‘Bohemia’ or Bust: Billyburg’s 58 Metropolitan Self-Mythologizes

Neville Ross, a Douglas Elliman broker, is clean-shaven in the photograph on his business card. But at Wednesday evening’s grand

Neville Ross, a Douglas Elliman broker, is clean-shaven in the photograph on his business card. But at Wednesday evening’s grand opening party for the condos at 58 Metropolitan in Williamsburg, he was sporting a thick, bushy and, dare we say it, hipster beard.

Mr. Ross wouldn’t comment, but the beard seemed to represent at least a couple months’ worth of growth. Either he had been planning far in advance for a single appearance at this party, or the New York City real estate market is Billyburg-ifying. On a balcony overlooking Manhattan, up seven flights of stairs (the elevator in 58 Metropolitan was out of order), brokers and prospective buyers had caught ‘burg fever.

“I think Williamsburg is bubbling back to life,” broker Thor Thors said.

“I like the area, which I wouldn’t have said a year and a half ago,” broker Barbara Rogers said. “There’s more going on now.”

“I think it’s the Bohemia of New York,” party guest Ashok Pai said. “It has every conceivable service.”

Mr. Pai, who dreams of starting a media company (“I want to become a left-wing Rush Limbaugh- or Glenn Beck-type person”), lives in a condo at 80 Metropolitan, which he bought in February. He showed up at 58 Metropolitan with one of his new friends, a neighbor in his building. Wearing a seersucker blazer, a silk pocket square and pressed khaki trousers, with a mop of black hair covering one eye, Mr. Pai said he likes to eat vegan food in the Financial District and study in the Columbia library. His home base, though, is Williamsburg.

“This is my baby,” said Douglas C. Steiner, CEO of Steiner Companies, which developed 58 Metropolitan. He’s the grandson of the founder of the company, which also runs a movie studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. “We built Steiner Studios in 1999, so we’re big Brooklyn fans,” he said.

The balcony of 58 Metropolitan affords a clear (and protected) view of the Manhattan skyline. Although the apartment building is at least a 10-minute (11-minute, according to Google Maps) walk from the Bedford Avenue L stop, Steffan Stern, president of real estate at Steiner (and a big fan of The Observer), doesn’t think that matters.

“The best stuff in Williamsburg is not on Bedford. The best stuff is on side streets,” he said. “You look around and there’s always something new and creative.”

Despite the general enthusiasm, there were some at the party who hadn’t drunk the Kool-Aid (or the Brooklyn Brewery Brown Ale, as the case may be). Nalini Sommer, a prospective buyer, said if she moved to Williamsburg she’d fear for her safety. “I like the neighborhood if I’m in a relationship. I don’t see myself being a single person living here,” she said. “It’s a little on the creepyish side.”

Broker Mike Alba was frank.

“I don’t like it,” he said. “It’s too industrial. A lot of people like that, but I don’t.”

He said the party was a cleverly designed marketing strategy to perpetuate the myth of Williamsburg. Indeed, speakers played tunes from Brooklyn’s own Grizzly Bear and the Dirty Projectors, along with Pitchfork darling Girls. Brooklyn Brews complemented chicken and sweets from Williamsburg artisan food purveyor Pies ‘n’ Thighs.

Near the end of the event, Mr. Pai said he had plans to crash another real estate party at Northside Piers. He said it was a formal dinner party but that he’d be able to get in anyway. He did this kind of thing all the time.

“Let’s go,” he said, brushing his hair out of his face. “It’ll be easy.”


‘Bohemia’ or Bust: Billyburg’s 58 Metropolitan Self-Mythologizes