Ethnography Project: Bergen St in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

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For the site of my ethnography project I chose the Brooklyn neighborhood of Cobble Hill, specifically the block of Bergen St between Smith and Court streets, an area that has held my attention for years.

What has made it so interesting is that although Cobble Hill has long been gentrified, this particular section of Bergen street remained (at least visually) largely untouched until about 5 years ago. It was the last place in the neighborhood that you could get any sense of its more blue collar, industrial past. An iron works still remains in business here, but the rest of the factory buildings along the street stood vacant and decrepit for years. Considering the constant changes occurring in all of the surrounding blocks, it has always felt like a bit of a relic to me. In recent years, however, the rest of the neighborhood has finally bled onto this block. It has now become a hub for art exhibitions, dining, upscale retail and more.

Most businesses have chosen to keep many of the exterior (and sometimes interior) elements that have made this block stand out, keeping much of the facades intact, resulting in a blending of the past with the present. There is no mistaking that it is upscale, but there is definitely a laid-back feeling that permeates, as well.

The changes are highly reflective of the demographic who lives around here, too. There are a lot of young families, and it’s not an unfamiliar story to hear that many have come to Brooklyn after years spent living in Manhattan. They have a stylishness that is often coupled with a very relaxed feel to their look. To me, the woman I spoke to for this project typifies this resident.

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In regards to her personal style, she thinks of it as simple and tomboyish, with her quintessential outfit consisting of black jeans, paired with a black sweater and a brown pair of boots. There is not much variance between the way she dresses for work, versus how she dresses the rest of the time. She says that her outfits typically consist of black, grey and white elements from brands such as Madewell and shirts from James Perse. When asked if she follows trends, she says sometimes, but that her interest in them usually only extends to accessories.

While she likes to put some thought into what she wears, this isn’t something she obsesses over. She knows what she likes, and selects her garments accordingly.

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Vinnie’s Iron Works remains as the last surviving business from the block’s industrial past.

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This greenhouse is an extension of The Invisible Dog Gallery. It holds exhibition in addition to periodical pop-up shops from designers such as Eileen Fisher.

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The Invisible Dog Gallery

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Warby Parker is latest business to come to this street, right next door is Aesop, who is also fairly new to the neighborhood.

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