the east.

Old timers remember Dumbo as “Gairville,” which was a ferry landing on the East River. The area was bought by David Walentas of Two Trees Management and developed into an upscale community of high-end residential and commercial properties. It was and still is the place to be for art exhibits and live music. The heart of New York City’s technology district is in Dumbo. The area is a favorite for tech startups like Etsy.

In fact, Dumbo is known as “the center of the Brooklyn Tech Triangle.” As can be expected, Dumbo is one of if not the most expensive neighborhoods in Brooklyn.

You’ll find the fourth richest community in NYC here in Dumbo with many luxury residential lofts in former industrial buildings and spacious condos. Etsy and West Elm are big retailers in the area.


Once known as Fulton Landing (1890s), after the opening of the ferry stop, Dumbo was a thriving industrial district of factories and warehouses. Many of those buildings are still standing today. For instance, the Gair building now houses Etsy. At one time, Dumbo was also known as Gairville after inventor Robert Gair, who invented the cardboard box.

As the years went by and New York City became less industrialized, Dumbo became a residential, commercial, and art district. It’s large loft apartments attracted many artists and young people in the 1970s. This is when the acronym “Dumbo” was coined. Many people believe that the residents purposely used the unappealing acronym to turn off would-be developers from the area.

This historic industrial complex became more gentrified as the years went by, leaving it in the splendor it is today. It’s held up globally as a model for waterfront developments and serves as a popular arts community in NYC. Dumbo owes a lot of its character and charm to the integration of its historic district with the modern and artistic. The Dumbo historic district is composed of 95 buildings all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You may have seen many of these buildings as backdrops in famous Hollywood movies filmed in New York.

Art and Culture

The art district of Dumbo has both nonprofit and for-profit galleries such as the A.I.R. Gallery in the famous St. Ann’s Warehouse as well as the Klompching Gallery. Culinary shops like Grimaldi’s and Almondine Bakery line the streets in Fulton Landing. If you like art-deco shoes, check out the famous Fluevog Shoes shop on Main Street. Other unique stores and boutiques are located in this area.

If live music is your thing, check out the DUMBO Archway, the location where many films have been shot and live music concerts have been held. They even host large scale watch parties and events here. You may recognize the DUMBO Archway in the scene from the Joker where Joaquin Phoenix runs through the archway. You’ll recognize a lot of Scorsese movie sets there, too, like Gleason’s Gym. Don’t forget to hunt for antiques and treasures at the famous Brooklyn Flea every Sunday at the Archway.

Attractions In Dumbo
Signpost Pointing to Attractions In Dumbo

Rock climbing doesn’t seem like it would be possible in New York City, but you can if you’re in Dumbo. There’s a 7,800 square foot outdoor climbing gym in Brooklyn Bridge Park near Main Street. It’s actually the largest of its kind in the United States! The Cliffs at Dumbo bouldering gym has indoor and outdoor climbing wall facilities.

Shoppers will enjoy Empire Stores on Water Street. It’s an old Civil War coffee warehouse that’s been renovated into a mixed-use space where you can find unique stores and other retailers. For delicious local fare, try the many restaurants of Empire Stores’ food hall.

Regular events such as Photoville are hosted in Dumbo, which features photography and arts by artists both here NYC and across the country.

Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York
Pier 3 Recreation Area, Brooklyn Bridge Park. A short walk from Dumbo

Transit and Real Estate

Downtown Brooklyn and Dumbo are always short on inventory because not only is it the place to be for NYC culture, but it’s also a very short commute to Manhattan; 15 minutes tops. Dumbo offers easy access to the subway, train, and bus lines like MTA Subway, and the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) to name a few, plus the NY Ferry with quick links to many stops along the river between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Dumbo Transit Map
Dumbo Subway Transit Map

Many new apartment and condo developments have sprouted throughout Dumbo, offering the latest amenities. The average rental tops $4,000/month. Properties (condos and homes) are selling on average for $695k to $7.85 million, according to Zillow.

It’s expensive, but the convenience, luxury, and walkability of properties offer much to residents in terms of short commutes, amenities, nearby shopping, dining, and recreation.

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