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What Does the DUMBO Acronym Stand For?

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This post explains how the Brooklyn neighborhood known as DUMBO got its name.

We also include information about DUMBO’s location, what you can do there, and what tours are available. 

 

DUMBO Sign

 


WHAT DOES DUMBO STAND FOR?

DUMBO is an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

The map below shows how the Manhattan Bridge passes over parts of DUMBO.

One might think that this acronym was created by realty developers hoping to draw buyers to a particular area of NYC that was ripe for gentrification.

Such was the case with Nolita - which stands for North of Little Italy.

Locals simply thought of their neighborhood as part of Little Italy. But Little Italy was not seen as a cool place to live in the 1990s. 

 

 

Realtors began listing apartments in that area as being located in Nolita. Suddenly, renters and buyers were intrigued by this ‘new’ neighborhood.

Now rents in Nolita are significantly higher than in Little Italy, even though nothing had changed but the name!

But unlike Nolita, DUMBO was in fact coined for the opposite reason -- to deter developers from this neighborhood with the same name as the big elephant from the Disney movie.

In the late 1970s, before the area started being referred to as DUMBO, it was a run-down, underdeveloped waterfront neighborhood with century-old buildings and warehouses going unused. 

Artists who had been priced out of SoHo began occupying these spacious and dirt cheap warehouse lofts.

 

 

Several of these artists sat down over a beer one night and brainstormed a name that would be so awful it would deter any realty developers from swooping in and changing the neighborhood. 

It came down to two options of which DUMBO won. The other acronym they had come up with was "DANYA: District Around the Navy Yard Annex".

Sadly for the locals, realtors though that the acronym DUMBO was kind of cool. Fast forward to today and DUMBO is one of the most desirable and expensive Brooklyn neighborhoods to live in.

Who knows what would have happened had they gone with DANYA?

 


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WHERE IS DUMBO?

DUMBO is located just north of Brooklyn Heights and is across from Lower Manhattan. 

 

How to get to DUMBO NYC

 

As the Brooklyn Bridge passes over DUMBO,  why not kill two birds with one stone by exploring DUMBO on the same day. Our post on walking the Brooklyn Bridge can help you plan your trip.

Subway is another way to get to DUMBO and there are multiple subway train lines that service the area (although a bit of walking will be involved).

Nearby subways are:

  • A/C Trains to High Street
  • 2/3 Trains to Clark Street
  • F train to York Street

DUMBO is also accessible by the East River Ferry. Read more about NYC ferries here.

Lastly, you can bike to DUMBO from Manhattan via the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge. Read about the best bike rentals in NYC.

For detailed directions to DUMBO by all modes of transport, click here.

 


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AN ICONIC VIEW FROM DUMBO

One of the most recognizable images of New York City is this view of the Manhattan Bridge, taken at the corner of Washington Street and Front Street in DUMBO.

Washington Street, look straight ahead and you will see the blue-gray steel of the Manhattan Bridge, built-in 1912.

In the distance, you can see the Empire State Building perfectly framed in the archway of the bridge.

 

 

This view has appeared in many movies, most memorably, Once Upon a Time in America (1984).

NOTE: Although cars are active along these streets, most drivers go slow knowing that lots of people stop here to take photos. Still, be careful when standing in the middle of the street.

 


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About The Author

Courtney

Courtney is a lifelong New Yorker fascinated with the city’s history, culture and cuisine. She loves exploring the world, as well as sharing her travel expertise with others. She joined the Free Tours by Foot team in 2011, first as a guide and then as a writer. She has a law degree, a teaching degree and a worn-out passport. Her motto is “Have backpack, will travel”.
Updated: November 18th, 2019
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