In this edition of BUSHWICK CRIBZ, photographer Renee Ligtvoet and I are bringing you summertime in the city. This means we hopped around Bushwick scoping out local residents’ backyards, and finding out just how they use them. I don’t know about y’all, but I don’t have an outdoor space aside from a crusty rooftop with New York Shitty views (haha). So it was cool to check out these yards and hear their stories. Let’s take it away!
A Total Oasis on Wilson Ave
First we dropped by Tom’s spot over on Wilson Ave. Tom and Claudia really amped up what used to be a trash mound in their backyard using Tom’s woodwork and sculptures. It’s now a secret paradise.
Tom: “I think it’s kind of an oasis for me from the city and the clutter and the craziness.”
Tom: “Everything you see, it wasn’t like this. It was about a foot of garbage in the back, and when you dug down there was garbage underneath it. It was kind of a mess first coming back here. I dug up drugs, fold-up chairs, stereo equipment was buried. But the size of the yard – that’s what kind of got me. I saw the potential.”
Claudia: “The small deck was under the house, and then we had the idea: let’s put it over here. [The whole yard] wasn’t programmed as a uniquely designed piece. It happened spontaneously. We never worried about making a drawing inside. Everything happened very naturally.”
Tom: “I also made the tables too back here, because I also use this space as a studio-shop. They’re from reclaimed lumber. This came from a building in SoHo.”
Claudia: “It kind of slowly evolved – each year it gets better.”
Destruction from Sandy
While Bushwick became a sort of strange bubble during Sandy, there was at least one place she paid a visit to. Jen told us what it was like when her outside wall came cascading down into her yard like nobody’s beeswax, and her Super and Landlord never helped to fix it properly. Oh Bushwick!!
Jen: “We moved into the apartment initially mostly because of the yard. And the fact that it came equipped with two essential things that had also been present in our previous apartment’s yard: a keg and a wheelchair.”
“Me and two of my four roommates were sitting in the living room on our pullout couch watching the news. Then we hear a gigantic crash. We look outside and see that our concrete façade had collapsed and shattered all over our patio.”
“Our super came in sometime that week and sledgehammered off the remaining concrete because it was such a hazard. I wasn’t home but my roommates said it was terrifying. He broke our only yard light in the process (didn’t fix it until 4 months later) and he put up some temporary pink panther ‘insulated foam.’ He left the shattered concrete in a big pile on the patio.”
“We also had our roof cap blow off and end up in the street. So the top floor of our building just had a nice steady stream of rain throughout Sandy. And our super didn’t believe me when I called him. He was like ‘There is no way a roof cap can blow off that roof. Someone must have thrown it off!!’ I was like yeah…I bet someone climbed up that insanely unsafe ladder balancing on the railing and then threw the roof cap off DURING SANDY. Haha.”
Me: “Dayum. So you probably couldn’t really use your yard after that, right?”
Jen: “Well we could, since it’s a really huge yard. The patio was pretty big and then the actual grassy area was great, with benches, a fire pit and two grills. So we still had a lot of good parties back there. But we were constantly afraid of leaks inside due to the wall being fucked up, and the winter was horribly cold for the adjacent rooms.”
**Jen and her roommates have since moved out.
And finally just for SUMMAH: The Bushwick Beer Garden!!
Paul brought us to his backyard which is a MUTHAF*****IN BEER GARDEN where he has themed parties galore. This dude designed and built his spot by hand like a pro. Get a load of this awesomeness.
Paul: “It’s for weird and unusual events. Party planning. Every year we do Oktoberfest. This year we did our first Maifest which is the celebration of Spring, and sort of a Pagan German thing. There were various kinds of games, so we did that too.”
“This is the pergola. It’s the first space we built, and then we continued building for about two years. I still build stuff. I just built a fireplace a couple weeks ago.”
“We keep a sign-in book for all the parties. It has people’s names, trade and where they’re from. People sign in from all over the world.”
“Bushwick is an old brewing neighborhood. That’s where the idea to build this came from. We wanted something authentic.”
“We did one called the Harvest Truth and Oktober is the harvest festival. It celebrates the bounty of a season well-lived.”