Bushwick, Brooklyn, NY

Bushwick has always been a working class neighborhood. Median household income of about $33,000, a third of the people below the poverty line. An average apartment: $1,000 a month two years ago. Crisscrossed by the elevated train, I meandered from the Southwest corner, the edge of the Evergreen’s Cemetery.

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The J & Z trains rattle incessantly over Broadway; from the cemetery north to Williamsburg.

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Chartered in 1661 by Peter Stuyvesant, he called it Boswijck: “little town in the woods.”

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In July 1977, blackouts hit New York. Vandals rioted, burned and looted shops and stores, Broadway lost 43% of its commercial real estate. Vacant lots still dot the landscape.

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Touch. Fireplaces left hanging, the only building left on the block.

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When I asked to take her picture she smiled, fixed her hair and told her baby to look my way. She told me after, to take care.

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On Bushwick Ave, vinyl siding and sunflower gardens.

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Please curb your dog.

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She walked by with so much sauce, I’m spewing I missed the dog.

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Car parking on the lawn. Puerto Rican flags in the windows.

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Bushwick Avenue runs from North to South, and up into Williamsburg. Paralleling Broadway. Vacant lots on every other southern corner.

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Recycling.

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Knickerbocker Avenue survived the riots intact. A strong community of Puerto Ricans protected their property by force.

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An American antena flag.

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She ran when she saw me coming, picked up a toddler and dropped him inside, came back prancing.

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On the corner, loud business.

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A break in the remodel. A block off Knickerbocker.

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Selling Cds on Wyckoff. The L train underground.

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A mural goes up, two woman on the scaffold, and a man outlining on the street. Headphones all.

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Sewing under the scaffold. Busses loading and unloading noisily.

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New construction next to an old Wyckoff lot. Liberty and parking.

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Looking south from Myrtle. The M overhead.

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Busy sidewalk, children playing.

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Lunch on the pedestal graffiti on the cornice.

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Her customers loved her. The pernil smelled divine.

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Everybody without a stroller seemed to know each other in front of this Gold and Diamond pawn shop.

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Leaning in the cars, talking with the drivers.

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North Knickerbocker, busier still.

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Crossing the street, waiting on traffic, more pedestrian than auto.

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Selling ices, two blocks from the Well, the most notorious drug bazaar in Brooklyn twenty years ago.

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The Bushwick Initiative: improve the 23 surrounding blocks of the Maria Hernandez Park, named for the 34-year-old woman who was murdered in her apartment in 1989 by dealers. She and her husband had tried to rid the street of drugs.

North of Flushing the scene changes. Folks say I’m entitled to my opinion. Bushwick Avenue runs North separating Williamsburg from East Williamsburg. Seems like East Williamsburg would rather be Bushwick.

3 Thoughts.

  1. Storytelling online picture book. You can see it, smell it, hear it…like you’re right there in the midst. Thank you for the transportation to another world away. Different yet the same.

  2. I lives by the Maria Hernandez park for three years in 2002-2005 it was beautiful time. That little apartment is where I conceived my first child Olympia. East Williamsburg is old kaput factories where they processes nearly a quater of the cities garbage. Also where I met my wife and where I had one of three wedding ceremonies a la “raging bull” on a rooftop of an old suit factory where President Clinton used to be a patron. Then it was Overpriced rent in old manufacturing buildings. The lofts on McKibben Street witnessed many a murder mugging and rape and it was really psychotic bedroom community for young people from around the world trying to cut their teeth, to use a cliché appropriate, in a semi-welcoming place. Flushing is the border regardless of what any realtor says. I’m certainly not qualified to give any kind of historical account. But I did walk and bike (verb?!) the streets of Brooklyn as a borough many a time with audio video and memory as a documentation devise. I certainly don’t missed the bedbugs. For a questionable experience go grab a drink and t-shirt from pumps on the Queen border. Or “kings county” where I resided as bartender. Perhaps I will wish I had written a little bit more also back then. Keep it up.

  3. Erik! You are so ahead of the curve. Vogue Magazine recently ranked Bushwick as one of the fifteen coolest neighborhoods in the world. Love these images and your photo journalistic style. What is next?

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