Let’s Talk Bushwick Development

There is no shortage of housing in Bushwick.

Last week  Daily News, DNAinfo, and Brownstoner.com all reported on  Read Property Group LLC’s development hopes for Bushwick. The Group presented their plans at the Community Board meeting, and you can read all the details elsewhere.

My opinion on this is two-fold. On the one hand, this is the natural course of events in New York City, and Brooklyn. This is a cyclic thing. First you had white flight, and now you have gentrification. Whatever. I’m not here to get into details of the race and economics of the thing, because talk of race and economics bore me.

But, if I’m going to be honest I’m not up for the Read Property Group developing anything as big as what they’ve got dreamed up. There is no shortage of housing in Bushwick for the influx of educated, creative, fashionable, and employed transplants arriving.

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I will admit Read Property has the right idea. They’ve got the right American capitalistic notion of maximizing on a trend, and developing the land to that end. This is America, this is New York. You see an opportunity, you act on it. They’re not at fault for being a property group and doing what they do. That’s good old fashioned American business in New York City.

However, in recent years it’s obvious that Bushwick’s natural development, spawned by the brave and the creative, is in little accordance with good old fashioned anything. While entrepreneurs in Bushwick probably love that mighty dollar as much as any blue, or hot blooded American, their dreams are fueled almost entirely by passion. That passion is kept ablaze by the camaraderie of artists, who in the past decade have made a sparkling demonstration of what modern community looks like, and can be.

Constructing new shiny housing – equipped with parking lots and retail, and more than likely specifically geared toward a particular demographic with a particular median income – in Bushwick seems to me a little more divisive than actually necessary or beneficial (to anyone other than Read Property.)

A major concern mentioned in these articles which was brought up at the meeting is the affordability of the units. I think, given the fact that homelessness in Bushwick is obviously not a pressing issue, a more important question than “will the housing be affordable?” is how will this ambitious development serve to enrich the lives of both current and future residents of Bushwick?

The answer to that can not simply be – there will be retail space. Because that retail space may potentially be high-priced, thus driving up the cost of the goods sold there, thus limiting the type of customers those businesses would seek to attract. It’s uncalled for and it’s not what this neighborhood wants, much less needs.

What I’d hope to see, given not only the creative nature of many a Bushwick transplant, but also the record breaking success of this month’s BOS ’13, is more community oriented development. Bushwick has bars aplenty. There are hidden DIY venues, galleries, and vintage shops all around. We artists have many places to live, work, and play in Bushwick. This place has given us itself – raw, beautiful, expansive, and relatively affordable. And I think we owe it to Bushwick to give it more art, more culture, and more inclusion.

I’d like to see a community arts center being developed.

Wouldn’t that be lovely? Something like The Loom, except built for the children and teenagers who live and go to school in Bushwick. Here, those of us educated in the arts would volunteer our time to teach painting, photography, music, yoga to the young and old who’ve called Bushwick home long before we came to our first party here.

I have some pretty specific views on social handouts: I don’t like them and I don’t believe in them. I don’t believe in Foodstamps and Welfare, or anything that supports people not trying. I don’t believe in a system that could care less about providing more art programs in schools. I don’t believe in depending on the government to either perpetuate or protect the positive development of society. That’s the citizens’ responsibility.

I think it’s pretty great that this story got broken in several digital publications, and I also quite enjoy the attention that’s continually focused on Bushwick. But like I said in my recap of BOS ’13 – it was creative thinking that turned Bushwick into the spectacle of color and stimuli it is now, and there’s a responsibility on the creative thinkers to maintain a community where the arts continue to flourish.

Post Originally Published: June 24th, 2013

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