There’s no denying it: Dumbo is a neighborhood undergoing big changes. 60 Water, the new luxury apartment building to arrive in the neighborhood, is just the latest newcomer to a neighborhood that has been attracting creative types for over 30 years.
Artisans like woodworker Mark Jupiter are ensuring that the neighborhood maintains the vibes that sealed its reputation as an artists’ enclave in the 70s and 80s. We spoke to him about his custom furniture showroom on Plymouth Street, what led to his career in woodwork, and how he likes to spend his time in Dumbo. If you’re thinking of moving to Dumbo, you couldn’t have a better guide.
The stage seemed set for Jupiter’s woodworking career very early. At the age of nine, he had a business waxing floors for his father’s general contractor clients. But the fourth-generation builder took a rather circuitous route into the family business. He initially gravitated more towards art and philosophy, and it wasn’t until his late twenties that he decided to embrace woodworking in a big way: he decided to build a house. By hand. By himself.
What came next was the creation of New World Home, where for over a decade Jupiter produced green factory-built homes with a staff of fifty employees. But after getting married and having a daughter, the city called, and so did the promise of building on a smaller scale: handcrafted furniture built in his Dumbo workshop and showroom.
Since he both lives and works in Dumbo, Jupiter is the perfect person to ask about how a local spends his time there.
The day starts around 7:30. “My wife is a teacher, so I get my three and a half year old daughter ready for school,” he says. With just a block between his apartment, daughter’s pre-school, and showroom, it’s a commute that would be enviable to most of the city’s residents. “I get to work at nine, and if all goes well I get to spend the day making beautiful things.”
“My wife picks me up at five o’clock (we have a babysitter that my daughter makes up songs about). We go from here to the bar at 68 Jay Street. It’s kind of a dive bar where all the old-time Dumbonians go, along with a lot of the new tech people in the area. On Saturdays there’s live bands and it’s less crowded, with just locals. So we’ll have a couple of bourbons there, and then go for dinner at Superfine, Vinegar Hill House, or AlMar.”
“After that we’ll pick up our daughter,” he says, “and walk around to the archway to see if there are any dance or music events going on. My daughter loves to dance. The streets are empty, and we walk around the cobblestones. On this side of Dumbo, there’s an old crowd, and it’s very neighborly.”
And Jupiter is extra-neighborly: we chatted for a few minutes with an 83-year-old artist who has lived in DUMBO for almost thirty years, and now rents a studio from Jupiter in the basement of his wood shop.
Barbecue outside Mark Jupiter’s show room
La Bagel Delight
When asked if he’ll stay in DUMBO, he gives a bit of a history lesson on the area.
“It’s not really Brooklyn, it’s not really Manhattan,” he says. “In the seventies it was all about art and the solitary people who would come here and create art and do a lot of drinking. All that was needed in those days was a deli and an apothecary to bandage the wounds caused by drinking. The artists came because the rent was cheap.”
Brooklyn Roasting Company
The recent boom has changed some aspects of the neighborhood, but Dumbo’s independent spirit remains. Jupiter is optimistic about where Dumbo is headed.
“Those of us who live here are very interested to see what happens next in Dumbo,” he says, “and what the next phase is going to be like.”
Looking at Dumbo through the eyes of a veteran like Mark Jupiter, you may be picturing yourself here, sipping coffee or eating lunch next to the people whose work you just saw in an art gallery across the street.
To learn more about the pleasures of living in Dumbo, check out the website for 60 Water. With its breathtaking views of the East River, the bridges, and the Manhattan skyline, you’ll never want to leave Dumbo either.