As New Yorkers, most of us are used to changing residences frequently. Uptown, downtown, Eastside, Westside; venturing out to Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens. We discover new neighborhoods and pockets of city living that will come to define a time in our lives that can always be revisited with a quick subway ride and a stroll down a familiar street. I recently made the move from Bushwick, a somewhat hard scrabble neighborhood on the eastern border of Williamsburg to Brooklyn Heights, a tiny enclave between the water and downtown Brooklyn with a quiet elegance and a moneyed history.
Bushwick was one of those Brooklyn neighborhoods which was hit hard with the drug epidemics of the 70’s and 80’s and although it hasn’t fully recovered yet, a recent influx of young artists and hipsters have made some small strides to reclaim the worn down neighborhood as an artist’s haven. Scrawled graffiti and explosively colorful murals line the low warehouse buildings and multi-family apartment houses and converted townhomes that typify the area. The changes in Bushwick are coming from the outside, from the youthful invaders, and result in such curious contrasts as a trendy organic and locally sourced restaurant with the look of a country lodge marooned on the end of a long block of warehouses and an auto body repair shop. This past summer a reclaimed strip of land between two buildings was re-imagined as an urban putt putt course creating a literal treasure out of the surrounding trash. From this newly conflicted territory you can stand on a desolate street, wind blowing wayward scraps of trash around you and peer out at the lights of the Manhattan skyline just across the flat grey landscape.
Leaving Bushwick behind felt like a relief to me, and yet even still, it’s left an indelible stamp on my consciousness. Living there, like living in many struggling neighborhoods, teaches you to find joy and beauty in the little things and instills a sense of adventure in those who move there ahead of the trend, ahead of any real gentrification. To romanticize the depressed aspects of the neighborhood, the poverty and crime that still persist albeit in lower numbers than in the past, is to do a disservice to the locals who may be struggling to get out of the neighborhood. However, to be a part of Bushwick’s uncertain future is also to develop a certain soft spot for one of the grittier landscapes of this great and varied city called New York. Life is not always tidy or neat; comfortable or safe. This is true here in New York as it is the world over.
Although it is hard to recall during this cold and snowy winter; one of my favorite Bushwick memories is from the late summer, a particularly breezy night that signaled the change from summer to fall. We had an impromptu Sunday evening barbecue on our apartment roof top, the wind blowing our little grill and it’s contents precariously around, the patchwork rooftops of all of Bushwick surrounding us and a vivid dreamscape of the Manhattan skyline shimmering before us. In the warm glow of the fire and surrounded by my friends I forgot about the rats which used to boldly peer at me as I entered the building, interrupting their nighttime scavenging. I forgot about the late night fights that would loudly erupt right outside my bedroom window and the noxious and unidentifiable odors that sometimes permeated our entire building. This is what Bushwick taught me then; that sometimes all you have to do to see the beauty in something is to change your vantage point.
About the author
Jessica Horani has lived in NYC off and on for over ten years since first coming to Manhattan as a 21-year-old law student. After a slightly traumatic address mix up in Greenwich Village on her first night, she fell in love with the City over a slice of pizza and the sparkling January night air. The love affair never ended and after a period of working for the Public Defender's office in Miami, she has returned to live in Brooklyn and pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a writer. The roaring New York of her twenties remains a fond and sometimes bittersweet memory, like an old lover,but there is another New York; one of serene beauty, historical importance and vibrant diversity that she is discovering anew every day. She hopes to share her love for New York City, both new and old, and the personal journeys it can take you on with the visitors to NYCfoto.com.
Jessica Horani is an Editor-at-Large of NYCfoto.com