050708mckibben.jpgThe Gray Lady slums it out to far East Williamsburg to report on the hipster bohemian squalor of the sprawling McKibbin Street “dorms;” two hulking buildings converted from garment factories to lofts in the late nineties by a trio of savvy Stuyvesant alums. It’s since become a filthy, bed-bug ravaged rite of passage for the young DIY arts set, who pile on top of each other in warren-like lofts more crowded than one of Dan Deacon’s dance-a-thons.

The walls are paper thin, and the surrounding neighborhood still crime-ridden, but the appeal for many is in the sense of post-collegiate community and cheaper rent – though even that’s changing. We spoke to Jeff Seal, a McKibbin veteran who recently moved out after an 18-month stay in building 248. He says his rent for a tiny, low-ceilinged cubby in a loft with seven roommates was costing him $700:

The walls are so thin I could literally hear the person next door rustling his sheets.

And the other neighbor would play electronic music every night until 4am; even with earplugs the bass would haunt my dreams. One of my roommates was mugged in the loading dock of my building, and after one party some people spray painted swastikas around the building, which our Jewish landlord was understandably upset about.

Maybe he didn’t get that they were supposed to be ironic swastikas? The Times article characterizes the McKibbiners as care-free twenty-somethings who admit they “don’t really speak to the locals,” many of whom live in less romantically squalid housing projects.

But Seal counters that some McKibbin kids have been active in building bridges to the local community in East Williamsburg and Bushwick. His group, Arts in Bushwick, organizes outreach programs with neighborhood groups to try and address the issues of gentrification and displacement, while also working with local businesses to help them profit from the demographic change by stocking products the white artists want. So hold tight, McKibbiners; bodegas with day-glo fanny-packs are just around the corner.

Photo of 255 McKibbin St. from the roof of 248 McKibben courtesy Thatsplenty.