Living in Bushwick

Jen blogged about this before, but I have a few things I’d like to add.

This guy El Moreno describes the Opera House Lofts, across the street from us, as a happy building of artists and musicians, plagued by a neighborhood full of rapists, drug dealers, thugs, and whores. (Although I have to laugh when he says his budddy’s “stash” got stolen. I guess El Moreno has one set of morals for poor people who smoke crack, and another for artistic people who smoke pot.)

But the neighborhood he describes isn’t the one I’ve experienced. Sure, I’ve heard the “all these fucking white people” comments. They annoy me, but I take them in stride. See, I’ve watched Opera Loft dwellers pass through the neighborhood. They nearly run from the train at Broadway and Myrtle down to their nice lofts, seemingly afraid that if they’re not inside their razor-wired bunker, they’ll be attacked. They never lift their heads to acknowledge their neighbors, much less say Hello or stop for conversation.

Contrast that with some of the neighbors Jen discussed. The Delgados and Pedro have been open, friendly, funny. Pedro offered the use of his van if we ever need it. Emily Delgado described our street as one where the neighbors look out for each other–the implication being that they’ll look out for us, too. The Lofters, meanwhile, are seemingly only looking out for themselves and each other.

They live inside an insular community, guarded by razor wire, flood lights, alarm systems, and security gates. They have a laundry, music and rec rooms, a yoga studio, a rooftop patio, and a garden. They have no reason to be part of this street, and so they choose not to. They walk briskly past the storefronts on Broadway, never lifting their heads. They don’t buy from those stores, except MAYBE to go to the corner market for milk, smokes, or beer. If FreshDirect delivered here, they wouldn’t spend a dime in this neighborhood.

El Moreno bitches about how “dangerous” this neighborhood is, but he doesn’t mention that Opera House dwellers come and go at all hours of the night. We hear them coming home at 3, 4, and 5am. Common sense might tell you that any part of most cities and towns is potentially dangerous at 4am, but I guess El Moreno flunked Common Sense.

By the way, we know they come home that late because they’re loud. They yell like drunken frat boys, they bicker among themselves, and they slam the security gate behind them when they enter.

When Opera House residents have parties, we see stylish 20-somethings running drunk, up and down the street, wearing very little no matter the temperature. I will never say that any woman deserves to be assaulted, but I will say, again, that common sense suggests that perhaps it’s unwise to run down a street in an unfamiliar area, after midnight, dressed only in a miniskirt and a loose-fitting blouse.

El Moreno discusses an incident from late October, when an Opera House resident was badly beaten late one night. I can understand why that shook him up. It shook us up. But I wonder whether El Moreno knows or cares that our neighbor upstairs called the police that night.

When Opera House residents have parties, we hear car services coming at 3 and 4 and 5am to pick up party guests and take them home to Williamsburg and SoHo and the East Village. We know they’re out there because we hear the drivers honking for ten or twenty minutes or more; Opera House guests, apparently, never bother waiting downstairs for the car.

When the weather warms up, I know that there will be Opera House residents and their guests in the courtyard across the street or up on the rooftop patio, partying and laughing and shouting until 5am every weekend.

Opera’s neighbors are happy that the lofts are here. For decades, that beautiful, historic building was boarded up and empty. Large empty buildings breed crime. They’re happy that the new owners didn’t demolish and rebuild because our neighbors value the history of the neighborhood.

El Moreno and his former neighbors in the lofts clearly disdain Bushwick. Perhaps they were dumb enough to believe the “East Williamsburg” hype, and came here looking for young pretty white people, cool bars and restaurants, and cute little record stores.

So they hide away in their ghetto oasis, sneering at the Salvadorans and Puerto Ricans around them, unaware that they’ve made themselves a target by being so conspicuously “protected” all the time. The razor wire and other security measures tell the few bad eggs who are around, “Look at us. We have stuff you want that you can’t have.”

It’s hard for me to blame people for hating them, when they’ve gone out of their way to be such assholes to people in the neighborhood.


One thought on “Living in Bushwick

  1. Howdy-I found this post through Google, and thought I’d drop a line, since I live in the Opera House Lofts, and truth be told, agree with a good majority of what you say.

    I will preface by saying that the post you are reacting to from whoever “El Moreno” is frightens me a little on one hand, because I have been living in the building for awhile, and the feelings that surfaced when all those things happened are still fresh, and on the other hand causes me to scoff a little bit, since a few of the stories referenced were sketchy at best.

    My girlfriend and I used to go out and about in the neighborhood all of the time. We ate at El Valle, would walk down to Fat/Fad Albert’s, frequented the dollar stores, the laundromat, the soul kitchen on Broadway. We did it pretty regularly until the muggings broke out around October-December or so. Then one day, back in February, we were walking back from the subway at 5 p.m., when I saw a couple of guys in their early twenties coming up behind us a little too fast for comfort.

    I pulled my girlfriend into the electronics store on the corner of Arion and Broadway (the one that has ‘fuck you outta towners’ spraypainted on it), and we waited a minute ’til the guys passed and were down the street. We rounded the corner to head to the apartment, when they bolted after us, running up to me, punching me in the stomach and throwing me against a car. It might have been your car, actually, ’cause it was right there in front of the OHL. 🙂 One of the guys put a gun to my head, they took our money, etc., etc.

    Since then, we do nothing in the neighborhood except walk to and from the subway. We’re not rich (the guys got seven dollars, total). We’re not yuppies. As a matter of fact, we hate every single musician and artist in our building and wish they’d stop playing music on the roof and in the basement. We’re just a couple of a kids who can barely make ends meet—the appeal of the OHL was that all utilities were included (including internet), and that frankly, they didn’t perform a credit check.

    Things have felt safer since the doorman appeared, but I still worry about the folks that just hang around in the courtyard all day drinking and smoking (and I wonder if they have jobs, too…) I’ve been hounding the city of New York to replace those broken streetlights at the corner of Broadway and Arion for the past few weeks, since a lot of the muggings/assaults have taken place right there, as kids (and we have to level and say that they *are* kids) have rounded the corner, not realizing they were being trailed.

    I didn’t know about the attempted rape El Moreno mentions, and find it a little hard to believe, because I can’t see a person dragging a victim onto Broadway, which is heavily trafficked. A few of the break-ins were the result of some utter stupidity (leaving doors unlocked and partying all night until you pass out in a drunken stupor; posting the door code on the front of the building for an intended UPS delivery), but if you go in the basement, you can see a door that has been kicked to hell by someone absolutely intent on getting in there somehow.

    Anger is very much directed at the Opera House Lofts, which is partially deserved, but it’s also a terrible shame.

    Anyway. There’s not much else to add. I loathe most of the people in my building about as much as I’m assuming people in the neighborhood do—one thing you’ll notice is that a good deal of the apartments go empty when school is out for the summer. Hipster fucks move back to Connecticut or the Hamptons or wherever. I’ll spare you what living sandwiched between four (4) bands is like, but it’s much less fun than a sitcom.

    I still nod and say hello to people in the neighborhood, and I make eye contact with all of them, but that’s only during the 5 minute walk to and from my apartment. And when my lease is up in a month, we’re gone—the rent wherever we land will choke us more, but, hey, welcome to the big city…


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