Avenue A Crosses the East River

Bedford Avenue L station, Williamsburg
Bedford Avenue L station, Williamsburg

Though I spent three years living in Greenpoint, I often found myself shunning the local nightlife—aside from a few restaurants and my local watering hole the Pencil Factory—for cozy nights in on my quiet residential street. Especially during this time of year. But despite no longer residing there, I’ve recently found myself traveling north to Williamsburg and Greenpoint for a night out more often and apparently, I’m not alone!

On a recent Thursday, I headed to the Music Hall of Williamsburg to catch a few bands play. On my walk toward the venue, which stands just short of the East River, I bypassed the Thai restaurant Sea, now North 6th Street’s bridge-and-tunnel capital. Patrons were falling out of the doors, the line for a table immense, while a DJ boomed hip hop to a crowd donning their Sunday (or Thursday) best. Similarly, up the street, Planet Thai was packed to the brim with people seeking a lounge, restaurant and bar feel all in one.

The previously desolate concrete streets—Berry, Wythe, Kent—that I often traversed to catch the L train at Bedford Avenue are now packed with giggling outer-borough and outer-island 20- and 30-somethings on a night out, excited that they can enjoy Manhattan-esque nightlife and park their cars for free. Hip local teenagers roughhoused on a corner. Now the streets are only uninhabited long enough for the occasional public urination or upchuck.

Now I often find confused and slightly terrified visitors desperate to know how to get to Studio B or Europa, choice Greenpoint neighborhood nightlife spots in somewhat remote corners. Later in the evening and early into the morning, those same clubgoers loudly stumble to their cars and disappear to whence they came.

Nearby, The Gutter, a bowling alley that opened on the border of Greenpoint last summer and was retrofitted piecemeal with lanes, booths and scoring machines from shuttered alleys across the country, is consistently packed with crowds from far and near, and of course, parking is readily available adjacent to the vacant warehouses. Vintage Milwaukee’s Best-stained glass lamps hang over the dark wooden bar, where some of Bushwick’s best wait hours to play on one of the four antique lanes.

So, with its mix of hipster residue and tragically suburban folk, Bedford Avenue finally completed its transformation into the new Avenue A. My mind flashed back to the late 90’s to a time when I realized this might happen, despite Williamsburg streets being completely empty—even on a Saturday night—Sweetwater being the only bar hopping with patrons on that same stretch of uneven concrete. Now a watering hole for a more mature crowd, and less so for the punk rockers who used to frequent it, Sweetwater is hardly recognizable, fading into the backdrop of retail fronts hawking intricately designed furniture, fashion and footwear. Not unlike the Alphabet City of the 90’s.

Of course, I knew what was to be for northern Brooklyn, but having seen it finally and completely descend upon us I’m not sure how to feel. I’m unable to wrap my head around the fact that Williamsburg is no longer a neighborhood, but a destination for debauchery; like Manhattan, a playground for those who can afford it. Though it can be fun, a less raucous adventure to Fort Greene is more my speed. I stood on Bedford Avenue and North 7th Street after departing the Music Hall, caught a cab immediately, and spent the short ride home to Prospect Heights totally content to return to my quiet, peaceful neighborhood.

Nicole Brydson Written by:

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