If you regularly pass the giant carwash called Wow at the corner of Flushing and Knickerbocker Ave in Bushwick, you should know that it will soon no longer be part of your commute. A 24-hour Dunkin’ Donuts and a Popeyes are instead set to replace it, DNAinfo reported last week.
The large lot facing The Loom, home to unique stores geared towards Bushwick’s creative community, is already undergoing the transformation. The owner, Adris Nadry, and his family, own a few other franchises in the area already.
Nestled between the Morgan and Jefferson stops, Flushing Ave is the poster child of gentrification. Hipster hangouts like King Noodle, The Narrows and recently opened Forrest Point began marking the landscape a few years ago and are on a continuous incline, as are rents in the area.
Indeed, Bushwick is a New York mecca for hipsters, artists, and creatives looking for a community that seems to have disappeared in an increasingly corporate (and expensive) Williamsburg. Pricey “artisanal” restaurants have become a norm, in fact, Montana’s Trail House, a rustic, Southern joint, replaced an old gas station just a couple blocks away from Flushing Ave. But is the Dunkin Donuts/Popeye’s space signaling the end of Bushwick’s creative era?
When a Dunkin’ Donuts popped up on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg, many seemed to think it marked or highlighted Williamsburg’s doom. When a Starbucks opened near the Lorimer L train, local news stations interviewed people on the streets to capture their thoughts, many believing this meant Williamsburg was done. Over. Sold-out and stripped of its reputation as a haven for artists and hipsters. But those had long gone. Some had already moved a neighborhood over: Bushwick.
Now, though, the same scenario is playing out. A Starbucks is opening in Ridgewood, and many of Bushwick’s qualities some residents are proud of – artsiness, quirkiness, and independence– are being redefined.
Before the gentrifiers, though, there were others. In fact, before salsa and reggaeton echoed through Bushwick’s streets, Dutch would have greeted your ear had you overheard a conversation in 1780. In the 1850s, a “little Germany” began to form, and breweries and beer halls settled in (you can still find traces of this heritage, notably if you pass by the old Rheingold Brewery or the music and beer venue, The Wick). Having been trained as a linguist, I know that language is similar to a landscape. It evolves, it changes, it surprises. We hold prejudices against certain accents, certain linguos, just as we do against certain street corners, certain businesses, certain patrons who occupy them.
But language is not yours, language is ours. Bushwick, or any neighborhood, for that matter, does not belong to you. It belongs to us. And we are complicated. Some of us appreciate a 12-dollar cocktail while playing with shadows of candlelight and some of us prefer a delicious inexpensive donut while the sun is still rising. We need to embrace our diversity, understand our history, learn to live, and speak, with one another. A Dunkin’ Donuts is not the end of anything. It’s a sign that landscapes adapt to those who walk on it, and live in it, and it’s a sign that you too, are impacting the ground that you sleep on.
While a certain population of Bushwick might abhor what a fast-food chain represents, remember that the deepest trenches of Bushwick, the “authentic” Bushwick that drove you here in the first place has long had fast-food restaurants lining its streets. McDonald’s, Burger King, Popeyes, Subway (the list go on) are part of the same heartbeat that drives this neighborhood forward. They’re in the veins of the neighborhood we love. They might be clogging the arteries of the neighborhood we love, but that’s a different conversation.
And tomorrow, what language will you hear, in the streets outside your window? And will those streets smell like craft coffee or the sweet smell of mass produced donuts?