Since 2002, Berghahn Books made its home on Wall Street. Well, not Wall Street exactly, but close enough for Occupy Wall Street, which set up camp across from our offices and close enough that all the good lunch spots were too expensive for anyone not eating on an expense account. As of this March, however, we now work in Dumbo, Brooklyn.
If you’re unfamiliar with the neighborhood, you may be asking yourself, where is Dumbo and why does it have such a horrible name?
Good questions. Dumbo is in Brooklyn on the East River on either side of the Manhattan Bridge. The name is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass. Supposedly, the artists who moved into the area’s vacant warehouses in the 70s and 80s coined the name to make the area less attractive to developers to prevent the influx of wealthier residents and high-end retail that ended Soho’s run as an artists’ haven.
If that story’s not apocryphal, the plan didn’t totally work. The neighborhood is dotted with pricy condos, boutiques that sell high-end fashion for children, and industrial lofts converted to offices rather than studios. But the plan didn’t totally fail, either. While Dumbo has attracted its share of businesses, they are, at least judging by what’s in our building, clustered in creative industries like fashion, design, new media, and, of course, publishing. It’s inspiring to be around energetic and creative people, even if it means regularly stepping on to the elevator and realizing I’m the oldest person on it.
For my coworkers, the move has mostly been a welcome change. Many of us live in Brooklyn and have lost a subway stop or two off our commutes and some of us are even in cycling distance now. But even those with longer commutes from Manhattan, Queens, and the suburbs are enjoying our new airy, bright, open offices, which are a marked contrast from our digs in Manhattan with their drop ceilings and brown carpets.
Best of all (for me anyway), the food is better. There’s a fantastic coffee shop across the street, an organic market with great sandwiches and salads, a good bar for after-work outings, and a food cart with cheap pork buns. Even the deli sushi (always a dicey proposition) is decent.
Working at Berghahn has always been a pleasure and that’s even truer in the new building. Look for more updates as we discover the neighborhood and settle into the office.
Image: Jim Henderson