Rah-Rah! Campus Life Sweet at Williamsburg College

With that in mind, we thought we’d present this modest introduction to the neighborhood. It’s not much, but it will encourage your natural curiosity and soften the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune by directing you to the elements of Williamsburg life that will be the most comfortable to you and that have been developed with you strictly in mind.

Williamsburg hasn’t got a meal plan, but everyone under a certain age eats at all the same places all the time, so it might as well! There are also stores where everyone’s clothes come from—a collective Williamsburg Co-op, if you will. There’s a campus green, and dorms, some of which were built under the present administration in impressive glass and steel that both disgust and impress our alumni. (We even got our own “endowment” to make that happen—but in the real world that’s called a tax abatement.)

Everything’s pretty close to everything else—again, just like campus!—but the B61, the L and the G form a sort of campus shuttle. So lace up those retro Nikes (or Sauconys, if you’re studious!) and start walking!

One thing to keep in mind: Like all college towns, Williamsburg has its share of grown-ups around. These can be bosses, or grumpy old artists who say they’ve been there forever and seem to like dirt and poverty. They like to remind you that once upon a time there were only a few grimy bars, one Thai place, one coffee shop and no boutique clothing stores—just some giant warehouse called Domsey’s that isn’t near the L. Never mind! It’s a race between high rent, death and exasperation to see which will drive them out of the neighborhood first. You won’t have to lift a finger.


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Let’s start with where you live. A key factor is how far you are willing to walk to get to the Bedford Avenue L stop. Like the Student Center, there’s nothing there that doesn’t repeat itself in every micro-neighborhood of Williamsburg: a thrift store, a few bars, a bagel place, a bodega, a pizza joint and someplace to pick up a packet of seitan or C. Howard’s violet-flavored gum. But since it’s right at the first L stop in Williamsburg, it’s sort of the place you have to swoop through if you want to feel like you know what’s going on.

You’ll go there often at first, so you don’t want to be too far away. But then, the further you are, the cheaper the rent.

You might have got one of those railroad apartments—and if you’re lucky, the front room has its own door, which means you and your roommates don’t have to traipse through each others’ bedrooms to get to the bathroom in the back by the kitchen!

Or else you’re in what might have been a pretty little brick townhouse covered in aluminum or plastic siding some decades back. There is no cat in the house, but it sure smells like one!

Fear not. Room draw in Williamsburg (it’s called the Real Estate Market, but it’s just as random) is no worse than anywhere else.

But once you advance a year, where to go? It will say a lot about who you are, and in Williamsburg, neighbors are apt to become the stalwarts of your new New York kinship network. As Evelyn Waugh once said of Oxford, you spend the second year getting rid of all the friends you made your first year. So where to move once your Craigslist roommate finally crosses the fine line between postgrad louche and bona fide meth addict and it’s time to scoot?

On principle, East Williamsburg’s massively shoddy, cramped, hard-partying wonderland, the McKibbin Lofts, is less cool because of last month’s front-page Times profile, but it’s still “an art-school dorm,” says a former neighbor. A local architect in a drone-rock band likes going to parties there, even though he once got an egg thrown at him from a McKibbin rooftop and it hit his “sand-suede Clarks desert boots.” Things could be worse: “Bedbug-central! Chlamydia! It houses a lot of the STDs that come from everywhere,” said another local.

But its geographic location—far from everything but the Morgan L stop—guarantees a certain cachet as well. This is the off-campus apartment, a place to aspire to live your second year in Williamsburg if you haven’t yet hit it big.

But if your parents have got the dosh, you can skip that step and move directly into the Rocket Factory at 100 South Fourth Street. This place is for the arty yuppies, the ones who shun both labels and belong to neither group but can be described no other way. A sign on the front door from a big production company asks for an apartment to feature in a film about an Idaho orphan who “discovers his place in the New York City art world.”

If you’re still in Williamsburg by the time you reach middle management at an arts organization in Chelsea, you might want to consider the Esquire Building at 330 Wythe. Yes, they made shoe polish there once upon a time! And some of the aura must be messing with the feng shui. Residents sustained, for the better part of two years, a bitter squabble over what color to paint their apartment doors; Teal and Dark Charcoal each had its partisans, but the final compromise was a purplish affair called Raisin Torte.

“They’re into the austere, raw look, and they’re very proud of that,” a broker said of the residents, contrasting them with those who live a little farther south in the Gretsch Building.

The Gretsch is that thing way on the south side of Williamsburg that looks like it was built by the firm that brought you Stonehenge. The building was a warren of DIY “lofts” for years before a developer came in and made the building into pretty condo units. While the prices are high, the quantity of Ikea furniture visible from the street will give you an idea of how accessible the Gretsch will be to you if you opt to stay in Williamsburg past your first promotion.

Rah-Rah! Campus Life Sweet at Williamsburg College