Bushwick in Transition

A peek into one of the many construction sites constantly popping up around Bushwick. 

A peek into one of the many construction sites constantly popping up around Bushwick. 

Low(er) rents, convenient transportation options, and a hip new persona has led to an influx of residents and private investment in this Brooklyn neighborhood. A stark contrast exists between the new and the old throughout the area. The documented wave of college educated, higher income residents has made its way into Bushwick. 


A sequential view of the Broadway Avenue streetscape in Bushwick, Brooklyn. 

 


 

Bushwick, like many other neighborhoods throughout our nation’s cities, is going through a rapid racial and economic transformation or as many people refer to it, gentrification. Low income residents and business owners are often aggressively forced out of their communities to make way for a wave of educated middle and upper class white Americans. The communities that find themselves in the cross hairs of private investment and “revitalization” are almost always historically communities designated for our nation’s racial and ethnic minorities. Long time residents in these communities are often those who were left out of the “American Dream.” 

This invented dream was seen as a way to revive the nation’s banks and construction industry by increasing homeownership following the destruction of The Great Depression. To make this dream into a reality the Federal Housing Administration federally backed loans to allow people to move from the cites to the suburbs. The dream may sound great at first, except for the fact that it was limited to primarily middle-class white families. In addition to backing these white middle-class, single-family suburban loans, the government also made it very clear where they would not be willing to back loans, the communities made up of primarily low-income minority residents . Most urban communities were considered undesirable, and minority communities were often deemed “hazardous" in the Home Owner's Loan Corporation residential security maps. With these new federally backed loans white middle-class families began fleeing from the cities to the suburbs draining these communities of a large amount of their resources. This flight of such large numbers of city residents combined with the institutional dis-investment in certain areas led to the precipitous decline in value of the remaining inner city properties. The absence of help from these federally backed loans and the devaluing of property found in these urban areas led to many properties falling into disrepair.  Everyone who could sell their home and afford to leave these “undesirable areas” did so, creating high concentrations of poor minority residents. 

Fast forward to 2016. Today, many people are under the false impression that those who are living in our nation’s ghettos are there as a result of their own actions. They are there because they deserve it, and those who are living comfortably in our nation’s suburbs are also there because of their own actions, and because that’s where they deserve to be. The economic differences seen between ghettos and suburbs often mimics racial differences, which can lead to one race being viewed as inferior when compared to the other. Society needs to know that our government gave middle class whites a huge financial and societal boost at the expense of low-income minority residents. Lack of public resources in certain areas has led to higher crime, lower educational performance, and lower property values. Also, a very important part of wealth generation is through property ownership, and minority residents were not given anywhere near the same opportunities for home ownership as their white counterparts. This wealth or lack thereof is passed down from generation to generation contributing to the growing inequality gap we see today. What we see today, and where we see it happening is not by chance. 


Ralph, owner of Mariam Deli & Grocery Inc.

Ralph, owner of Mariam Deli & Grocery Inc.

"I spoke to a property owner down the street about selling his abandoned gas station a few years back, he wanted $300,000 then. Now he’s asking $3 Million."    

"Before, nobody was trying to pay the prices for the organic stuff, now it’s selling great. These new people know the value of good food."

 

-Ralph, owner of Mariam Deli & Grocery 


"You used to never see white people walking down the street."


"Moe Sports" employee. 

"Moe Sports" employee. 

"This was a crack area before, a lot more robberies, now once white people move in, you know, they gotta make it safe."

"First they were all moving to Williamsburg, now this is the hip place to be."

"Mad people been moving back down South."

 

-Moe Sports employee


A Moe Sports mannequin stares out at the rapidly changing Broadway Avenue. 

A Moe Sports mannequin stares out at the rapidly changing Broadway Avenue. 

“They don’t spend their money here. They go buy their groceries at Whole Foods, they just live here.”

“The Jews own everything. They will just walk in to your store and ask you to sell your business. Can you believe that?” 

"I'm scared for rents to get raised. I have so much merchandise I have to sell."

 

-Moe, owner of Moe Sports


Max, Covert Coffee employee. 

Max, Covert Coffee employee. 

"I’m a gentrifier, but I try my best to shop around the area and support local businesses."

"I feel like I see more of the “NYU” artist types in the neighborhood every day."

"I’m an artist, a dancer, so financially it just made sense."

 

-Max, Covert Coffee employee


Covert Coffee customers enjoy tasty iced beverages, free wifi, and air conditioning in this relatively new Bushwick establishment.

Covert Coffee customers enjoy tasty iced beverages, free wifi, and air conditioning in this relatively new Bushwick establishment.

Two customers enjoying a meal in Angie's Breakfast Diner while a waitress takes a phone call. Bushwick is currently made up of 65% Hispanic and 20% African American residents. 

Two customers enjoying a meal in Angie's Breakfast Diner while a waitress takes a phone call. Bushwick is currently made up of 65% Hispanic and 20% African American residents. 

The sights, sounds and smells of construction dominate the quiet landscape of many residential streets in Bushwick.

The sights, sounds and smells of construction dominate the quiet landscape of many residential streets in Bushwick.


The future does not look bright for the long-time residents and business owners of Bushwick. With a number of large residential and commercial developments under construction and even more about to break ground, it seems like only a matter of time before the Bushwick that once was ceases to exist and succumbs to the forces of gentrification. With each new coffee shop, and opening of a new apartment complex these forces of gentrification will only continue to get stronger and accelerate this community's rate of racial and economic change. 

 

-Chester Toye