An insider’s guide to moving in Brooklyn: Williamsburg

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If you lived here, you’d be home by now. You’d also probably be doing pretty well for yourself. Photo by Mary Dorn

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Moving, be it from out of state or while you’re already living here, can be a real pain. What makes Brooklyn’s neighborhoods different from each other, aside from different levels of being expensive? Well, we’ve got people who’ve lived all over this borough and are more than happy to share their insider neighborhood knowledge with you. Today we cover the bohemian Wonderland that was, but still kind of is, Williamsburg.

Subway Stop(s)
Bedford, Lorimer and Graham L

Describe the neighborhood to someone new
Ten years ago the place was an artist’s mecca. Now everyone’s grown up, had babies and cut back on the drugs. Oh, and there are McCondos everywhere.

Main attractions

At Bedford, check out  the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg along the waterfront at North 7th Street. Skip trendy crap (and its attendant long lines) like the ramen burger and learn from our own Cat Wolinski: stuff yourself for less than $20 by going with variety. For fashion mavens who wanna look good on a budget, check out Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange (R.I.P. Beacon’s Closet).

Despite rising rents, Williamsburg remains a destination for culture. Forthcoming Urban Outfitters be damned, North 6th Street is still a cultural hub. The Music Hall of Williamsburg hosts medium-to-rather famous touring bands such as The Black Lips, the Pixies, Icona Pop and Of Montreal, while Public Assembly has hosted events ranging from meetings of the Society for the Advancement of Social Studies to both years of the Brooklyn Zine Fest. Further south, on and around Kent Avenue, Glasslands, 285 Kent and Death By Audio don’t look like much on the outside, but these old warehouse spaces turned DIY venues have transcended their humble roots, helped build Brooklyn’s music scene and still host up-and-coming local bands on the brink of breaking through. They’re also pretty sweaty, but that’s fun too.

Don't wear anything at Glasslands you wouldn't want a stranger to spill a drink on. Photo by Mary Dorn
Don’t wear anything at Glasslands you wouldn’t want a stranger to spill a drink on. Photo by Mary Dorn

Off the Lorimer L, Yola’s serves great tacos on the cheap, The Reverend Vince Anderson and His Love Choir perform every Monday night at 11 at Union Pool and Barcade is the place to relive your youth, if your youth involved arcade versions of Q-bert, Tetris and tons of local brews.

Variety, off of the Graham L, is the perfect cafe to sit and work on your screenplay all day (there’s a sketchy guy who eats chicken and plays RPGs all day, but he doesn’t bother anybody.) Check out Milly & Earl across the street for cute jewelry from local artists like Verameat. And take note: there are several nail salons in the neighborhood, but the best one is Green Nails, next to the Dunkin Donuts. Twenty dollar mani-pedis, all day, erry day!

Why, McCarren Park is downright bucolic. Photo by Mary Dorn
Why, McCarren Park is downright bucolic. Photo by Mary Dorn

Best cheap thing(s) to do

Get a sandwich and smoothie from Urban Rustic (homemade bread!) and hang out in McCarren Park. Check out the McCarren Park Pool (it’s free!) on a hot day…just steer clear of the kids and be prepared for a line. If it’s raining, go to an $8 a matinee at the Williamsburg Cinemas, and keep your ticket for a free drink at the Full Circle Bar or Pies ‘n’ Thighs. Afterward, get $1 oysters during happy hour at The BedfordTrix, or Allswell.

Photo by Mary Dorn
A bit of country, in the city. Photo by Mary Dorn

Hidden gem

Skinny Dennis: This six-month old honky tonk and country bar is named after a 6’11, 135lb Nashville bassist named Skinny Dennis Sanchez. It offers free peanuts, canned beers for $3 and drafts for $5, all domestic. You know we love free food. Skinny Dennis captures the essence of a country bar without cluelessly trying to highjack my people’s culture. With nightly country music, it’s an authentic joint you’d find in Pennsylvania, or any other hillbilly flyover state, just a tiny bit cleaner and more self-aware.

The Rub

The L train. Especially if you have to travel during rush hour. Often, four packed trains will pass by before you can squeeze onto one and many residents choose to take the East River Ferry instead. Also, it’s loud. There are so many people, Bedford is the new St. Mark’s, so don’t move there unless you love to party.

Your sweet salvation from a packed L train commute. Photo by Mary Dorn
Your sweet salvation from a packed L train commute. Photo by Mary Dorn

Safety (1 being a crime-ridden Hellhole, 10 being Mayberry)
8/10. Crime happens in Williamsburg, but it’s tough for anything truly terrible to happen in a place that’s so crowded all the time. You’ve got your occasional rowdy high school kids (especially at McCarren Pool), but you’ve also got plenty of old Italian families and newcomers with babies. Sometimes people leave trash on Pat Kiernan’s stoop, but that’s more rude than truly criminal.

What do people say when you tell them you live there?
You fancy, huh?

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