Is Gentrification in Bushwick Inevitable?

east willy b

What do you think of when you think of Bushwick?  If you think of hipsters and loft parties, you’ll understand why the older residents of Bushwick are rallying to make sure that the neighborhood will remain an affordable place to live in the future.  In attempts to limit gentrification and displacement in the neighborhood, Community Board 4,  St. Nick’s Alliance, and Councilwoman Diana Reyna are working to re-zone the neighborhood.  According to Councilwoman Reyna, the re-zoning is necessary to keep out speculative developers who are interested in turning Bushwick  into “the next Williamsburg.” Just East of Williamsburg, Bushwick (or Bourgwick- “bourgie Bushwick”) has seen the influx of young gentrifiers, many of them artists, and residents’ fear of spreading gentrification is real and warranted.  So far, it has been difficult for luxury developers to get their grubby hands on prime Bushwick real estate because the majority of Bushwick is currently zoned for manufacturing.  As a result, it has been difficult to convince the city to allow them to build luxury apartments and condos within the neighborhood borders.  But that doesn’t mean they haven’t tried.

According to the Real Deal and industry experts, “Developers are salivating over sites in Bushwick.” Already, there has been a 144-unit luxury rental built in the neighborhood, catering specifically to artists.  And it’s fully occupied. Speculators, meanwhile, are trying all sorts of tricky maneuvers to skirt the zoning laws and convince current property owners to sell.  Sometimes it means offering buyouts, and sometimes it means schmoozing their way in. As Ian Lester, an attorney who represents commercial developers, tells Real Deal reporters:

“A lot of these sellers are old-school, meaning they are literally old,” he said. “The key is listening to a bunch of stories about the old country…they won’t sell to you unless they like you,” he added.

Groups like MySpace who cater to young (mostly white) people moving into gentrifying neighborhoods certainly don’t help things.  MySpace works with landlords (no matter their record of housing code violations or HPD litigation) to bring in higher paying tenants.  Their neighborhood is primarily Crown Heights, but they have expanded in the past several years to Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. (Check out Crown Heights Assembly’s campaign to halt MySpace’s negative impact in their neighborhood!)

Meanwhile, Rolando Guzman, Deputy Director of Community Preservation at St. Nick’s Alliance, tells reporters:

The last thing Bushwick needs is high rises. It needs affordable housing…And there needs to be some rule to prevent the displacement of local businesses and residents.

That is why St. Nick’s and others are working to prevent the same type of luxury apartment boom as what happened in Williamsburg, as well as to “preserve the unique character of Bushwick.”

In addition to working on zoning laws, community members and activists have produced incredible social commentary about the gentrification phenomenon in Bushwick.  Check out East Willy B: The Changing Face of Bushwick, a hilarious online series on about how gentrification, race, and community interaction plays out in the neighborhood.  Check it out here.

Finally, for your comic relief, check out this on point video (also produced by East Willy B) commenting on real estate agents in Bushwick.

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