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Bushwick, Brooklyn

Bushwick is a neighborhood in the northeastern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. It is 30 to 45 minutes from Manhattan by either of the two subway lines serving it. It is bounded by East Williamsburg to the northwest, Bed-Stuy to the southwest, the Cemetery of the Evergreens and other cemeteries to the southeast, and Ridgewood, Queens to the northeast. The neighborhood, formerly Brooklyn's 18th Ward, is now part of Brooklyn Community Board 4. City Councilman Diana Reyna represents this area.

Transportation

Major subway stops include, Jefferson Street, DeKalb Avenue, Myrtle–Wyckoff Avenues and Halsey Street on the BMT Canarsie Line Central Avenue on the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line and Flushing Av, Myrtle Avenue, Koscuisko Street, Gates Avenue, and Halsey Street on the BMT Jamaica Line and (Z). Bus lines serving Bushwick include the B13, B26, B38, B52, B54, and B60. The Myrtle Avenue/Wyckoff Avenue bus and subway hub was renovated into a state-of-the-art transportation center in 2007.

Land Use

Like much of Brooklyn, Bushwick is dominated by three-story apartment buildings. The total land area is two square miles. Conventionally shrugged off as home to low income renters in a primarily immigrant community, Ethnic groups common in the neighborhood consist of Puerto Ricans, Hondurans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Ecuadorians, African Americans, Haitians, Afro-Caribbean and older Italian and older Germans in the Community. Also, this neighborhood has a very small number of Chinese, Koreans, Indo-Carribeans (Guyana and Trinidad), Filipinos and Arabs (Egyptians, Yemenis and Morrocans).

Parks and Public Space

Bushwick Pool & Park is a park located on Flushing and Bushwick avenues. The park which is administered by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation has a free public pool (a large pool as well as a children's pool is available), basketball courts, a handball court and a children's playground. According to the NYC Parks Department Website the park was originally owned by the NYC Housing Authority from 1956 until 1983 when it was transferred to the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation

Bushwick Playground is a Park under the jurisdiction of NYC Department of Parks and is located at Knickerbocker Avenue and Putnam Avenue. Bushwick Playground park features basketball courts, sitting areas and a children's playground.

Bushwick Green Park, also known as "Green Central Noll Park" is a park located on Flushing Avenue and Central Avenue. According to the Parks department website, the park is located on the former site of the Rheingold beer brewery. New York City took ownership of the property after the beer company closed due to failure to pay taxes but it wasn't given to the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation until 1997. The park includes a baseball field, sitting areas and a children's playground.

Ridgewood/Bushwick Youth Center is a youth activity center administered by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation located between Gates Avenue and Palmetto Street.

Memorial Gore Park is a granite monument located in a small park at the intersection where Bushwick Avenue, Metropolitan avenue and Maspeth Avenues meet in the Bushwick / Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. It is dedicated to the Bushwick residents who fought and died in the world war. The monument is owned and cared for by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

Hope Gardens Multi Service Center is a building located on Wilson and Linden, it serves as an elderly bingo game building, an after school program for children grades kindergarten to fifth grade, a karate class host, and a summer camp for the after school program children.

Public Housing

Ten New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments are located in Bushwick. They are mainly occupied by lower-income people:

  • Borinquen Plaza I; eight seven-story buildings.
  • Borinquen Plaza II; seven 7story buildings.
  • Bushwick Houses; eight 13- and 20-story buildings.
  • Bushwick Houses II (Groups A & C); twenty-five three-story buildings.
  • Bushwick Houses II (Groups B & D); twenty-five three-story buildings.
  • Bushwick II CDA (Group E); five three-story buildings.
  • Hope Gardens; four seven- and fourteen-story buildings.
  • Mayor John F. Hylan; one nineteen-story building.
  • Palmetto Gardens; one six-story building.
  • Williamsburg Houses; twenty four-story buildings.

History

Bushwick Township

Four Villages

In 1638, the Dutch West India Company secured a deed from the local Lenape people for the Bushwick area, and Peter Stuyvesant, chartered the area in 1661, naming it "Boswijck," meaning "little town in the woods" or "Heavy Woods" in 17th Century Dutch. Its area included the modern day communities of Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint. Bushwick was the last of the original six Dutch towns of Brooklyn to be established within New Netherland. The community was settled, though unchartered, on February 16, 1660 on a plot of land between the Bushwick and Newtown Creeks by fourteen French and Huguenot settlers, a Dutch translator named Peter Jan De Witt, and Franciscus the Negro, one of the original eleven slaves brought to New Netherland who had worked his way to freedom.. The group centered their settlement around a church located near today's Bushwick and Metropolitan Avenues. The major thoroughfare was Woodpoint road, which allowed farmers to bring their goods to the town dock. This original settlement came to be known as Het Dorp by the Dutch, and, later, Bushwick Green by the British. The English would take over the six towns three years later and unite the towns under Kings County in 1683.

At the turn of the 19th century, Bushwick consisted of four villages, Green Point, Bushwick Shore, later to be known as Williamsburg, Bushwick Green, and Bushwick Crossroads, at the spot today's Bushwick Avenue turns southeast at Flushing Avenue..

Land annexation

Bushwick's first major expansion occurred after it annexed The New Lots of Bushwick, a hilly upland originally claimed by the Native Americans in the first treaties they signed with European colonists providing the settlers rights to the lowland on the water. After the second war between the natives and the settlers broke out, the natives fled, leaving the area to be divided among the six towns in Kings County. Bushwick had the prime location to absorb their new tract of land in a contiguous fashion. New Bushwick Lane (Evergreen Ave), a former native American trail, was a key thoroughfare to access this new tract suitable mostly for potato and cabbage agriculture. This area is bound roughly by Flushing Avenue to the north, and Evergreen Cemetery to the south.

In the 1850s, the New Lots of Bushwick area began to develop. References to the town of Bowronville, a new neighborhood contained within the area south of Lafayette Ave and Stanhope Street begin to appear dating to the 1850s.

Bushwick Shore and Williamsburgh

The area known as Bushwick Shore was so called for about 140 years. Bushwick residents called Bushwick Shore "the Strand," another term for "beach" Bushwick Creek, in the north, and Cripplebush, a region of thick, boggy shrubland extending from Wallabout Creek to Newtown Creek, in the south and east, cut Bushwick Shore from the other villages in Bushwick. Farmers and gardeners from the other Bushwick villages sent their goods to Bushwick Shore to be ferried to New York City for sale via a market at present day Grand St. Bushwick Shore's favorable location close to New York City lead to the creation of several farming developments. Originally a 13acre development within Bushwick Shore, Williamsburgh rapidly expanded during the first half of the nineteenth century and eventually seceded from Bushwick to form its own independent city.

Early Industry

When Bushwick was founded, it was primarily an area for farming food and tobacco. As Brooklyn and New York City grew, factories that manufactured sugar, oil, and chemicals were built. The inventor Peter Cooper built a glue manufacturing plant, his first factory, in Bushwick. Immigrants from western Europe joined the original Dutch settlers. The Bushwick Chemical Works, at Metropolitan Avenue and Grand Street on the English Kills channel, was another early industry among the lime, plaster, and brick works, coal yards, and other factories which developed along English Kills, which was dredged and made an important commercial waterway. In October, 1867, the American Institute awarded The Bushwick Chemical Works the first premium for commercial acids of greatest purity and strength The Bushwick Glass Company, later to be known as Brookfield glass company established itself in 1869, when a local brewer sold it to James Brookfield The Bushwick Glass Company made a variety both bottle and jars. Around the same time, in 1868, the Long Island Rail Road built the Bushwick Branch from its hub in Jamaica via Maspeth to Bushwick Terminal at the intersection of Montrose and Bushwick Avenues , allowing easy movement of passengers, raw materials, and finished goods.

In the 1840s and 1850s, a majority of the immigrants were German, which became the dominant population. Bushwick established a considerable brewery industry, including "Brewer's Row": 14 breweries operating in a 14 block area by 1890. Thus, Bushwick was dubbed the "beer capital of the Northeast." As late as 1883, Bushwick maintained open farming land east of Flushing Avenue.. In fact, a synergy developed between the brewers and the farmers during this period, as the dairy farmers collected spent grain and hops for cow feed. The dairy farmers sold the milk, and other dairy products, to consumers in Brooklyn. Both industries supported blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and feed stores along Flushing Avenue.

Streetcar Suburb

The first elevated railway in Brooklyn, known as the Lexington Avenue Elevated, opened in 1885. Its eastern terminus was at the edge of Bushwick, at Gates Avenue and Broadway. This line was extended southeastward into East New York shortly thereafter. By the end of 1889, the Broadway Elevated and the Myrtle Avenue Elevated were completed, enabling easier access to Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan and the rapid residential development of Bushwick from farmland.

With the success of the brewery industry and the presence of the Els, another wave of European immigrants settled in the neighborhood. Also, parts of Bushwick became affluent. Brewery owners and doctors commissioned mansions along Bushwick and Irving Avenues at the turn of the 20th century. New York mayor John Francis Hylan kept a townhouse on Bushwick Avenue during this period.. Bushwick homes were designed in the Italianate, Neo Greco, Romanesque Revival, and Queen Anne styles by well known architects. Bushwick was a center of culture with several Vaudeville era playhouses, including the Amphion Theatre, the nation's first theatre with electric lighting. The wealth of the neighborhood peaked between World War I and World War II, even when events such as Prohibition and the Great Depression were taking place. After the WWI, the German enclave was steadily replaced by a significant proportion of Italian American. By 1950 Bushwick was one of Brooklyn's largest Italian American neighborhoods, although some GermanAmericans remained.

Decline

1950s, 1960s, and 1970s: White Flight and Economic Depression

Beginning in the mid 1950s and particularly in the 1960s, poor working class African American and Puerto Rican migrants began to move into Bushwick. Small apartment buildings were built to accommodate the incoming residents. The change in demographics coincided with changes in the local economy. At the same time, locally rising energy costs, advances in transportation, and the invention of the steel can encouraged beer companies to move out of New York City. As the breweries closed, the neighborhood deteriorated along with much of Brooklyn and New York City. Racial discrimination stopped most investment as it changed from a mostly white community to an African-American and Hispanic community. Discussions of urban renewal took place in the 1960s, but never materialized. In 1960 Bushwick was 70% white; by 1977 it was over 70% Black and Puerto Rican (Goodman 180). The U.S. Census records that it went from almost 90% white in 1960 to less than 40% in 1970. According to the New York Times, "In a five-year period in the late 1960s and early 70's, the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn was transformed from a neatly maintained community of wood houses into what often approached a no man's land of abandoned buildings, empty lots, drugs and arson." One out of every 8 buildings was damaged or destroyed by fire every year from 1969 to 1977 (Goodman 122).

Blackout: Riots and Looting

On the night of July 13, 1977, a major blackout occurred in New York City. Arson, looting, and vandalism followed in low income neighborhoods across the city. Bushwick, however, saw some of the most devastating damages and losses. While local owners in the predominantly Puerto Rican Knickerbocker Avenue and Graham Avenue shopping districts were able to defend their stores with force, suburban owners with stores on the Broadway shopping district saw their shops looted and burned. Twenty-seven stores, some of which were of mixeduse, along Broadway had burned (Goodman 104). Looters (and residents who bought from looters) saw the blackout as an opportunity to get what they otherwise could not afford. Fires spread to many residential buildings as well. After the riots were over and the fires were put out, residents saw "some streets that looked like Brooklyn Heights, and others that looked like Dresden in 1945" (Goodman 181): unsafe dwellings and empty lots among surviving buildings. Broadway business space had a 43% Vacancy rate in the wake of the riots.

1980s and 1990s: Blight and Poverty

Bushwick was left with a lack of both retail stores and housing. After the blackout, residents who could afford to leave abandoned the area. But new immigrants were coming into the area during the late 1960s and early 1970s, many of whom were from Puerto Rico, and more recently the Dominican Republic. However, apartment renovation and new construction did not keep pace with the demolition of unsafe buildings, forcing overcrowded conditions at first. As buildings came down, the vacant lots made parts of the neighborhood look and feel desolate, and more residents left. The neighborhood was a hotbed of poverty and crime through the 1980s. During this period, the Knickerbocker Ave shopping district was nicknamed "The Well" for its seemingly unending supply of drugs. In the 1990s it remained a poor and relatively dangerous area, with 77 murders, 80 rapes, and 2,242 robberies in 1990.

2000s: A Tale of Two Bushwicks

In the 2000s, in the wake of lower crime rates citywide and a shortage of cheap housing in "hip" neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Gowanus, an influx of young professionals and artists moved into converted warehouse lofts, brownstones, limestone-brick townhouses and other renovated buildings. And, while murders and car thefts are higher in the 83rd precinct now than they were to start the decade, property values are increasing. Bushwick's 83d Precinct has a similar crime rate to neighboring Williamsburg's 90th Precinct. Residents of the former artists colony in Gowanus are already making plans for moving to Bushwick. Nightlife for hipsters remains a problem, and, outside a few places on Wyckoff Avenue by Jefferson Street, they will need to commute to Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Manhattan for their own brand of excitement.

Many social problems associated with poverty from crime to drug addiction have plagued the area for some time. Despite crime declines versus their peaks during the crack and heroin epidemics violent crime continues to be a serious problem in the community. Bushwick has significantly higher drop out rates and incidents of violence in its schools. Students must pass through metal detectors and swipe ID cards to enter the buildings, reminiscent of a prison environment which many feel encourages bad behavior. Other problems in local schools include low test scores and high truancy rates. Drug addiction is also a serious problem in the community. Due to the lucrative drug trade in the area many addicted reside in the community. Peer pressure among children who come from broken homes contributes to the high rate of usage. Many households in the area are headed by a single mother which contributes to the high poverty rate. Many of these single mothers had their children at a very young age and unfortunately could not provide for them. Many of the families living in Bushwick have been in poverty for generations. The incarceration rate in the area is also very high. Many if not most males in the community have been arrested at some point in their lives. This has a direct correlation to aggressive policing tactics including "sweeps" due to the area's high crime rate. Bushwick is home to a significant number of inmates currently held in New York state prison and jail facilities. In more recent years homelessness has become an ever worsening problem in Bushwick due to rising rents and a shortage of affordable housing. Many families have had to double or triple up to a single apartment. Others have relocated to either other low income neighborhoods or have left the city. Finally those not able to leave must stay in homeless shelters or out on the streets. Living cost, especially housing, has only risen in recent years.

Community organizing in Bushwick

Bushwick also has a strong history of community organizing, most notably with the organization Make The Road New York. Make the Road New York was founded in 1997 in a Bushwick church basement by local residents to address the potentially devastating effects of welfare reform on America's poor and immigrant communities. While initially focusing on organizing immigrant welfare recipients, they soon expanded their focus to organizing to combat systemic economic and political marginalization of Bushwick residents. They have been largely successful, with victories including helping workers organize several union shops on Knickerbocker Ave. and getting translation services into hospitals.

East Williamsburg

East Williamsburg is a neighborhood that borders to the northwest of Bushwick. Prior to the late 1990s, residents rarely called their neighborhood East Williamsburg. Residents east of Graham Avenue or Bushwick Avenue preferred the betterknown name of Bushwick. This association is still strong today, as both Bushwick and East Williamsburg are concurrent casual names for the area. Yet both neighborhoods are served by different community boards and police precincts, but same election districts and ZIP codes, and the New York City Department of City Planning recognizes East Williamsburg as a separate neighborhood.

Notable residents

Notable current and former residents of Bushwick include:

References

External links

See also

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