No more than four days after moving into Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York this past February I started noticing it, and within my first week, I realized it was undeniable. It seemed that inevitably everywhere I went, there it’d be: French.

Already with a domestic reputation that precedes itself — indeed, it being the reason I chose my current apartment — Williamsburg has been attracting an increasing number of Parisians over the past three years. Decidedly en vogue, this new French wave is reinforcing a nouveau social class that began most noticeably redefining the area as early as 2005. This demographic fluctuation is most apparent in neighborhoods designated by the 11211 zip code, which only since the 1990’s was rezoned to now include the stretch of Bedford Avenue and North 7th, now regarded emblematic of the trendiness surrounding it. The Greenpoint-Williamsburg of today is a result of the infamous gentrification process, but the middle-class to which its changes cater to is characteristically unprecedented. More specifically, what began as two neighboring communities of fledgling artists and “Little Poland,” is now predominated by an international hipster population whose proclivity for the fringe has ironically, as it were, redefined Greenpoint-Williamsburg into an increasingly commercial tourist destination.

Among Greenpoint-Williamsburg’s earliest residents, who can still remember when you could count the number of bars and restaurants on one hand, is Tracy Causey. As owner and director of Causey Contemporary Art Gallery, her recollection of the historically artisan-based neighborhood — spanning 13 years since she moved here — is strikingly essential.

“The college-aged [individuals] moving in have read about the hipness of the neighborhood, and how it all used to be artists in rough lofts, and [they] try to emulate that with a romanticized sense of how it was and how it should be without understanding it was that way because, frankly, the blocks were shelves,” she says.

Originally characterized by “drugs and nothingness,” Williamsburg’s inexpensive real estate began attracting artists in the late ’80s to early ’90s who repurposed its industrial spaces into live-in studios. One such landmark case in 1998, The McKibbin in East Williamsburg, was transformed from a garment factory into loft spaces, and described a decade later in a New York Times article, “Young Artists Find a Private Space, Only Without the Privacy,” as dorms housing “post-collegiate creative types yearning to make it as artists, and live like them too.” Similarly, noted at the time, few of its decidedly hipster residents were born before the mid-80s.

Since opening her doors 12 years ago, Causey’s gallery has proved to be a barometer of the changing face of the neighborhood. Initially most frequented by Williamsburg residents and then gradually drawing in customers from Manhattan, now those who are buying are also from the neighborhood. Well, sort of.

“The newer clients walking in and buying art are residents living in the new waterfront developments. They’re younger couples looking to buy as opposed to enjoying art as part of an afternoon outing,” Causey says.

Resulting from a rezoning in the spring of 2005, the so-called “Edge” is a two mile stretch of waterfront property looking out across the river to Manhattan. In October of that same year, Mayor Bloomberg announced Greenpoint-Williamsburg’s first affordable housing development. These condominium estates may be considered both a much needed economic invigoration and restoration of what were formerly unused industrial lots, as well as the beginning of the end to Williamsburg’s bohemian heritage. Of its 900 housing units, 117 were set aside for low and moderate-income families. This cluster of glass and concrete towers, averaging $950 per square foot, marked a significant turning point in Greenpoint-Williamsburg by ushering in a new population whose penchant for bohemian style is fulfilled by a bourgeois bank account.

Bobos — an abbreviated combination of the terms bohemian and bourgeois — manifest a refined attention to appearing artsy by rejecting the mainstream, while still remaining clean cut, devoted to material luxury, and overall, a product of their wealthy background. First emerging in Paris and press editorials in 2000, the term was coined the following year by author David Brooks’ seminal work, Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There. With the last series of housing development initiatives from 2005 now completed, Causey has witnessed the evolution of Greenpoint-Williamsburg’s mixed-up milieu consisting of grungier neo-hipsters and the comparatively more polished bobos.

“Ten years ago you saw mainly college students moving in who read it was inexpensive. The stereotypical resident was 18 to 28-years-old, which created a heavy bar culture in the neighborhood; it was “hipsterville.” Six years ago, a lot of European magazines wrote up Williamsburg as the place to go, and three or four years ago, a lot of Europeans appeared,” Causey says.

The Parisian predilection for distinctive style and cafe culture has the French leading among these European transplants. No more than a block away from my Bedford Avenue address do I meet Sacha Gourau and his good friend, Cecilien Piegad. Gourau graduated from the University of Rochester last year, managing to stay with a student visa — one of the most common methods of migration. As someone who arrived five years ago, when America’s international reputation was just beginning to recover from the Bush Era, Gourau was ahead of his time relative to his peers. His maverick status became the subject of his Facebook status, which itself was a novelty at the time, as his profile regularly offered friends back home a direct glimpse into New York’s liberal and diverse social environment.

In addition to the influence of American television, music videos, and film, more significantly Gourau explains, “all it takes is one person you know.” Gourau’s American lifestyle became the subject of envy among friends who quickly began “associating my lifestyle with what they see on T.V.” With his veritable neo-hipster dream life on display, Gourau now has 10 friends who’ve made the same move to New York, including 22-year-old Piegad, who made his way to New York two years ago through an internship — the other most popular means of visiting. In contrast to the conservative politics, reserved attitudes, and formal culture of conformance and exclusivity that define a “very harsh, very difficult, and snobbish,” Paris, Piegad describes his experience of New York as a place where, “you live your life your way.” For Piegad, his way of living is not unlike the majority of Greenpoint-Williamsburg’s American residents, which is to say, expensive.

Both Gourau and Piegad speak candidly about how the French who are able to journey to trendy New York abodes must be rich. While you’ll hear many of the young renters of Greenpoint-Williamsburg lament over constantly “being broke,” nonetheless they all somehow manage to remain as stylish, caffeinated, and indeed, housed from month to month in an area that began pricing out its former residents roughly four years ago. As of March 2012, monthly rent for a studio apartment in Williamsburg is $2,500 compared to Brooklyn’s average monthly studio rate of $1,710.

Following the inauthentic trappings of hipsters has generated a surge of new businesses, which began crowding out the Polish-owned storefronts of Manhattan Avenue, considered the heart of Little Poland, in 2007. According to a 2012 study conducted by the Center for the Study of Brooklyn, the percentage of Polish residents currently living in the Greenpoint-Williamsburg area declined by 1.2 percent, from 13.8 percent to 12.6 percent, in the past year. Wedel, a chocolate store located on the corner of Meserole and Manhattan Avenue, is one of the few Polish owned businesses remaining since its opening in 1998. Inside is Paulina, a Polish Greenpoint resident and the store’s cashier, who explains that the improvements in appearance and safety of Williamsburg have come at the expense of her Polish community, which has migrated in droves to Ridgewood over the past five years. The combination of increased rent and a decreased Polish consumer base has crowded out Polish businesses who quickly found themselves equally out of place and style among a new population, which Paulina describes as, “[They’re] not from around here and don’t know what they’ve come into.”

Paulina’s dismay over the newer residents’ ignorance of Williamsburg’s sordid past alludes to the kind of irreverent rowdiness that both distinguishes Greenpoint-Williamsburg’s young residents from past generations, and is subsequently proving responsible for the “Manhattanization” of the area. Causey echoes this sentiment, considering Greenpoint-Wiliamsburg as an area at odds with itself that is negotiating between growing out of its destitute past while accommodating newcomers who want to live out the fantasies of its spectacular reputation.

“I’ve had more issues in the past three years here [N. Wythe] than I ever had in the South side. Mainly the under-30 crowd who has come from somewhere else and thinks it’s cool to kick in doors and [paint] graffiti — it happens as the bar next door lets out for the night — they have no respect that this is an area trying to grow and clean up,” Causey laments.

Further to this end, catering to the demands of Greenpoint-Williamsburg’s young and restless early 20-somethings has significantly transformed its founding art scene. James Morrill is in and of this scene in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, working at the prestigious David Zwirner gallery in Chelsea during the week and Greenpoint on the weekends, since he and partner Chris Rawson opened their own gallery, Rawson Projects, in November 2011. James recounts when artists started getting priced out to Williamsburg in 2003 to 2004 as it, “started getting a cache of being a hip place and saw the real beginnings of a more substantial, tangible scene.” Since then, the arts market of Williamsburg has discernibly dissipated as galleries are now considered secondary to the restaurants and bars that are increasingly saturating the neighborhood. I’m told that Bushwick is the latest destination for emerging artists, and, as of 18 months ago, Luhring Augustine, one of Manhattan’s premiere gallery spaces, has already opened a 3,000 square foot “project space” to feature artists not represented by other galleries. More reminiscent of a tourists’ destination than a historical arts colony, the popularity of Greenpoint-Williamsburg, now more than ever before, rests upon the appeal of choice among an array of entertainment venues, boutiques, and food and drink locales.

Ultimately, among hipster trendsetters and bobo followers alike, it would seem that in its present form, Greenpoint-Williamsburg is simultaneously a paradise lost and found to those coming from somewhere else.

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