12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: Not Your Grandmother’s Dumbo

Day Ten  12 Views of Brooklyn
From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who's Who

From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who’s Who

dec15IT’S FUN TO MONITOR THE REAL-ESTATE MONIKERS for neighborhoods – especially the Edsels among them, like the failed attempt to brand WesChe. It conjured up English dog breeds or stinky cheese rather than the intended Chelsea-beyond-Tenth-Avenue. Some say it all started in the late ’60s with WestBeth, the early West-of-Bethune Street loft conversion for artists’ residential use. But it came to sound like a Laugh-In rerun, as if Dan Rowan has crossed the East River into Outer Brooklyn and is trying to orient himself with a broker’s map. Rowan: Wait, Soho, isn’t that in England? Dick Martin: No, it’s SOuth of HOuston. Rowan: Houston, isn’t that in Texas? Martin: No, say HOWston, don’t say HEWston. R: Well, then, for NoHo, shouldn’t that be NoHow? M: No way. R: Tribeca, was that a Native tribe like our Canarsie and Gowanus? M: No, TriBeCA is the Triangle Below Canal. And besides, Gowanus wasn’t a tribe, it was the name of the sachem of the Canarsees, the local group of the Lenape. (Long pause.) R: You Manhattanites make up stuff just to confuse people. In Brooklyn, our neighborhood names have history and dignity: Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Vinegar Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights. M: With all those hills and heights, you Brooklyns must (rolling eyes) really like being high. Maybe that explains why you have a neighborhood called – heh heh –Dumbo. R: That’s an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, a historic district that recognizes Brooklyn’s hard-working industrial past. Martin, holding hands beside his head and flapping them like wings, annoyingly: Nothing to do with Walt Disney’s 1941 movie? Rowan stares, shakes head and exits stage left to the R train, proud to be a bridge-and-tunnel person.

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