Dumbo locals are suffocating from the constant push for tourism

Dumbo locals are suffocating from the constant push for tourism

One of Brooklyn’s trendiest and most expensive areas is being choked with tourists, locals said.

Residents of posh Dumbo say the local business improvement district has been damaging the area for nearly a decade for everyone but tourists — frivolously closing streets to events and creating a congested environment for day trips without any input from the people who live in the historic district .

“We cannot accept the overuse of the Dumbo BID and the continued disrespect of residents by this organization,” said a petition signed by nearly 150 local residents.

The biggest problem area is Washington Street, which acts as a major artery in and out of Dumbo, critics say.

It is closed between Front and Water streets for 10 hours each day in partnership with the city Department of Transportation’s Open Streets Initiative to make room for endless visitors. It’s called “Selfie Street” because of the throngs of visitors who clog the road and take snapshots with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.

DUMBO residents face few parking options due to long street closures.
Dumbo residents have few parking options in the area.
Helaine Seidman

The result is a severe lack of parking, and fire trucks and delivery vans are forced to navigate narrow side streets, occasionally knifing and smashing into cars, weary locals say.

“I didn’t sign up to live in Disneyland,” said local resident Daniel Meek.

Formed in 2005, the nonprofit Dumbo Improvement District operates on a $1.2 million budget, according to the most recent tax forms available from 2021. Its funding comes largely from special assessments paid by commercial property owners in the area.

A woman takes a photo of a friend posing in front of the Manhattan Bridge on Washington Street.
A woman takes a photo of a friend posing on Washington Street with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.
Helaine Seidman

Tara Quinn, who co-authored the petition and helped organize Thursday’s public discussion with City Councilman Lincoln Restler, said the BID isn’t listening.

“Many of us have been asking for change or at least communication with this group and it has fallen completely on deaf ears,” she said.

While he was happy to facilitate the meeting, Restler, a progressive and onetime adviser to former Mayor Bill de Blasio, continued to show his support for so-called “open streets” and called the BID a “strong partner.”

Delivery trucks have to squeeze through narrow side streets of DUMBO.
A delivery truck makes its way through a narrow street in Dumbo.
Helaine Seidman
Tourists are known to be disruptive and annoying to DUMBO residents.
“I didn’t sign up to live in Disneyland,” Danielle Meek said of the nonstop tourism.
Helaine Seidman

“Washington Street is like a circus,” Arlene Blitz said during the meeting.

Magdalena Levy, who owns La Catrina Flower Studio on nearby Water Street, said the open street made it impossible to fulfill orders efficiently.

“To make a heavy delivery just four blocks from here, it could take us forty minutes,” she said. “We have world class [Brooklyn Bridge Park] just a block away. I don’t see why they have to close the street.

Residents call DUMO's Washington Street
Residents call Dumbo’s Washington Street “Selfie Street” because of the tourists who flock to take photos with the iconic view in the background.
Helaine Seidman
City Councilman Lincoln Restler supports DUMBO's
City Councilman Lincoln Restler supported Dumbo’s open streets programs.
Helaine Seidman

On Friday, The Post witnessed Sweetgreen employees eject a tour group of 20 people from the restaurant’s outdoor dining area on Washington Street because they weren’t ordering anything — just taking a seat.

Still, there is some love for the open streets.

“It makes it safer and easier to walk with a small child and it helps slow down traffic, which I think is beneficial for a limited neighborhood like Dumbo,” resident Brian Steinwasher said.

Flower shop owner Magdalena Levi is angry that Citibikes have taken over the entire street in front of her business.
Flower shop owner Magdalena Levy said she was not in favor of the open streets.
Helaine Seidman
Magdalena Levy, owner of La Catrina Flower Studio on Water St., is struggling to fulfill large orders thanks to road closures.
Levy said it is struggling to fulfill large orders thanks to road closures.
Helaine Seidman
A Sweetgreen worker demands that tourists leave the dining area because they are not buying food.
A Sweetgreen employee asks tourists to leave the store’s dining room after not buying food.
Helaine Seidman

When asked if they planned to reduce hours on the street or how they would deal with traffic issues, Dumbo BID executive director Alexandria Sica instead focused on foot traffic to local shops and the “magical moments” the locale creates.

“It’s a destination for the photos New Yorkers take to celebrate life’s big moments — like a graduation, engagement or Quincinera, and a must-see photo for visitors that brings people into Brooklyn — which is great for the neighborhood,” she said.

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