Williamsburg 1943 vs. 2012: Less White Than It Used to Be?

A pretty busy, merchant packed street. Pay attention to the building sidings on the right side of the screen, the street sign, and the merchants below.
Not much has changed, really: The storefronts below the building are still in operation, and the building has retained much of the original detailing on the exterior.
Pay attention to the height of the buildings and the various sidings, as well as the stairs and the corner on the bottom-left.
You can still see the way the building in the center-left portion of the photo dwarfs the one next to it, as well as the original sidings.
Take a look at the railway you can barely see on the left, as well as the building's siding—like the spaces to hang signs between the two floors, and the vertical columns separating the building's units—as well as the signs on the building.
You can still see the building's sidings and the railway to the left, as well as the signposts that now hang bare as opposed to when they used to hold signs.

Willimsburg, Brooklyn: A neighborhood seemingly synonymous with capital-G Gentrification by capital-C Caucasians, an longstanding association no doubt perpetuated by the continued development of Manhattan imports like The Meatball Shop and luxury developments like The Wythe Hotel—”Snooty Williamsburg,” as it were—that keep flooding the neighborhood. But was it really all that diverse to begin with?

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Compared to the past? Not really. The New York Times put together a fun little infographic comparing and contrasting New York City neighborhood demographics of yesteryear (pulled from 1940 New York City census data) to what they look like today.

As for Williamsburg, well, here are some numbers:

Williamsburg         1940         2006-2010      Change

POPULATION         179,764     131,875             -27%
Native White            114,598     81,497               -29
Foreign White         61,488       16,808              -73
Black                           3,298         10,477               +218
Other races              380            23,093              +5,977

There are less native white residents and less foreign-born white residents (as well as less people and less renters) than there were in Williamsburg in 1940. Notably, most of the other neighborhoods the Times picked in outer-boroughs do represent this change to some degree (this may have to do with the fact that all the White People either moved further out or further in, ahem, Manhattanwhites), but Williamsburg gentrifiers may now assuage themselves with the fact that they still have plenty of other people to push out before the neighborhood looks like it did Way Back When.

Speaking of which, much of this data was pulled from a 1943 “Market Analysis” of Williamsburg that included some old photos of what it looked like, way back when. Check out the slideshow above for some pulls from Google Maps compared to the photos of Williamsburg from the 1943 Market Analysis.

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek

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