‘Instagrammed to Death’ or a Return to Pre-Pandemic Normal?

Familiar controversies might seem reassuring in 2022.

2 minute read

August 21, 2022, 5:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

Uber Dumbo

The the far western stretch of Washington Street in Dumbo, along the Brooklyn waterfront, where the arch of the Manhattan Bridge frames the Empire State Building in the distance. | BravoKiloVideo / Shutterstock

Instagram has been making appearances in the Planetizen news feed since 2013, when an article originally published by UrbDeZine suggested that Instagram could be a valuable tool for planners.

The latest entry in the long history of think pieces examining the effect of Instagram on cities is by Ginia Bellafante, writing for the New York Times to ask, “Can a Neighborhood Be Instagrammed to Death?”

The article centers the experience of the far western stretch of Washington Street in Dumbo, along the Brooklyn waterfront, “where the arch of the Manhattan Bridge framing the Empire State Building in the distance dominates the view.” Washington Street has bee selfie central, according to Bellafante, as tourism has picked back up in New York City since the pandemic doldrums of 2020.

Locals are upset enough about the disruption caused by selfie-taking tourists that they have convened public meetings.

“The problem wasn’t simply the resurgent flood of humanity but also in part the economy that had evolved around it — the parade of food trucks, too many of which, neighbors maintained, were parked illegally and dumped trash with abandon,” writes Bellafante. “Navigation was already compromised by a renovation of the sewer system that had torn up various roadways; at the same time the city’s Department of Transportation had closed off a section of Washington Street adjacent to the popular tourist corridor to traffic, as part of the open streets program.”

According to Bellafante, the drama points to “a long-term failure of city planning” to engage with the formerly industrial neighborhood. The controversies are familiar, according to the article, even in the new world created by the pandemic: “a narrative of tensions among impassioned competing interests that all feel entitled to lay their personal claims to public space.” Bellefante suggests that the familiarity of the conflict is a "deeply reassuring" return to normal.

Friday, August 5, 2022 in The New York Times

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