With A Mix Of Space, Art, And Diversity, Will It All Fit?

30 06 2010

Bushwick residents riding a Brooklyn-bound L train used to anticipate the Bedford Ave. stop.  At the Williamsburg stop, refugees from the Lower East Side,  wearing vintage rock t-shirts and worn-down Converses while carrying bags from Trader Joe’s would be sure to get off, relieving the congestion. No longer would riders have to suffer by overhearing government conspiracy theories or make room for a bicycle or piece of furniture rescued from the curb.

Riders would get a seat.

But now, Bushwick residents and “hipsters” have found themselves standing side to side all the way to Dekalb Ave, seven stops after Bedford. 

Yellow cabs even cross the Williamsburg Bridge as long as their destination is “East Williamsburg” and not Bushwick.

The indie-rock culture that changed Williamsburg into “the Village of Brooklyn,” has moved east into the once isolated factory district and residential areas of Bushwick in search of open work space at cheap prices. Between 2000 and 2007, the percentage of white residents of Bushwick nearly doubled, according to the U.S. Census, and now stands at 10 percent.

 “It’s affordable and spacious,” Adam Laten Willson, an artist who has dipped his hands in acting, poetry, and theatre said, smoking a cigarette in front of the popular Archive cafe. 

Wearing a white vintage boat hat and stroking his elongated goatee, Willson explained that just a week before he and his theatre collective group Aztec Economy had moved into a six bedroom apartment in the Morgan Avenue area.  With its art-covered factory buildings, vintage shops and cafes, Morgan Ave. has transformed into the hipster hotspot, even generating the popular YouTube web series “The Coolest Hipster Ever.”

Willson, whose “eulogy” on the mixed-media project’s website describes him as “too old to be a genius, too young to be a master,” and his Aztec Economy buddies found the apartment on Moore Street both financially convenient and well located.   Aztec Economy is set to unveil their web series turned live stage performance “Pontiac Firebird Variations” in June at the nearby Brooklyn Fire Proof studios.

 The combination of the Puerto Rican, Mexican, and African-American residents with the urban culture and the artistic way of life of the newcomers sets Bushwick apart from any other area in Brooklyn, Willson stated.  “It’s the intermingling of different backgrounds,” Willson said.  “It has the epicenter of Williamsburg with the residential of Bushwick.”

Many other hipsters agree.

“I love that my daughter can walk around and be surrounded by the graffiti art,” Sarah, a dancer and three-year Bushwick resident who declined to give a last name said as she took her sleeping 2-year-old daughter for a stroll along the murals on Siegel St.  “I moved here from Park Slope.  The parents over there were just too uptight,” she added. 

But while Willson and Sarah maintain that it is the cultural diversity and access to the arts that draws them to the neighborhood, many longstanding Bushwick residents resent hipsters for gentrifying their community.  They blame the artists for forcing them out of their no longer affordable apartments. 

“Living with five or six roommates, of course they’re going to be able to pay the rent,” Zakiya Warren, 32, said.  Warren, who grew up in Bushwick but now lives in Crown Heights, said the neighborhood she once knew no longer exists.  When she visits her mom, she notices yet another Dominican corner bodega replaced by a Middle Eastern-owned deli.  “They’ll do whatever they can to satisfy these hipsters.  But if there is a leak or something broken in your apartment, they won’t bother to fix it.  They just want you out.”



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