As one of the most diverse neighborhoods in New York, Bushwick offers a perfect snapshot of just how multicultural the city is. Long-established as an amalgam of cultures and ethnicities, a wave of varying types of immigrants trickled in from the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, with Bushwick largely becoming a home to Hispanics of Puerto Rican and Dominican backgrounds by the latter part of the twentieth century.
With the Bushwick Initiative of the mid-00s that aided in revitalization, it became an attractive area to young professionals and artists. And even now, Bushwick has sustained affordable rent prices where other North Brooklyn counterparts, like Williamsburg and Greenpoint, have become more expensive. Priding itself on the weird and the wacky, numerous art collectives thrive in this part of Brooklyn, once famously named the seventh coolest neighborhood in the world by Vogue.
Though it has drawn in many tourists in recent years (there’s even a graffiti tour you can take from the Bushwick Collective), the neighborhood remains very much community-oriented, and has not been subject to quite the same sort of corporate infiltration phenomenon of its nearby Williamsburg environs.
But yes, of course, Bushwick has come a very long way from its 80s and 90s reputation as being “The Well,” a nickname given to it for its free-flowing and widely available amount of drugs (quantity over quality being the cliche applied here).
One of the first “mainstream” establishments off the industrial Morgan Avenue stop (where once the Boar’s Head headquarters reigned as sole supreme) was continued neighborhood staple Roberta’s. Quickly drawing a wealth of diners to its sought after signature pizzas, including the Bee Sting and Axl Rosenberg, Roberta’s increased the cachet of Bushwick in a way that no other place had, paving the way for other eventual go-tos off the Morgan stop like Brooklyn’s Natural, 56 Bogart Gallery and Swallow Cafe.
A recent addition to the area, the Jefferson stop’s House of Yes has quickly built upon the neighborhood’s reputation of fun-lovingness. One night a dance party, another a flock of contortionists suspended from the ceiling, you never know what you might see there.
Worth it alone for its historical import to Bushwick, Maria Hernandez Park is the neighborhood’s anchor, where all types of people and all walks of life can be seen on any given day. Pull up a seat on an open bench after buying a taco from one of the nearby street carts. Cash only.
Put on the worldwide map by Anthony Bourdain on a 2009 episode of No Reservations, Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos remains the ultimate destination for getting the perfect taste of Mexican food in Bushwick.
56 Bogart, currently called the BogArt, is a prime place to see local artists display their work.
Take in a movie at Syndicated, the movie theater that also serves food and drinks while you watch the film (a mix of classic, obscure and new options). Or just sit at the modernly elegant bar for a quick beverage. You might even find yourself there on trivia night.
What You Might See
Plenty of corner bodega stores. The pulse and heartbeat of Bushwick remains its Hispanic community, which thrives on the presence of bodegas for “in a pinch” needs.
Street carts serving Hispanic cuisine. The crackling sounds of meat cooking on a grill are just par for the course of walking down main thoroughfares like Knickerbocker Avenue.
The sound of music blasting from Maria Hernandez Park, where an impromptu party could break out at any moment. Or just another day in Bushwick, depending on how you look at it.
Bushwick Collective graffiti artists doing their thing. The graffiti off the Jefferson stop is constantly changing and evolving as a reflection of current cultural zeitgeists.
What’s In The Future
Some uncertainty. With the upcoming closure of the L train in April 2019, it’s unclear just how much Bushwick will lose the interest of incoming renters. And potentially lose some longtime residents. After all, the L train is the main artery of transportation in the heart of Bushwick, with the JMZ servicing the more “peripheral” side of it at Broadway.
With rent prices already dropping as a result of this impending deficit, the demographic Bushwick is presently geared toward could potentially alter for this interim period of train closure.
What You Might Not Know
Chartered by Peter Stuyvesant, a fixture of establishing early New York territories, Bushwick was originally called Boswijck, the Dutch word for “neighborhood in the woods.”
Bushwick was part of the territory purchased by the Dutch West India Company from the Lenape tribe, 3,860 acres of which were traded in exchange for “8 fathoms of duffels cloth, 8 fathoms of wampum, 12 kettles, 8 adzes, 8 axes, some knives, corals, and awls.”
On July 13, 1977, New York suffered one of its worst blackouts to date, which saw Bushwick as one of the most imperiled areas for looting. In fact, the stretch along Broadway underneath the JMZ trains still feels the effects of that blackout today with its many abandoned storefronts and unrenovated buildings.
Bushwick has always been a party town, so to speak. One of the earliest periods of its industry relied on the production of beer. Thanks to German immigration in the 1800s, Bushwick had a total of thirty-five breweries during its peak period, eleven of them concentrated on a block known as Brewer’s Row, centered along Bushwick Avenue.
In the mid-2000s, a government program called the Bushwick Initiative helped to pour much needed funding into revitalizing the neighborhood, with measures like increased narcotics control and housing improvement making a vast impact on the dilapidated aesthetic of the vicinity.
What We Love
The way the neighborhood has embraced its artists, making it an oasis for being as weird and esoteric as you want to be. There’s no judgment here, just good vibes only. Unapologetic about what it is or how it comes across, Bushwick oozes a love it or leave it aura.