With our recent foray into the retro game store 8 Bit and Up in the East Village, we’re on a video game kick. This awesome hand painted map by Art by Ken reimagines Bushwick as the’90s era Mario Brothers. Ken writes, “Subway stops become green pipes, bodegas become Toad’s Houses, and Mario becomes…well…Hipster Mario! Start on Bogart, and see how many beer cans you can collect, how many paint palettes you can visit, and whether Yoshi will give you a hit from his joint!”
You wouldn’t know it now, but Bushwick (together with Greenpoint and Williamsburg) was originally a Dutch farming town. These days, Bushwick is a haven for artists who flock there for the cheap studios in old warehouses and DIY culture. But even Bushwick is growing up and–dare we say–gentrifying. We won’t argue the pros and cons of what this means for the neighborhood’s future. Rather, we aim to highlight some of Bushwick’s best spots to eat, drink, read, shop and hang out.
The largest concentration of street art is located on and around Troutman Street, just around the corner from the Jefferson Avenue L station. Bushwick native Joe Ficalora is the curator of the Bushwick Collective, which he created in order to metaphorically paint over the painful memories of growing up here. The murals, which range in style and scale, line several block’s worth of buildings. Among the artists are Icy & Sot, Buff Monster, Concrete Jungle, Danielle Mastrion, The Yok, Fumero and many more. (more…)
This mural includes work by Buff Monster and The Yok.
In addition to Five Pointz in Long Island City, Bushwick is one of NYC’s major street art hubs, with an outdoor art gallery known as the Bushwick Collective. Over the past two years, Joe Ficalora, a Bushwick native, has taken the lead as the Bushwick Collective’s curator. Ficalora told the New York Times that commissioning these murals is a way to help him reclaim a neighborhood full of painful memories, including his father’s murder in 1991 and his mother’s recent death. He simply began googling street artists and inviting them to come paint. Business owners donate their wall space and the artists contribute their time and pay for their own supplies.
Today there are over fifty murals lining the buildings on Troutman Street and that number is constantly growing. We’re taking you on a street art tour beginning on Jefferson Street, up Wyckoff Avenue and continuing on Troutman Street towards Saint Nicholas Avenue. (more…)
On Day 4 of Banksy’s NYC residency “Better Out Than In,” he’s hit up Bushwick, Brooklyn for this “OCCUPY ! The Musical” street art. But less than an hour and half after Banksy posted the photo, someone had already painted over it. We hope this isn’t the new “cool thing” to do–who can be the fastest to locate the work and erase it.
Stepping off the Halsey Street J stop won’t land you in the most fashionable area of Bushwick. The cultural highlights of Halsey Street include a Dunkin’ Donuts, a Popeye’s, and a Rite Aid, amongst other fine dining and entertainment options.
That said, sometimes the style choices of its inhabitants are pretty surprising. I love the juxtaposition of the bright argyle and pointed oxfords with the restrained black of the rest of this person’s outfit. Style knows no neighborhood.
How does a sparsely inhabited industrial zone become one of New York City’s blossoming cultural hubs?
The Morgan Avenue area of East Williamsburg/Bushwick is a hotbed of artists, musicians, and other young Brooklynites. Morgantown, as it’s sometimes called, is lined with hip bars, gourmet restaurants, health food stores, art galleries, and converted factory apartment buildings. Surrounding this island of culture, however, is block after block of factories and warehouses, some operational and many empty.
Street art and industrial buildings at McKibbin and White Streets
Morgantown lies within the bounds of the East Williamsburg Industrial Park (EWIP), one of just eight such zones in the city. Industry in the city reached its peak in 1947 when, according to the Department of City Planning, almost 1.1 million residents worked in manufacturing. As technology changed and manufacturing jobs moved overseas, however, employment in Brooklyn’s factories steadily decreased. Between 1947 and 2002, New York’s manufacturing employment fell nearly 80%. While the EWIP still held more than 8,000 of these jobs, there was little need for such a large industrial zone.
255 McKibbin Street circa 1939
Meanwhile, many residents were being priced out of once-affordable neighborhoods in Manhattan. In response, many factory owners in the ‘90s started converting their empty buildings into loft housing. As these apartments popped up, areas like Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and the EWIP became a spacious and affordable alternative to Manhattan. While many families had little interest in living in warehouses, such spaces magnetized young residents with the possibility for art, music, parties, and a more “authentic” New York life. As more and more bars, restaurants, cafes, and stores opened around Williamsburg, North Brooklyn rapidly became more than just a place to catch the L train. Soon residents started getting priced out of the now chic Williamsburg, making Morgantown’s mammoth housing complexes seem more attractive.
Bogart Street and the Morgan Avenue L train station
These days exit the Morgan Avenue L station on a Friday night and you’ll be greeted with massive crowds of 20-somethings wandering around, headed to bars or restaurants, or going into one of the loft buildings. “I feel quite lucky to have found this place,” said resident Jane Hilton, one week into a summer trip from Australia. “There’s a real community spirit here; it’s a melting pot.”
For better or for worse, no part of Morgantown has a bigger reputation than the lofts at 248 and 255 McKibbin Street, aka the McKibbin Lofts. With variable but still comparably cheap rent the so-called “art dorms” house approximately 400 residents. In 2008, The New York Times published an article entitled “Young Artists Find a Private Space, Only Without the Privacy” profiling the buildings. As the author points out, the lofts “could have been Greenwich Village 60 years ago, or SoHo 30 years ago, or the East Village in the 1990s.”
255 and 248 McKibbin Street today
Like its predecessors in hipness, however, the McKibbin lofts and the rest of Morgantown have their share of problems. 22-year-old North Brooklyn resident Amber Dennis expresses a not-uncommon sentiment about the lofts and others like them, “I would never live there. As much as I like being in a creative environment, I value my privacy, space, and well-being more.” As the New York Times article points out, the lofts have a reputation for robbery, non-stop noise, and even infestations. For some, though, it comes with the territory. “Yeah, we had some issues with bedbugs and theft, but that was five years ago when we were living in 255,” said George, a McKibbin loft resident since 2006. “But I get to live in a huge apartment with its own music studio; I absolutely love living here.”
Worth the risks or not, Morgantown is a new kind of neighborhood; not gentrified or sprawled from elsewhere, but converted from the remnants of fallen industry.