I didn’t choose Bushwick. In fact, I was a vehement opponent of the L train, having waited many a night on its platforms after an exploratory jaunt into Brooklyn when I was just trying New York out. I did not know much about the L’s timeliness or about the neighborhoods and people that comprised its long journey to Canarsie.
But the eventual search for apartments I could afford after two lean years of grad school led me and my partner to Himrod Street and then to Knickerbocker Avenue. We were hooked on the food, having heard from so many people that there was no good Mexican fare in the city (lies told by Manhattanites, of course). We had not heard of Bushwick before as an entity. Although we are artists in a sense as writers and filmmakers, we had spent the past two years in school with no real finger on the pulse of what the contemporary art scene was on a local scale.
In short, I thought Bushwick was a nice, marginally affordable neighborhood where I could at least be comforted by the fact that not everyone spoke English all the time. And even though it wasn’t quite my native Polish, I couldn’t afford Greenpoint; that much was obvious.
Three and a half years later, and I’m coming to the conclusion that Bushwick is a neighborhood to love, warts and all. I tutored children in Bushwick and Ridgewood, happily biking to work down leafy streets. I made friends through trivia, karaoke, and just showing up to the same places day after day. I met with neighborhood stalwarts and interviewed people who were making a difference in the community from running for office to cleaning the streets to piloting art programs for students. Many of these interactions were made possible by Bushwick Daily.
I spent the better part of eight months as managing editor of this robust and exciting website, and in the year before this position, I was Bushwick Daily’s features editor, writing over 200 of the site’s articles in that time. Figuring out what was newsworthy and finding ways to accurately portray the neighborhood as it changed for better and for worse was a major learning experience I could not have received anywhere else.
I don’t know if I’ll find the same kind of community wherever I end up next. I don’t know if when I return to Bushwick, the same neighborhood will be waiting for me. Because economic instability is so high all around the country, we are all always moving as soon as we scrape enough money together to try our luck somewhere else. I wonder, sometimes, how our nomadic existence will affect our friendships and families down the line.
But for now, I have to leave. I’m sending all of you, readers and friend and neighbors alike, digital good wishes. May you keep fighting to make Bushwick inclusive and open to its most vulnerable residents. Don’t forget that a neighborhood is a carefully constructed web, and it requires our constant participation to maintain it.
Featured image: an early editorial meeting at Milk & Pull.