Double Whammy for these Hipsters!
They ruined Williamsburg! RUINED IT! Learn how here:
The Last Bohemia
Scenes From the Life of Williamsburg, Brooklyn
by Robert Anasi
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
It was inevitable that somebody would write a book about the two-decade cycle of change that transformed Williamsburg, Brooklyn, from a no-man’s-land of abandoned factories and boarded-up storefronts to today’s hipster mecca.
“The Last Bohemia,” by University of California- Irvine literary-journalism professor Robert Anasi, is the first book to tackle this topic and will hardly be the last. For that we should be thankful. Anasi’s book is awkwardly written and petulant — an extended, cred-mongering “hipsters ruined my neighborhood” grumble.
Anasi first moved to Williamsburg in the summer of 1994, and the book is rife with reminders of how early to the party he was: “For a change, I was the square — a colonial administrator paying a visit to a native tribe,” he writes of a bar turned “illegal performance space” called Gargoyle.
The neighborhood attracted aspiring filmmakers, artists and writers — “perfect fodder for a rough neighborhood — young and cocky and willing to live on scraps,” Anasi writes. They looked past junkies nodding off in apartment doorways, prostitutes plying their trade at truck stops and occasional gunshots in order to live cheaply and freely.
Police were nowhere to be found: “Cops didn’t show up when you got jumped. Cops didn’t investigate burglaries. This was poor, ethnic Brooklyn and you were on your own. The trade-off was that the cops didn’t bother you.”
That began to change in the late 1990s, when then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s quality of life campaign helped shut down much of Manhattan’s vibrant nightlife — most notoriously via his deployment of cabaret laws dating from the mid-1920s — moving nightlife’s cutting edge across the water. The most compelling part of “Bohemia” chronicles Napoleon, a southside Williamsburg Dominican-American house-music devotee and ex-barber who began frequenting a desultory café called The L before opening his own nightspot, Black Betty, in 1999. But outsiders moved in even faster: By the late 2000s, Anasi writes, “The neighborhood had become a parody of itself, a bohemian theme park.”