McKibbin Lofts residents can finally get their coffee without having have to change from their pajamas or slippers. Joe Murray, a resident of McKibbin Lofts of 13 (!!!) years opened 248 Café in the building in March 2013. Joe tells us they are planning to offer room service and deliveries to McKibbin Lofts once things settle little bit in the Café. Fancy, right? But things weren’t always like this at the East Williamsburg lofts (in)famous for huge parties and bed bugs.
Apart from great coffee, homemade espresso ice cream, and pastries from pop up Chimmy’s bakery, Joe had a bunch of stories from McKibbin Lofts to share, and that’s an opportunity we wouldn’t miss.
Wild packs of dogs and a couple of artists: McKibbin Lofts of 2000
BD: Joe, you are like a historian of McKibbin Lofts! You probably saw a lot of crazy stuff!
JM: [He laughs] …and I still see a lot of crazy stuff.
BD: What did it look like here when you first arrived in 2000?
JM: It looked pretty much the same but the atmosphere was very different. There wasn’t a lot of foot traffic here. The building across the street was occupied but in this building, 248 McKibbin, only eight apartments were occupied. You could see dead animals on the street – cats, dogs, rats…Not that it’s particularly beautiful right now but there were packs of wild dogs running around back then.
BD: How much was the rent in 2000?
JM: Well, I had – and still have – a 2,000 square foot duplex and I was paying $1,750 for it. I think that they people pay $4,800 or 5,000 for the same apartment now.
BD: What about your neighbors in the early days?
JM: They were nice people. They were the pioneers of the neighborhood.
BD: Are they still around?
JM: They are mostly all gone. A couple of guys on the 4th floor came in 2001, I think. They are the second oldest tenants.
BD: Who are the landlords?
JM: They are just a couple of savvy guys who bought this building when it was really cheap.
Parties at McKibbin Lofts? You can still have them but don’t invite more than 150 people.
BD: What about the recent ban of parties at McKibbin Lofts?
JM: There is definitely no lack of parties at McKibbin Lofts. You can walk around any night of the week and find a party here. Sometimes parties become so out of control that they spill out of the apartment out into the street, and those are the types of parties that got banned. You can have a party; it’s just a matter of keeping it down…not more than 150 people.
BD: Somebody told me that McKibbin Lofts are getting gentrified. What do you think about it?
JM: Well, they are definitely getting expensive. I don’t think that a café like this could have existed 10 years ago. I don’t think that there would have been a market for fresh-from-the-farm homemade goods. It’s a whole new school of kids that moved here who have more money, or their parents have more money.
If you complain about skateboarding above your head at 3AM, you’re a hypocrite.
BD: What do you think is the average age of a person who lives here?
JM: If I had to guess the average age would be 25.
BD: How old are you?
JM: I am 40.
BD: How do you feel among your younger neighbors?
JM: Well, I bought a condo in 2011 and I moved into a grown-up building, and the whole vibe completely changed. It felt really stuffy and I noticed the restriction of freedom that I had. I haven’t even given a consideration to things like noise late at night…At McKibbin Lofts, I hear people skateboarding above my head at 3AM, but that goes along with living here. If you complain you’re a hypocrite. Because why else would you come here except for having the ultimate freedom?
Charlie, bad karma & bed bugs epidemic.
BD: Tell me about the café.
JM: The name is 248 Café. I originally wanted to name it Charlie’s after the landlord’s guy who comes and bangs on the door every month to collect the rent. Everyone knows who he is, and I have a very antagonistic relationship with him. But then, I was kind of dragging my feet to getting the place open, and I was having issues with zoning and this and that…I’m not really patient when it comes to bureaucracy, and a friend of mine came in and acted as a manager to finish the things. All these things were happening like clerical errors, and he convinced me that we had to change the name, that the name was no good. He hated it.
BD: It probably was better for the karma of the place. Do you have a lot of people from the building getting their morning coffee?
JM: Yeah, we have a morning crowd that comes in; we have very diverse groups of people coming in. We have the cabinet makers and craftsmen from a woodshop across the street, teachers from the school down the street. We have all the people from the building who wake up anywhere from 7AM to 7PM coming for their “morning” coffee. Then we have a marketing firm coming in from across the street, which are sort of on the creative side of business…It’s totally normal when we have people come at 5PM to order waffles, and it’s clear that they just woke up. And then we have all the random musicians, artists, people working from home. Some people come in six to seven times a day to get the exact same thing.
Many people who live in the building haven’t even notice we’re here. Some people just use that door and go to straight the subway station…
BD: How do you feel about Bushwick, although you guys are actually East Williamsburg?
JM: Yeah, I never know how to call this area. I know it says East Williamsburg on the building but that’s like a real estate term, I don’t know how to feel about that, although it’s not exactly Bushwick either. And how do I feel about Bushwick? I love Bushwick! I don’t know if I’m just nostalgic because I’ve been here for such a long time but anytime I try to live anywhere else, I miss it…
BD: Ok, I have to ask…What about bed bugs and all the rumors?
JM: For years there have been beds leaning against the walls with the word “BUGS” spray-painted on them, so I assume it’s real but I’ve never had them [he knocks on the table]. I’ve always had a foam mattress…I like them better and apparently bed bugs don’t like them. I had roaches and mice, but luckily never bed bugs. But the whole bed bug thing started here in 2002 and it wasn’t until 2005 that it became a New York City epidemic, so I’ve always speculated that the whole epidemic came from here…It wouldn’t surprise me. It was a problem exclusively here, and then suddenly whole New York had them…I always check my bed and coach whenever we get a letter from the management. Also every time I find a bug in my apartment I google it to make sure it wasn’t a bed bug.