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WILLIAMSBURG IS A NEIGHBORHOOD I’ve never known well, even after 37 years in Brooklyn.

I know it slightly better now, after a few hours spent wandering its streets with a friend who moved there recently and scoped out some intriguing shops and cafes. I hope such little pockets of funk and charm survive the onslaught of new residential development and shopping that threatens to make the area indistinguishable from any other city.

Wander along with us, won’t you?

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Above:  fading signage. Below:  graffiti and garbage they haven’t cleaned up yet

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Above: “The new Williamsburg,” building lobby on N. 5th St.

Lunch at House of Small Wonder,below, could not have been cozier on a bitterly cold and windy day.

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Possibility for another day, belowBakeri on Wythe Avenue, which has a pleasant garden.

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Ditto the garden next to the stainless steel diner, above, now a Mexican restaurant. File that one away for springtime.

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Heavenly sight and scent for those weary of winter already: flowers at Sprout Home, below. 

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Grand building on Grand Street, above, so far put to no purpose.

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Below, the six-month-old Sharktooth, repository of vintage textiles, from antique rag and Caucasian carpets to quilts and bedspreads dyed navy and black.

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Is it happy hour already? Let’s pop in to Miss Favela, a Brazilian ‘botequim’ (watering hole), practically under the Williamsburg Bridge. It’s owned by the same people who own the popular Felix on West Broadway, said Pablo, our chatty bartender, below, as he muddled lime and sugar for our capirinhas. The place hops (or rather, sambas) on weekends, but we had it to ourselves this Wednesday afternoon.

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Nice finally getting to know you, Williamsburg.

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AS THE OLD YEAR CAME TO A CLOSE, I said goodbye to my beloved East Hampton cottage — at least for a year, perhaps forever. Yet as I drove away on December 15, leaving it to my new renters — a sweet young couple who are over the moon about the place — it was with only a smidgen of regret. My grand plan is unfolding; I’m inching toward closing on another house in the same area. Meanwhile, it’s back to my Brooklyn apartment for the duration (when you have only one residence, I’m afraid it can no longer be called a pied-a-terre).

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My East Hampton tenants kept some of my furniture — the sofa, the bed, and a few other major pieces. All my rugs, books, dishes, artwork, etc. had to be packed up and stored in the basement, above, in the space of about five days. My houseplant collection, below, came with me back to Brooklyn, and miraculously I’ve managed to place them all in front of my two windows.

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I chafed at the confinement of urban living at first, but I’ve adjusted. There are trade-offs. What you give up in fresh air and bay views and the silence of the woods, you gain in quirky discoveries that can only happen in a great city…like the row of Victorian carriage houses in Prospect Park, below, that I had somehow never noticed before. They’re now used as garages by park maintenance, but wouldn’t they make a charming residential mews?

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Or the sight of a vintage subway train pulling into West Fourth Street, bedecked with Christmas ribbons and wreaths…

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….a fire escape festooned with lights in Williamsburg…

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….or a gingerbread rendering of the new Barclay’s arena, seen at the Joyce Bakeshop in Prospect Heights: all things you wouldn’t see in East Hampton.

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Christmas week was a little quiet because, well, I don’t celebrate Christmas. I did some cat-sitting and a whole lot of writing, including an article about Palm Springs’ mid-century architecture for a travel magazine, and two time-consuming pieces for HouseLogic, a website owned by the National Association of Realtors, which led to my one New Year’s resolution for 2013: don’t say yes to any writing assignment that comes down the pike. Life’s too short for hackery.

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My sister and I indulged in some year-end furniture and rug shopping, though in my case it was merely speculative. We went to FIND in Gowanus, where I was moved to take a picture of the chairs above. They are crafted out of rubber tires and they are unbelievably comfortable. I’ve never seen anything like them. They were asking $100 for the pair of these oddities. I can’t decide whether I like the look of them or not. Do you?

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I am mulling the purchase of a high storage chest like the one above, seen at Re-Pop in Williamsburg, since I’m desperate for additional clothing storage in my bedroom. It’s $850, so I postponed the decision. Whereupon we went next door to the Roebling Tea Room and had cocktails at the bar in an old, high-ceilinged industrial space (I suppose they have tea, too).

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Another day, we checked out the kilims at Jacques Carcanagues in SoHo. I can’t get the one above out of my mind. It is 13′ long, 6’6″ wide, and was bought in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion, we were told. The colors are only four — purple, navy, cream, and white — and so unusual. For $900, it seems a great deal. But without a house, I don’t need a rug.

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New York being New York, every time I venture out, there’s a new bar, restaurant or bakery. Above, the new Grandaisy Bakery on the corner of West Broadway and Beach Street. It definitely wasn’t there the last time I looked.

So onward to 2013 with fresh eyes, ears, mind. It’s a new year, so let’s make it new: new adventures, new activities, new people, new prospects, new music, new ideas, new knowledge, new dreams.

MY LAST GARDEN COLUMN TODAY for Brownstoner, and I wanted to go out with a bang.
It’s a spectacular 4,000-square-foot rooftop woodland/meadow, all in containers, by garden designer Rebecca Cole.

You must see this…and you can, right here.

NO BROWNSTONE today on Brownstoner — instead, a Mondrian-esque apartment in a modern Williamsburg loft building, designed (and occupied) by Brooklyn-based Christopher Coleman.

Go here for the whole scoop.

FRONT YARDS, BACKYARDS, ROOFTOPS, DECKS…whatever outdoor space a Brooklyn homeowner or renter can stake out…all are fair game for my new weekly column for the Brooklyn real-estate website Brownstoner.com. The Outsider debuts today, Sunday, April 22, and will run every Sunday at 8AM through gardening season.

First up: a 13’x30′ concrete slab on which garden designer Tyler Horsley has worked horticultural wonders.

To see Tyler’s garden as it has evolved over a dozen years and in all seasons, click right here. And please let me know how you like it.

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