242 Bedford Avenue, Where a Whole Foods is Coming to Williamsburg.

March 16, 2012

This afternoon, while I was leering at passers-by from the front window of Oslo coffee of Bedford, an artist behind me said to the barista "It's over." Now, he said, his Eurotrash friends will accept Williamsburg as a destination worth visiting and start frequenting the bars here. As he explained it, they'd previously only consider venturing in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District on the weekends. "First came the models on the corners, then came the bankers chasing the models. It's over when there are models on the corners," he said.

I'm not sure where his accent suggested he was from. His lurid, bending vowel sounds and hyperbole made it clear he too was somewhat Eurotrash-y. Spanish, perhaps?

He was talking about Whole Foods setting up shop. The chain plans to open a location, four blocks from my place, at 242 Bedford Avenue. I don't agree with the artist. What a proposed Whole Foods means for the neighborhood is unclear. It, whatever it is or was, is not over. The scene the artist was romantically talking about was on its way out years ago and had left by last summer for sure, if not before I'd arrived. Williamsburg is really just beginning. This is the new scene. 

Whole Foods, provided they actually build this place, is not going to cause a major change in what's been happening in Williamsburg. The towering condos have been approaching along the Western Shore of Brooklyn for years. Developers have held properties for decades in expectation of just this very moment. I'm guessing the changes we see daily will only accelerate. Rents will still continue to increase. Bodegas will still continue to vanish or convert to stocking only organic or local items. Mom and Pop (like the folks at King's Pharmacy) will still continue to retire early. Like Gothamist titled their piece, this Whole Foods was inevitable.

The artist back at Oslo had also mentioned that his landlord had upped his monthly rate to $3,000 from $1,800 over six years. I've been fortunate to not endure anything close to that over my two. Still, I worry about not being able to afford living here long-term - here being New York City in general. I still can't afford decent health insurance for the sixth year running. But I'm lucky to have as nice a setup in my apartment as I currently do. There's daylight coming in and the downstairs neighbors only complain about me every few months. 

What I know I need to consider is the attention bias that makes a Whole Foods in Williamsburg a topic of discussion among people like me. I'm surrounded by wealth, people with means far greater than mine, and I dwell on that in the same way the snarky media like Gawker and Gothamist do. Yes, there are models and bankers and plenty of wealthy to excessively rich people in the neighborhood. I get envious, even a little defensive and preachy about "keeping it real" but plenty of other people are probably thinking the same thing of me. There are also still old Polish grandmothers from the Old Neighborhood - and possibly even the Old Country - digging through the trash bins for recoverable goods like recyclables for which they can earn five cents. You and I, dear artist, we have to keep a little perspective.

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