Bushwick or, in the Dutch, ‘town of woods’ is not so shady anymore. In the 1970's this little neighborhood in the Northern end of Brooklyn was only known for its gangs and spurts of violence that could leave apartments burnt out in a night and the streets were a vicious hub for drugs. The area was populated by African Americans as well as a very high density of Hispanics, that, according to P.h.D Astrid S. Rodriguez, was the highest density in New York State in the 1990's. Throughout the and 90’s the average annual income in the neighborhood rose to a mere $23,104 according to the 2010 Census.
However, the feeling has been significantly changing with an influx of young professionals who come from financially stable and educated backgrounds looking for cheep, accessible places to live. Along with the artists and new college graduates moving into the neighborhood, cafes, bars and health food stores stand side by side with hispanophone establishments, creating a patchwork of cultures. However the landscape has not changed, many of the same buildings are staying the same, while renovations are occurring inside to cater to the needs of young working professionals. Very often these apartments are in renovated warehouses.
Troutman Street runs parallel to Flushing, stopping on the boarder of queens at Metropolitan Avenue and going down as far as Evergreen Avenue. The northern end of Troutman is lined with former warehouses, though some are still empty, most are renovated and have become lofts. Unique from the landscape of Manhattan, as well as other stretches in Brooklyn, the buildings are low, fat and chunky. These are buildings made for work, not for luxury. But, young people have begun to find this place attractive, specifically for it’s large windows and it’s spacious apartments.
467 Troutman was renovated in 2005 and has since then become residential. The rent in this building ranges from 2-4,000/month. Young people have been getting creative about how they divide space. Though the apartment does not look like what a typical New York City apartment looked like in the past, Isabel Piazza, 21, an FIT student and tenant on the first floor enjoys its unique qualities. “I like the industrial feel to the area and [the apartment’s] exposed pipes and brick…an artsy feel is up everyone’s ally these days because there are all these young artists living here.” Jon Barachowitz, 25 is one of four roommates who moved to a warehouse loft off of the Morgan stop in 2009 after they graduated from SUNY Purchase. Out of a single space, the group, with some help from their father’s, built four rooms. Their apartment is used in tours as an example of what a warehouse apartment could look like.
Rachel Poccia, 26, originally from Long Island, lived at 467 Troutman in 2009 on the 4th floor. She lived with a couple, and they made their, originally one room apartment, into two bedrooms. Though she has moved since then, Ms. Poccia says that a curtain cordoned off her space. “It was cool, because whenever we wanted the space bigger, I would just open the curtain.”
“People want… to make their own forts to live in.” Says Ms. Piazza. However, this is not always legal. Tenants are not allowed to build walls in the apartments as it is against the Loft Law passed in 1982 stating that a loft must pass a number of fire safety inspections before it becomes residential.
Bushwick lofts have become popular in their accessibility to the city as well as offering a big space for many to share. Lynette Leblanc, owner of The Leblanc Organization, real estate agency, moved with her painter husband to Brooklyn after rent in TriBeCa became too expensive. Mrs. Leblanc sees common links in the great move to Brooklyn. “No one could do anything with these spaces until rent went up in Manhattan,” says Mrs. Leblanc. A similar phenomenon occurred in Williamsburg, though Williamsburg is now much more expensive, as the lofts are being renovated by the owners. The future of Bushwick, however, may not follow the same path. “It all depends on the economy,” says Mrs. Leblanc. Legal loft apartments are becoming more available in Bushwick. However, the building owners are having a hard time raising the rent. “Bushwick may stay the funky place that it is,” said Mrs. Leblanc.