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Living in Bushwick, Brooklyn - NY Neighborhood Guide

By: Davina Ward
September 25, 2020

In the Brooklyn borough, Bushwick, New York, is an emerging neighborhood with an interesting history. Through successful revitalization efforts, this neighborhood has seen an influx of new residents melting with long-term residents to create a distinct culture.

Driven by a lower cost of big-city living, new residents have relocated to Bushwick from all over the world. They’ve added their unique flavor to the already piping hot melting pot.

Are you already packing your bags? Before making the move, read up on Bushwick to determine if the neighborhood is a good fit for you.

Luckily, you've come to the right place. Here's everything you need to know about Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood.

Bushwick's History

Bushwick was founded in 1661 after the Dutch West India Company was given the deed for the land. Peter Stuyvesant originally named the neighborhood Boswijck, which translates to "neighborhood in the woods," an ode to its pre-industrialization period.

Initially, the neighborhood was a conglomerate of land and included land from what would become Williamsburg and Greenpoint's neighborhoods. The city of Brooklyn officially annexed the land in 1854.

Bushwick grew economically, producing goods such as glue, chemicals, and glass. By the 1850s, the neighborhood had attracted a large population of German immigrants.

At the time, Bushwick had established itself as a leader in the beer brewing industry, nicknamed the “Beer Capital of the Northeast.” Its notorious Brewer’s Row included 14 breweries spanning a massive 14 block area.

Brewers Row lasted over a century, but the last brewery stopped operations in 1976.

Bushwick in the Mid-20th Century

By the mid-1900s, Bushwick had begun to establish a wealthier part of town, as successful businessmen commissioned mansions to be built along what is now Bushwick and Irving Avenues. Many of these impressive buildings are still standing today.

The elevated subways running through Bushwick, the neighborhood's wealth, and the influx of Italian immigrants enabled the neighborhood to survive both world wars relatively unscathed.

Unfortunately, the following decades would not be so kind. A significant shift that occurred from the 1960s to the 1970s caused the neighborhood to decline.

Also, businesses began moving operations in droves. All this culminated on a mid-July night of 1977, where a blackout gave rise to looting, rioting, arson, and vandalism.

Photos of Bushwick during the blackout gained national attention. That gave the neighborhood a bad reputation. Since then, Bushwick has struggled to get rid of its negative image.

Revitalization efforts have greatly improved the Bushwick neighborhood. A major initiative, aptly named the Bushwick Revitalization Initiative, began in the early 2000s with goals of reducing crime, improving housing, and revitalizing Knickerbocker Avenue as the retail hub it once was. Since that time, the initiative has greatly succeeded in its efforts.

What's Bushwick Like Today?

Today, Bushwick is reckoning with its roots as long-time residents and new residents cultivate a culture that’s unique to the revitalized neighborhood. With an influx of young residents who are drawn to Bushwick’s lower cost of living, there’s been a shift toward a more art-focused culture.

So-called “hipsters” have flocked to the neighborhood and left their mark. Abandoned warehouses have been transformed into art galleries and music venues. Bright, colorful murals adorn the walls of buildings and welcome newcomers.

Residents celebrate the cultural diversity of Bushwick through an emerging foodie culture. Neighborhood favorites include everything from mom-and-pop pizza places to vegan Ethiopian restaurants.

Vintage fashion and thrift stores have burst onto the scene. They’ve given the artsy crowd a place to grab Instagrammable finds.

Though the flock of millennials moving into Bushwick’s repurposed industrial warehouses has contributed to Bushwick’s new hipster vibe, it remains true to its roots.

Long-term residents have not been completely driven out. So, a new culture that mixes the old and the new has flourished. The result is a unique culture that belongs to Bushwick alone.

Bushwick Demographics

King's County mimics the cultural melting pot that is the city of New York. It's a very diverse area that’s home to people from various backgrounds, ethnicities, and cultures.

There are many families. Nearly a quarter of King's County residents are under the age of 18.

Also, the county is home to over 2.5 million residents. So, there's always someone new to meet.

With regard to race and ethnicity, you'll find exceptional diversity. According to data from the census, Kings County, the county Bushwick lies in, is home to a significant Hispanic, African American, White, and Asian population. There are also many other races and cultures represented in the community.

Bushwick's Location

Bushwick is one of the northernmost neighborhoods located in Brooklyn. It borders the Queens borough.

It's an excellent location that puts its residents in close proximity to historically famous Brooklyn neighborhoods. Those include Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, Cypress Hill, and East New York.

Bushwick residents also enjoy the benefits of the neighboring Williamsburg. That’s a neighborhood that rivals Bushwick in both arts and culture.

Additionally, the influx of new residents attracted by the lure of New York has led to an increase of young hipsters in both neighborhoods.

One reason for the influx is the lower cost of living that residents enjoy in Bushwick. Make no mistake, living in New York City is expensive. However, other boroughs and neighborhoods, such as those in Manhattan, have a much higher cost of living.

Bushwick Transit Options

Like most of the city, Bushwick is powered by a massive public transportation system. There are many subway lines running directly through Bushwick that can take you around the city. These subway lines include:

  • The BMT Jamaica Line featuring the J and Z trains
  • The BMT Canarsie Line featuring the L train
  • The BMT Myrtle Line featuring the M train

In addition to subway lines, buses are also a reliable way to get around. Multiple bus lines service the Bushwick area. Pair that with alternative eco-friendly transportation methods, including cycling and walking, you should have no problem getting around.

Is Bushwick Safe?

Like many other big-city neighborhoods, Bushwick is prone to higher crime rates than residential areas. However, that's not to say that Bushwick isn't a generally safe area.

The neighborhood is policed by the 83rd Precinct of the NYPD. Many decades ago, the neighborhood was a hotbed of crime and was synonymous with rioting and theft. Now, crime rates have fallen to historic lows.

That said, it's always wise to practice general personal safety. This includes being aware of your surroundings, avoiding walking alone at night, and taking precautions if you live in a first-floor apartment. It's essential to be proactive about your personal safety, regardless of where you live!

Things To Do in Bushwick

Like many other neighborhoods in NYC, there’s always something to do in Bushwick. However, it can be challenging to choose how to spend your free time with so many options available. If you’re not sure where to start, check out this list of ideas for your next Bushwick adventure!

1. Head Out for a Shopping Day

Bushwick isn’t exactly famous for its shopping options. However, residents of the neighborhood will find a wide array of retail businesses from cute little shops to chain stores.

Here’s a list of stores that should be on your must-see list:

  • FEELS: Store full of “interesting and unique items,” according to one owner.
  • Urban Jungle: A thrift store that will make you the most fashionable person on your block.
  • Human Relations: A lovely little bookstore where you can find your next great read.
  • Better Than Jam: This store is perfect for those looking for unique pieces and finds.

Also be sure to swing by Ethel’s Club Outdoor Market. It’s a socially-distant outdoor market with entertainment that features Black and POC-owned businesses.

2. Eat a Delicious Meal

Obviously, NYC's food scene is famous. With so many different cultures in one area, there’s a lot of variety. Even the pickiest of eaters can find something they’ll enjoy.

As an NYC staple, pizza is always on the menu. Luckily, there are some great local pizza joints in Bushwick to check out if you’re looking for the perfect slice.

To get your Pizza feast started, swing by Union Pizza Works. If you’re looking for the best Mexican food in Bushwick, head on over to Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos. This restaurant is situated inside a tortilla factory! Keeping to a strict vegan diet? No problem! Swing by Bunna Cafe for unique vegan Ethiopian eats.

3. Check Out the Local Art

The Bushwick Collective has made it their mission to beautify Bushwick — one mural at a time. Celebrating the work of local artists, the collective allows artists to use the neighborhood as their canvas. You’ll find numerous murals around the neighborhood that were commissioned by the group.

4. Take a Neighborhood Tour

Whether you’re a Bushwick native or a new resident, neighborhood tours offer valuable insight regarding the neighborhood. So, whether you discover a new hole-in-the-wall burger place or discover some of Bushwick’s powerful history, you’ll have gotten your money’s worth with your tour.

5. Go for a Walk in the Park

If you’re an outdoorsy person, you’ll be right at home in Bushwick. The neighborhood features a host of parks and a couple of community recreation centers. So, you can get your body moving and enjoy the great outdoors.

In the summer, it’s common to see a rolling game of basketball played from dawn to dusk at one of the courts at the Bushwick Playground.

Joggers can enjoy a run around the park. Families are free to bring their children to Maria Hernandez Park, the largest park in Bushwick. There’s also a space for pups. So, bring your four-legged best friend too!

6. Visit the Library

There are two public libraries located in the Bushwick neighborhood. They’re the Brooklyn Public Library - Bushwick Branch and the DeKalb Branch.

Both options are home to a host of books and various media materials that’ll keep you entertained for days. Not to mention, libraries often host community gatherings that range from Kids’ Night to GED classes.

Final Thoughts: Is Bushwick Right for You?

Whether or not Bushwick is the right choice for you wholly depends on who you are. That said, Bushwick is certainly not a one-size-fits-all community in which you have to fit a certain mold to fit in.

There really is something for everyone! Whether you’re a millennial searching for an emerging neighborhood with a lot of potential or an older renter looking for a quiet place to settle down, Bushwick could be the best fit for you.

That said, to find the right neighborhood, you need to first understand your wants and needs. That’s where we come in.

Whatever your dream apartment is, Apartment List can help you find it. Start your Bushwick apartment search with our quiz!

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Davina Ward is a contributing author at Apartment List and freelance writer specializing in real estate and digital marketing. She received her B. Read More
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