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Visually speaking, it's time to stop singin', and start swingin'. Or at least pause to take stock of the larger picture in this district in which, over the next few months, builders will complete work on at least five new or newly converted residential condominium buildings. The local construction boom that began in the late 1990s represents the first significant building activity on this section of the waterfront since Robert Gair dragged a massive corrugated box empire from the river mud in the early 20th century. Viewed as a class, the newest buildings evoke a pack of brash adolescents swaggering around a yard of surly and sober old-timers. These young hotshots have alternately teetered on the brink of stardom, depression, infamy and crime.

The two tallest, J-Condo and 85 Adams (aka Beacon Tower), have recently emerged from hardcore puberty growth spurts, having risen 33 and 23 stories, respectively, in under 5 months each. These oafish rivals now stand around the clouds striking contrived poses, vying for dominance, denying their gawkiness, and struggling secretly to belong. The third stooge, dressed in Miami Deco and not quite inside the genuine Dumbo clique, is currently rising on the other side of the highway. Shorter classmates at 133 Water, 99 Gold, and 206 Front Street (Vista) have likewise unleashed visual and cultural conundrums. They brand themselves as the latest, hippest, most exclusive boxes on the block while touting the area's history and scrambling to prove how naturally they complement their demure brick and masonry neighbors and predecessors.

Sheathed in aluminum panels and dark brick, the 12-story 133 Water scores some points for originality and subtlety in its massing. It appears well oriented toward both the street and the bridge overhead, even though the two axes are not parallel. And it miraculously disappears from a few blocks up Adams Street. Still, if it strikes some viewers as about as contextual as a martini poking out of the six-pack, that's probably because it aspires to an impossibly chic and twisted utopia. 2006_12_dumbo-133W-lobby2.jpgNot only will couples embrace as they await the single elevator in the FXFOWLE-designed lobby, but (from the website): "An exclusive refrigerator and freezer holds gourmet groceries at optimum temperatures." Anyone got the scoop on just how exclusive the tub, and how gourmet the grub? Meanwhile, the building's heavy cuddling with its neighbors has nearly led it to squish its own balconies.

The incest report: Interior designer Andres Escobar decked out the interiors of 99 Gold, J-Condo, and 133 Water (although the website of the latter also lists Amit Cohen). The architectural firm of Robert Scarano & Associates designed 99 Gold and 133 Water, as well as the forthcoming 53 Bridge Street under construction just blocks away (very convenient since Scarano's iconic office is located in Dumbo). Unfortunately the Feng Shui consultant for Beacon Tower was not hired by any of the competing developers.

More:

- Place in History has the best DUMBO historic timeline.
- Brooklyn Papers looks at contemplation over a DUMBO preservation district and proper name.

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- Ancient History (pictured, left): Remember the 1999 scheme for a Jean Nouvel hotel/cineplex on the Dumbo waterfront? For those who had never heard of the neighborhood back then, the project can be reviewed in a 2004 Rizzoli book and has inspired recurring speculation. [The Architect's Newspaper]
- Ancient History that Still Burns (pictured, right): How the SHoP Light Bridges project approved in 2002 was brazenly swapped for the the Oy-Veh J by its huckster developer. [Brooklyn Papers]