The naming of a neighborhood is always a somewhat elaborate tug of a war, but last year residents of Dumbo faced a rare quandary, when City Hall officialy named the area New York’s Digital District. Though the neighborhood has been reborn with a new moniker roughly every half-century-Olympia, in keeping with the post-Revolutionary trend of classical tags; Fulton Landing, a nod to its commercial life as a dock; and Gairville, after cardboard industrialist Robert Gair, whose name is still emblazoned across many a Dumbo building-little history sticks to its current incarnation, which is insistently in the here and now.
The acronymic Dumbo was born from the same mid-1980s regenerative impulse as the neighborhood itself, at once industrial chic and irreverently ahistorical. But it was the denizens of Dumbo’s newest incarnation who won the latest round. A campaign spearheaded by several of the neighborhood’s digital start-ups (the city is currently cataloging just how many) effectively lobbied the city to embrace Dumbo’s new history, one more about young entrepreneurs streaming code through their idevices and less about their analog forebears.
“Silicon Alley is dead,” Mike Germano of Creative Carrot, a leading member of the new Dumbo digirati, said in a speech touting the district. Taking a cue, real estate agents have begun referring to the area as Silicon Beach, a claim-laughable even a few years ago-that reveals just how much New York is an epic of reinvention, big and small.