Close-Up on Bushwick


Portions of this article have been updated.

Bushwick, once filled with breweries and textile factories (and their workers), is increasingly inhabited by a white singles crowd that sees itself as progressively pioneering, while longtime residents—many impoverished, many Hispanic—see them as invaders who don’t speak the language. Having been terrorized by the lootings of ’77, Bushwick is infamous as one of the poorest sections of Brooklyn, with 40 percent of the population reliant on public assistance. Yet a turnaround has begun. Empty lots are developing into city-subsidized houses. And each vibrant mural that appears in the foreboding industrial district brings hope that with the new crowd come jobs; better policing, bus service, and schools; and improved shopping districts.

Borders: Flushing Avenue to the north, the Cemetery of the Evergreens/Conway Street to the south, Queens to the east, and Broadway to the west

Transportation: The L train makes all the eastern stops, from Montrose to Broadway Junction. The JMZ line splits at Broadway and covers the north and south sections.

Main Drags: Though closed at night, good spots for commerce and fast food tend toward Flushing Avenue, Broadway, and some spots on Wyckoff and Knickerbocker avenues.

Average Price to Rent: Studio, hard to find ($650 to $1000); one-bedroom, $1200 ($700 to $1150); two-bedroom, $1300 and up ($750 to $1350 (usually a railroad setup); three-bedroom, $1500 and up ($1100 to $1500) (usually a floor of a two-family private house). Low-end rents generally indicate slums. Lofts run approximately $1.25 per square foot per month.

Average Price to Buy: Two- to three-family private homes run from $500,00 ($280,000 to $500,000). Many houses are city-owned properties sold through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Artists’ Studios: Pushed out by Williamsburg’s trust-funders, a refreshing enclave of grittier do’ers reside off the Morgan L stop. Guerrilla art marketing techniques include a tagged cell phone number on a mural at Grattan Street and Morgan Avenue. The collective 5th Stop duct-tape their posters to abandoned storefronts, inviting passers-by to their open studios at 257 Varet Street. Combustive Arts (250 Varet Street), the area’s only art house, hosts films, lectures, shows, and social events. Reminiscent of Berlin’s famous bohemian squat Tascheles, Thames Street has open studios.

Ropa Nueva y Usada: Domsey Express (1609 Palmetto Street) has a shocking selection of vintage wear as does Nevada’s (1352 Greene Ave).

Cultural Institutions: 130 houses of worship bring together small clumps of community in Bushwick. Somewhat attributable to church outreach, grassroots organizations developed to reclaim the neighborhood from neglect, including Make the Road by Walking (301 Grove Street, 718-418-7690), Latino Americanos Unidos (218 Wyckoff Avenue, 718-386-3211), El Puente (311 Central Avenue, 718-452-0404), and Sista-II-Sista (89 St. Nicholas Avenue, 718-366-2450).

Parks: Many parks are blacktopped. Local teenagers suggest P.S. 111’s playground (35 Starr Street), with regular pickup games of basketball and handball. Knickerbocker Park (Knickerbocker Avenue, between Menahan and Grove streets) has a ball field. Nor Jam’s Open Arms Inc. (718-443-6974) coordinates a basketball league for ages six through 16, and needs coaches.

Best Restaurants: Sietsema picked down-homey Taqueria la Asuncion (206 Knickerbocker Avenue, weekends only) for its poached chicken with chile-and-chocolate sauce. Opening daily at 3 a.m., Tina’s Restaurant (1002 Flushing Avenue) features a $3.99 lunch special, greasy-spoon-style.

Best Bars/Clubs: Life Café/Nine 83 (983 Flushing Avenue) has live DJs and a two-for-one happy hour every night from 3 to 7 and 10 to 1. More common are scattered dives and karaoke bars with $2 Coors, although the neighborhood’s infamy for all-night ragers and dancehall-style loft parties is growing.

Happenings: All summer long residents and neighborhoods apply for block-party permits, which are dutifully listed as an open invite in Community Board 4’s monthly newsletter.

Politicians: City councilmembers Erik Dilan and Diana Reyna, state assemblymen Vito Lopez and Darryl Towns, state senator Martin Malave Dilan, and U.S. representatives Edolphus Towns and Nydia Velasquez. All are Democrats.

Crime Stats: The 83rd Precinct serves mainly Bushwick, but also includes parts of Williamsburg and Ridgewood, Queens. As of September 25, 2005 it reported 13 murders, 32 rapes, 334 robberies, 282 felonious assaults, and 319 burglaries. (As of December 9, it reported 12 murders, the same as last year; 36 rapes, down 20; 500 robberies, down 33; 581 burglaries, up 91; and 426 felonious assaults, down 93).