The Williamsburg-NYT Echo Chamber

Instagram bait: the view from the rooftop terrace at the Wythe Hotel

I’ve received several angry messages from disgruntled Brooklyn residents tracking me down on Facebook (one guy, after a back-and-forth, even became my friend!), eye rolls on Twitter, and a mix of reactions from the blog circuit in regards to my Thursday Styles cover story on what I like to call the “meatpacking-ification” of Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg. This type of controversy propelled the story to be the most popular article in the Styles section yesterday — which coincidentally, and rather oddly, was also my birthday.

The purpose of the piece was to describe the type of high-gloss facelift the area is undergoing due to an influx of game-changing hotels (and tourists from all over the world including, gasp, Manhattan overnighters), newly-sanitized public spaces and on-the-nose dining establishments. For better or for worse, this part of Wythe Avenue now brings a similar Euro-vacation flair to the rest of North Williamsburg that West Broadway offers to SoHo, except with a crafty artisanal cachet that only the other side of the bridge can provide.

Alas, many outlets took this to mean that The New York Times (and specifically the dreaded Styles section) was just-now “discovering” Williamsburg and designating it as this summer’s “hot spot du jour.”  I suspect this was certainly due to language I used in the piece (not all irony translates, I guess), but also the accompanying sexy headline (“All Roads Lead To Wythe Avenue” for the hardcopy and “Wythe Avenue in Brooklyn is Heating Up” for the digital) and the bonus sidebar that recommends the best transportation options to Williamsburg. (L train, ever heard of it?) Any journalist will tell you that free-lance writers rarely (if ever) have anything to do with picking the headline, the article’s imagery or the sidebar. It’s just not part of our job description. But I understand how it comes as a total package and how the little things set the tone for the entire reader experience. 

The goal was not to coronate the new cool, but to detail the area’s shiny allure for a new crop of moneyed explorers who are finally (after all these years of the borough’s hip status) starting to cross the bridge. It was intended as a 48-hour snapshot of the neighborhood’s current and often comical “post-post-post gentrification,” as one bartender at the Wythe Hotel was quoted as saying in the piece.


Alex Hawgood writes about popular culture for the Fashion & Style section of The New York Times. He is also a regular contributor to publications such as Interview and 032c.  Alongside two friends, he is currently in the process of putting together a new retail concept.