Bushwick is a lower middle class neighborhood in the northern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The neighborhood, formerly Brooklyn's 18th Ward, is now part of Brooklyn Community Board 4. It is policed by the NYPD's 83rd Precinct and is represented in the New York City Council as part of Districts 34 and 37.
Bushwick is bound by Williamsburg to the west, East New York to the east, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville to the south, and Ridgewood, Queens to the north. It is served by Postal Service zip codes 11207, 11221 and 11237. Bushwick was once an independent town and has undergone various territorial changes throughout its history.
The boundaries of Bushwick are often given as those of Brooklyn Community Board 4, which is delimited by Broadway on the west, Flushing Avenue on the north, the Queens Borough line to the east and the Cemetery of the Evergreens on the south.
Bushwick's population in 2007 was 129,980. 38.9% of that population was foreign born. Though an ethnic neighborhood, Bushwick's population is, for a New York City neighborhood, relatively heterogeneous scoring a 0.5 on the Furman Center's racial diversity index, making it the city's 35th most diverse neighborhood in 2007. Most residents are Latinos from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and from the Dominican Republic but more recent years have seen an increase in native-born Americans as well as other Latino groups, particularly immigrants from Mexico. In 2008 the neighborhood's median household income was $28,802. 32% of the population falls under the poverty line, making Bushwick the 7th most impoverished neighborhood in New York City. Over 75% of children in the neighborhood are born in poverty. Only 40.3% of students in Bushwick read at grade level, making it the 49th most literate neighborhood in the city in 2007. 58.2% of students do math at grade level in Bushwick, 41st in the city. In 2007, Bushwick averaged with 25 felonies per 1000 persons, the 25th, out of 55, most felonious community district in the city.
Bushwick is the largest hub of Brooklyn's Hispanic-American community. Like other neighborhoods in New York City, Bushwick's Hispanic population is mainly Puerto Rican and Dominican with a sizable South American population as well. As nearly 80% of Bushwick's population is Hispanic, residents have created many businesses to support their various national and distinct traditions in food and other items. The neighborhood's major commercial streets are Knickerbocker Avenue, Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Broadway.
Bushwick's diverse housing stock includes six-family apartment buildings and two- and three-family townhouses. The median age of the housing stock is 76 years. Over 91% of housing units are within 440 yards of a park, and over 97% of housing units are within 880 yards of a subway.
Median rent in 2007 was $795, the 40th highest median rent in the city. About one out of six rental units is subsidized, and greater than one out of three units is rent regulated. 4% of renters live in severely overcrowded conditions. Vacant land fills 4.1% of Bushwick, rating it the 21st most vacant neighborhood in the city.
In 2007, the neighborhood had a 18.7% home ownership rate, though roughly 1 out of 20 owners of a 1-4 unit building received a notice of foreclosure.
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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 one of the original eleven slaves brought to New Netherland, Franciscus the Negro, 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.
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 its 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 bounded 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 Avenue 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 off 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 led to the creation of several farming developments. Originally a 13-acre (53,000 m2) 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.
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 of both bottles and jars.
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." The last Bushwick brewery closed its doors in 1976.
As late as 1883, Bushwick maintained open farming land east of Flushing Avenue. 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.
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. Routes also radiated to Flushing, Queens.
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 brewing 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 WWI, the German enclave was steadily replaced by a significant proportion of Italian Americans. By 1950, Bushwick was one of New York City's largest Italian American neighborhoods, although some German Americans remained.
The Italian community was comprised nearly entirely of Sicilians, mostly from the Palermo, Trapani, and Agrigento provinces in Sicily. In particular, the Sicilian townsfolk of Menfi, Santa Margherita di Belice, Trapani, Castelvetrano, and many other paesi had their own clubs, or "clubbu", in the area. Il Circolo di Santa Margherita di Belice remains the oldest operating Sicilian organization in the United States but began here. These clubs often started as mutual benevolance associations or funeral societies but transformed as the needs of their communities did from the late 1800s until the 1960s, when many began to fade away. St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church Roman Catholic Parish was the hub of this Sicilian community, and held five feasts during the year, complete with processions of saints or Our Lady of Trapani. St. Joseph opened in 1923 because the Italian community had been rapidly growing in Bushwick since 1900. This Sicilian community first was centered in Our Lady of Pompeii parish on Siegel St. in Williamsburgh, however as industry expanded along Flushing Avenue. The Sicilian population expanded with the growing need for labor by factory operators. St. Leonard's parish was the large German Catholic parish in the area, however the Italian community was not welcome there and thus compelled to open their own parish. St. Leonard's closed in 1973. St. Joseph's is now a large and vibrant Latino parish run by the Scalabrini Order of priests, an Italian missionary order that caters to migrants.
The demographic transition of Bushwick was similar to many Brooklyn neighborhoods after WWII. The U.S. Census records show that the neighborhood's population was almost 90% white in 1960, but dropped to less than 40% in 1970. As white families moved out of Bushwick, working class African American, Puerto Rican, and other Caribbean American families took over homes in the southeastern edge of the neighborhood, closest to Eastern Parkway. By the mid 1950s, migrants began settling into central Bushwick. A strong proclivity among these new residents to home ownership and block associations helped the neighborhood survive the economic and social distress of the 1970s.[dead link][clarification needed]
This change in demographics coincided with changes in the local economy. Rising energy costs, advances in transportation, and the invention of the steel can encouraged beer companies to move out of New York City. As breweries in Bushwick closed, the neighborhood's economic base eroded. Discussions of urban renewal took place in the 1960s, but never materialized. Another contribution to the change in the socioeconomic profile of the neighborhood was the John Lindsay administration's policy of raising rent for welfare recipients. Since they now brought higher rents than ordinary tenants would pay on the open market, Bushwick landlords actively began to fill vacant units with such tenants. By the mid-seventies, half of Bushwick's residents were on public assistance.
According to the New York Times, "In a five-year period in the late 1960's 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."
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 mixed use, 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.
Late 20th century: 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, early 1970s and 1980s, many of whom were from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and more recently Central America. 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.
State and local government funded revitalization
Starting in the middle of the 2000s, the City and State of New York began pouring resources into the Bushwick neighborhood, primarily through a program called the Bushwick Initiative. The Bushwick Initiative was a two-year pilot program spearheaded by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (Ridgewood Bushwick), and the Office of Assemblyman Vito Lopez. The program goal is to improve the lives of Bushwick residents in the twenty-three square blocks surrounding Maria Hernandez Park through various housing and quality of life programs. The Bushwick Initiative aims to address deteriorated housing conditions, increase economic development opportunities, reduce drug dealing activities, and enhance the quality of life in the twenty-three square blocks surrounding Maria Hernandez Park. A dog park was completed in Maria Hernandez Park in October, 2012.
- Crime reduction
One of the most critical pieces of the Bushwick Initiative is the strengthened relationship between HPD's Narcotics Control Unit (NCU) and the New York City Police Department's 83rd Precinct and Narcotics Division, who joined together to reduce the extensive drug dealing operations within the target area in the 2000s.
- Housing improvement
In an effort to reduce lead hazards in buildings, HPD and DOHMH created a grant program focusing on residential buildings in the Bushwick Initiative target area. As a result of this outreach, 64 buildings received lead abatement work worth approximately $750,000. 150 buildings were referred to HPD's Housing Litigation Division (HLD) for action. HLD brought cases to compel the owners of those buildings to correct outstanding violations; to obtain civil penalties for the owners' failure to comply with the Housing Maintenance Code and the Multiple Dwelling Law where appropriate; and to compel those owners who had failed to register with HPD to do so. In addition, in situations where the owners had failed to correct emergency conditions, including lead paint hazards, and had denied HPD's inspectors and contractors access to scope and complete the necessary work to remediate the conditions, the Housing Litigation Division obtained access warrants ordering the owners to allow HPD's inspectors and contractors into the buildings to complete necessary emergency repairs.
- Commercial revitalization
Many of the Bushwick Initiative's efforts towards economic development are focused on revitalizing Knickerbocker Avenue, the primary commercial strip in the area. Ridgewood Bushwick spoke to business owners in the area about reviving the now-defunct Knickerbocker Avenue Merchants' Association. Through this organization, Ridgewood Bushwick hopes to utilize SBS's resources to increase economic opportunities for local business owners in the area.
- Sanitation improvement
In addition to DOHMH's lead prevention work, the Bushwick Initiative has benefited from a series of public health programs addressing pest control, infant health, and fitness. DOHMH spent $25,000 purchasing 1,000 rodent-resistant trash cans, which were distributed to buildings with a high number of rodent complaints. Educational information in both English and Spanish concerning rodent control was distributed at the same time, and cans were plastered with the flyers reading "CAN IT – Keep Rats Out of Your Community."
- Comparatively low rents
The last half of the 20th century transformed Bushwick into a home for low-income renters in a primarily Hispanic, immigrant community. Ethnic groups common in the neighborhood are Puerto Ricans, Hondurans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Ecuadorians, African Americans, Haitians, Jamaicans, and Afro-Caribbean. There are also smaller numbers of Chinese, Koreans, Indo-Caribbeans (Guyana and Trinidad), Filipinos, and Arabs in the area. Since 2000, the rise of real estate prices in nearby Manhattan has made the neighborhood more attractive to younger professionals. In the wake of reduced crime rates citywide and a shortage of cheap housing in nearby neighborhoods such as Park Slope and Williamsburg, an influx of young professionals and artists moved into converted warehouse lofts, brownstones, limestone-brick townhouses and other renovated buildings.
A flourishing artist community has existed in Bushwick for decades and is still growing. Dozens of art studios and galleries are scattered throughout the neighborhood, between the JZ, M and L train lines, above and below Myrtle Avenue. There are several open studios programs that help the public visit artist studios and galleries, and a number of websites dedicated to promoting neighborhood art and events.
- U.S. Congress
- New York State Senate
- New York State Assembly
- New York City Council
- NYPD – 83rd Precinct
- FDNY – Engine Company 277/Ladder Company 112 "House of Pain," Engine Company 218 "Bushwick Bomberos," Engine Company 237, Squad 252, and EMS 37V.
- Hospitals – Wyckoff Heights Medical Center and Woodhull Medical Center, which is physically in Bed-Stuy but also serves the Bushwick community
- Brooklyn Public Library – Dekalb Branch, Bushwick Branch, and the Washington Irving Branch
- United States Post Office – Wyckoff Heights Station and the Bushwick Station
Major subway stops include: Jefferson Street, DeKalb Avenue, Myrtle–Wyckoff Avenues, Halsey Street, Wilson Ave, and Bushwick-Aberdeen on the BMT Canarsie Line (L); Central Avenue, Knickerbocker Avenue, Myrtle–Wyckoff Avenues on the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line (M); and Flushing Av, Myrtle Avenue, Koscuiszko Street, Gates Avenue, Halsey Street, Chauncey on the BMT Jamaica Line (J) and (Z). The Myrtle Avenue/Wyckoff Avenue bus and subway hub was renovated into a state-of-the-art transportation center in 2007. Bus lines serving Bushwick include the B13, B26, B38, B52, B54, and B60.
During the 1960s under the direction of Robert Moses, there were plans to build an extension of I-78 through Bushwick, to connect lower Manhattan with the southern shore of Long Island. The extension was to be called the Bushwick Expressway, yet was never built due to then Mayor John V. Lindsay's concerns, that traffic leaving Manhattan should bypass it via the Verrazano Bridge.
Parks and recreation
Bushwick Park and Pool is located on Flushing Avenue between Beaver and Garden Streets, and encompasses 1.29 acres (5,200 m2). 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.
Bushwick Playground is located on Knickerbocker Avenue between Woodbine Street and Putnam Avenue, and encompasses 2.78 acres (11,300 m2). Bushwick Playground park features handball courts, spray showers, a sitting areas and a children's playground.
Green Central Knoll Park is a 2.6 acres (11,000 m2) park located between Flushing and Central Avenues and Knoll and Evergreen Streets. 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 was not given to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation until 1997. The park includes a baseball field, sitting areas and a children's playground.
Heisser Triangle is located at the intersections of Knickerbocker and Myrtle Avenues and Bleecker Street. The triangle is named after Charles Heisser, a World War I sergeant with the 106th Infantry, that was killed in action in France on September 27, 1918. The bronze war memorial at the center of the plot was sculpted by Pietro Montana in 1921.
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 from kindergarten to fifth grade, a karate class host, and a summer day camp for the neighborhood children.
Irving Square Park is bound between Wilson and Knickerbocker Avenues and Halsey and Weirfield Streets. The park encompasses 2.78 acres (11,300 m2). The park is believed to be named after Washington Irving. The park features swings, a sandpit, spray shower, a handball court and a basketball court. After renovations in 2006 and 2008 the park also features a public plaza and gardening space.
Maria Hernandez Park is a municipal park in Bushwick. It is located between Knickerbocker and Irving Avenues and between Starr and Suydam Streets. It has a newly renovated basketball court, handball court, fitness equipment, spray showers and benches, and a newly built performance stage. The park encompasses 6.87 acres (27,800 m2).
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 and run by the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (RBSCC).
Bushwick has a robust educational infrastructure of thirty-three public and private, primary and secondary schools. This includes 14 public elementary schools, one charter school, four parochial schools, seven high schools, and one secondary school.
Combined middle and high schools
- Bushwick II CDA (Group E); five three-story buildings.
- Hope Gardens; seven four- and one fourteen-story buildings.
- Palmetto Gardens; one six-story building.
Bushwick artists display their works in galleries and private spaces throughout the neighborhood.
- Jackie Gleason (1916–1987), actor.
- Rick Gonzalez (born 1979), actor.
- Kenneth McMillan (1932–1989), actor
- Eddie Murphy (born 1961), comedian, actor.
- Charlie Murphy (born 1959), comedian, actor
- Rosie Perez (born 1964), actress
- Vincent Schiavelli (1948–2005), actor/writer
- Connie Stevens (born 1938), actress
- Mae West (1893–1980), actress
- Dondre Whitfield (born 1969), actor
- Jules de Balincourt
- Henry Matyjewicz, artist and spokesperson for Poster Boy (street artist) collective
- André' Pierre Charles, graffiti artist 
- Joell Ortiz, rapper (Slaughterhouse)
- Da Beatminerz, hip hop production team
- D-Stroy, Arsonists (rap group)
- Julius La Rosa (born 1930), singer
- Harry Nilsson, singer/songwriter
- Jeannie Ortega, singer
- OC, rapper
- Tony Touch, rapper and DJ
- Timbo King, rapper
- Q-Unique, rapper
- Daptone Records, indie Music Label
- Bushwick Bill, rapper
- John Francis Hylan (1868–1936), Mayor of New York City.
- Ryan J. Davis (1982-), Theatre director & Social Media Director at Blue State Digital.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Bushwick, Brooklyn|
- The Death and Life of Bushwick, City Journal, Spring 2008
- Brownstoner: Bushwick
- Poverty In Bushwick
- The Bushwick Renaissance Initiative
- Make The Road By Walking Community Center and Organizing Project.
- Nonprofit Organization for Bushwick Artists and Community
- Ridgewood Bushwick Seniors Citizens Council
- Photos of Bushwick
- The Bushwick Dream
- Bushwick Homecomings Documentary Film, 2006
- Bushwick Daily: Photo-Inspired Blog