North 12th Street
This stretch of Bedford Avenue is the reason Williamsburg is known as the “hipster neighborhood.” Populated mainly by white youth, this segment is home to numerous cafes, art galleries and organic produce markets. Demographically, this segment is heavily dominated by young men and women, many of them in creative professions.
Cafes and Restaurants:
The cafes and restaurants that are the keynotes of a gentrified neighborhood line the sidewalk here. Many of these cafes have an European feel to them, in their decor and titles. However, a considerable number of Asian themed restaurants also occupy the area. As we were informed by a resident of the neighborhood, these ethnic restaurants were mostly Indian and Thai in origin. Outdoor seating was popular with these establishments, as were fun and artsy street windows. It is important to note that these eateries could be considered more expensive than the average establishment in New York. Click here for our section on Food and Culture in Williamsburg.
We ran across many street vendors in this segment. Young men and women, dressed colorfully, sell various knick-knacks out of small tables and sometimes even blankets set up on the sidewalk. Pedestrians often stop by to chat with these vendors resulting in an unique combination of cultural and economic exchanges. We spoke to one of these vendors, an artist who had moved to New York City from Mississippi. He was attracted to New York City because of its reputation for being a creative place.
Walking along Bedford we were drawn to a store on North 5th street named the “Mandala Tibetan Store.” We were interested to find out why the Tibetan store was named thus and whether this region had any Asian connection. We discovered an entire collection of stores put together just beyond the humble entrance. A small conversation with one of the owners led us to the information that these stores were all owned and operated by a group of recent Asian immigrants who, although they lived in Queens, found WIlliamsburg a suitable place to set up shop. The storeowner stated that business was good here since the people of the neighborhood could afford the merchandise.
An Interesting Perspective:
We had heard a lot about how this segment of Williamsburg was almost exclusively populated by young people. The fact that almost every person we saw walking along the avenue seemed to be in their 20s and 30s supported this conclusion. This is why we were pleasantly surprised when we saw an old gentleman, in his early 70s sitting on metal chair on the sidewalk patiently observing the people passing by. He was tirelessly moving his head from left to right repeatedly, as if to take in all the activity. We approached him and discovered that he had lived in the neighborhood for 30-40 years. He said that even though WIlliamsburg is predominantly young, there is also a sizable elderly population. However, according to him, only young people are moving in anew and “all the old people are dying.” His opinion of the community was that it was a safe and quiet place to live in. Speaking with this gentleman broadened our perception of Williamsburg.
Image mosaic Bedford Avenue Segment 4
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