Gowanus Attracts More and More Hipsters, Making Original Residents Unhappy

Who wouldnt want to play shuffleboard along the shores of this majestic canal?
  • Who wouldn’t want to play shuffleboard along the shores of this majestic canal?

In what still might prove to be a quixotic endeavor, a small group of Gowanus residents achieved a victory when they succeeded in preventing a proposed bar and “shuffleboard club” from getting Community Board approval. However, Ashley Albert and business partner Jonathan Schnapp have promised to revisit their idea for The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, which was to house a bar, live music venue, and many, many shuffleboard courts, so the fight is not over.

And if history means anything—which I’m pretty sure it does—the forces of gentrification or whatever you want to call it tend to prevail. So, get ready for some shuffleboard, Gowanus?

The Wall Street Journal reported on this latest struggle in the gentrification war and found that the long-time Gowanus residents who oppose the shuffleboard bar are not opposed to all development, just this particular type of development.

Norma Gomez, a 59-year-old woman who has lived in Gowanus for 35 years, says that she approves of and is excited by the Whole Foods and Dinosaur Bar-B-Que that are coming to the neighborhood, but that “the idea of hundreds of people coming into her neighborhood, drinking alcohol and leaving late at night scares her.”

Ms. Gomez told the WSJ, “We’re all for development. Just not a bar” of that scope. “Something that will add to our neighborhood, not take away from it.”

Albert and Schnapp have a 12-year-lease for the space on 3rd Ave and Nevins St and so it appears to just be a matter of time before they come up with a business plan that is more palatable to the Community Board. When asked what the problem in this situation was, Albert told the WSJ that she “thinks it boils down to fear.”

She went on to say, “They’re afraid of change. They know it as how they know it and I understand that. And it isn’t going to be as quiet as it would be if nothing was there, but the thing is, somebody’s going to be there. Gowanus is sort of a burgeoning artistic community and who knows what goes in there if we don’t, and we’re committed to being good neighbors.”

When it comes down to it, change is coming to Gowanus, just like it’s come to many other parts of Brooklyn and just like it will continue to come to many more parts. And it is nice to think that long-time residents can channel the change, make it into something manageable, make the growth of a neighborhood seem organic and unforced.

But that’s unlikely. And, really, it doesn’t seem like the problem is new businesses per se. The problem seems to be the clientele that a shuffleboard themed bar would attract.

In a word (a hated, HATED word): hipsters.

The ultimate lesson in this fight, and all fights, against new neighborhood development is this—everyone hates hipsters.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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  1. Rather than take such a negative attitude, L Magazine should be commending the residents trying to preserve the peace of their neighborhood. As I read the WSJ article, its not about not wanting hipsters around but about not wanting a huge venue with a liquor license right under their windows.
    Remember the 99%? Support them instead of some business interests!

  2. As one of the residents of a building facing the proposed site, and friend of Norma and others mentioned in this article, I can say that it isn’t hipsters. It’s the size and the noise. I’d rather live across the street from a bar with 500 hipsters over a bar with 500 bikers. But, at the end of the day, like most people, I’d rather not live across the street from a bar with 500 people… open until 2 or 4 am… with a roof deck… and lots of drunken shouting. I’m really rather neutral on ironic plaid.

  3. So Norma has not been afraid of the nearby ghetto thug rats for the past 35 years as oppose to predominantly pasty white hipsters?

  4. Anyone else notice that though defenders of hipsters gossip apoplectic about “ghetto thug rats” and their attitude is thuggish, the only persons speaking reasonably and willing to go middle ground on all this are “the locals”?

  5. I’m from Greenpoint, another gentrifying neighborhood. And I hate, hate, hate, when communities are accused of hating hipsters. I actually don’t even give a damn what the definition of a hipster is. In my book, it’s just a name concocted by reporters to make news. As a “local” in a gentrifying neighborhood, I can tell you what we hate is disrespect and displacement, no matter who’s responsible. Good luck to the “locals” in your community. And good luck to the “hipsters”, who are just newcomers finding their way. And shame on city officials for not creating balanced plans that serve all!

  6. And everyone hates “hipsters”? What nonsense! It reminds me of the film “Cowboys & Aliens” where the cowboys have delusionally taken the place of “the Indians” and assume their position in imagination. Or Megan Kelly calling Jon Stewart a “bully” and imagining her victimization. Or that obsese billionaire who recently claimed poor people are so because they eat and drink too much? Hipsters are in positions of privilege and authority in social modeling! Are you so blind you don’t see that each of these instances of gentrification radiate out of “hipster” fetishism? But God forbid you notice these things or you’ll be accused of “nativism.” Ms. Iverson, if you haven’t noticed by the dim view of locals in your reporting, and the repeated dim view of them by L Magazine and the rest of new media, or the fact they are, by default, the first displaced in any gentrification scenario, it is the locals who are hated by every one. What? Was the L in L Magazine for “locals”? Please.