This quiet sister district is finally waking up.
Fri Jun 6 2008
Photographs: Cinzia Reale-Castello
With the Williamsburg Bridge spilling into its streets and the BQE bordering its eastern edge, you might expect South Billy to be both noisy and congested. What you’ll find, however, is a surprisingly tranquil, family-oriented neighborhood. The cool-seekers of North Williamsburg are largely absent from this area sandwiched between Grand Street and Division Avenue. So too are the tourists. Spanish signs hang from the storefront shops operated by the community’s many Dominican and Puerto Rican immigrants near the Marcy Avenue subway station, while a burgeoning population of Hasidim, first to remake the neighborhood, also call it home. Less gentrified and more affordable than the North side, much of the area retains a modest, middle-class vibe.
At least for the moment. “Our customers are evolving and changing,” says Andrew Tarlow, who with business partner Mark Firth owns side-by-side culinary mainstays Diner Restaurant and Marlow & Sons. From his perch at Broadway and Berry, he has seen a transformation. Across the street stands the Gretsch Building, a former guitar factory that was converted a few years ago into 130 loft condos. And the French Second Empire–style landmark on Broadway and Bedford that once contained the Kings County Savings Bank now houses the vanguard Williamsburg Art & Historical Center.