Right now, if you were to take the Wiliamsburg Bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn at night, you’d see the words “SAVE DOMINO” in big, boxy red lights on the side of an old industrial building. The Domino Sugar Factory is in peril at the hands of a $1.5 billion proposal for apartments and office space. The string of lights is only the polite way locals are expressing their unhappiness and their defense of the neighborhood icon.
These encroaching developments get neatly color-coded in Thomas Rhiel’s visualization of every architectural footprint in Brooklyn, where the older (green) buildings are swarmed by more and more newly minted (dark red) ones. “The end of Wiliamsburg” and the gentrification of Brooklyn are subjects of much media hype. Rhiel and co-editor Raphael Pope-Sussman’s bi-monthly online news publication BKLYNR is an attempt to provide more grounded coverage of the borough.
“A lot of what’s written about Brooklyn tends to focus on certain neighborhoods,” Rhiel tells Co.Design. “BKLYNR takes a broader view, which this map, literally, does as well. I think the map provides a novel, engaging way to look at the history of Brooklyn, and it puts in context stories about the development of certain areas.”
Rhiel spent a few weeks collating the information necessary to color in the borough’s 320,000 building footprints. His primary sources were the Department of City Planning and NYCityMap, both of which list the year of construction for each lot. Swaths of yellow in central Brooklyn indicate that most of the area is a century old, while darker edges highlight the rapid rate at which new properties are going up.
But zoom in, and scroll over individual buildings, and the diversity of life among 2.5 million Brooklynites and their surroundings becomes starkly evident. Few blocks are solid chunks of color—most have a newer building here, or a historic structure there.
“I personally found it satisfying, if not surprising, to see how closely this map resembles my own experience of walking through different neighborhoods,” Rhiel says. “The architectural uniformity or diversity you observe while on the ground really is reflected in this bird’s-eye view.”
Scroll around the borough here.