Williamsburg borders Greenpoint to the north, Bedford-Stuyvesant to the south, Bushwick to east and the East River to the west.
On May 11, 2005, the New York City Council passed a large-scale rezoning of the North Side and Greenpoint waterfront. Much of the waterfront district was rezoned to accommodate high density residential uses and mixed use with a set-aside (but no earmarked funding) for the creation of open waterfront park space, as well as strict building guidelines calling for developers to create a continuous two-mile-long string of waterfront esplanades. Local elected officials touted the rezoning as an economically beneficial way to address the decline of manufacturing along the North Brooklyn waterfront, which had resulted in a number of vacant and derelict warehouses in Williamsburg.
The rezoning represented a dramatic shift of scale in the ongoing process of gentrification in the area since the early 1990’s. The waterfront neighborhoods, once characterized by active manufacturing and other light industry interspersed with smaller residential buildings, were rezoned primarily for residential use. Alongside the construction of new residential buildings, many warehouses were converted into residential loft buildings. Among the first was the Smith-Gray Building, a turn-of-the century structure recognizable by its blue cast-iron façade. The conversion of the former Gretsch music instrument factory garnered significant attention and controversy in the New York press primarily because it heralded the arrival in Williamsburg of Tribeca- style lofts and attracted, as residents and investors, a number of celebrities.