A day (and evening) in Bushwick

When Peter Stuyvesant chartered the area he called Boswijck (“little town in the woods”) in 1661, it included the areas of Brooklyn now called Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick. Like its neighbor Williamsburg a decade ago, Bushwick is transforming itself from an industrial working-class neighborhood to a haven for artists. Vogue magazine declared Bushwick #7 in its 2014 list of 15 coolest neighborhoods (one of only three in the US, and the only NYC area to make the list). Since I love unplanned walks in the city (see my initial post about the concept here) I recently spent a chilly March day exploring what Bushwick has to offer. I mean, already parodied by Saturday Night Live and in the title of an episode of “Girls,” what more could a neighborhood want?


At least until they shut down the L for repairs, it is easy to get to Bushwick (and the J, Z, and M lines will do when the L does go down). I emerged from the Morgan Avenue stop and began to walk with a purpose to Roberta’s.

Roberta’s pizza is legend, and I intended to find out if all the hype was warranted. The wait for a table during peak times can exceed 2-3 hours, so I wanted to show up for brunch and get in before the crowds arrived. Roberta’s also makes fresh bread in the pizza oven every day before opening, and the bread with homemade salted butter was a fantastic appetizer. The pizza did not disappoint, and a green juice cocktail rounded out the brunch nicely.


Leaving Roberta’s full and happy, I was tempted to throw my shoes up to join the others.


Walking down any street in Bushwick was a visual treat. Street art is a big thing in Bushwick, especially since 2012 in the area now called The Bushwick Collective and curated by Joe Ficalora.

In an afternoon of wandering, I found spaces full of artists making and exhibiting their work, as well as a film and photo studio.

Maria Hernandez Park had playgrounds, basketball courts, and lawns, surrounded by rows of townhouses.

Housing in Bushwick is varied – lovely prewar townhomes, more modern single family homes with parking in front, converted industrial spaces, and new development condos. People priced out of Williamsburg have found Bushwick, and the rising prices here in turn are sending people to nearby Ridgewood, Queens. Costs are still lower in Bushwick than in Brooklyn as a whole (but who knows for how much longer?). For instance, median rental prices go from $1750/month for a studio to $3000/month for a three bedroom, while median sales prices go from $329K for a studio to $799K for a two bedroom, and there are still a few townhouses to be found for $1.5M.

As the evening approached, I had drinks and dinner at Sincerely Burger on Wilson Avenue.


The day ended with opera – Rossini’s Otello performed at LightSpace Studios in Bushwick by LoftOpera, a Brooklyn-based company bringing a fresh take on opera (and affordable prices) to younger and decidedly unstuffy audiences. Heading back to Manhattan from the Jefferson Street L station around 11:20, I heard music and laughter coming from many bars and restaurants, as well as from a few apartments. After an enjoyable day in Bushwick, I could see the allure of living here – still relatively affordable with an abundance of things to see and do.


The value of a city view

Recently I gave my personal perspective on the value of an apartment with a view of nature after touring a series of Upper East Side penthouses with terraces. A few days after writing that post,  I was able to view a spectacular apartment on the Upper West Side with tremendous south facing city views; even the master bathroom had a window with a perfectly framed view of the Empire State Building! Now that it has programmable LED lights and even twinkles on occasion (thank you, Tour Eiffel, for the idea – imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery), I was captivated by the idea of taking a bath while looking at an ESB light show. The other day I also saw another apartment uptown which has the misfortune of being in a building with an entrance blocked by the Second Avenue subway construction, but also with great south facing views. It made me wonder, what is the value of an iconic city view?

The most obvious answer, of course, is that its value reflects market demands; the price a qualified buyer is willing to pay more for that apartment compared to an identical apartment in the same building without the view is the value. But why do we value an iconic view above one without one but with as much open space and light?

Perhaps for some it is conveys status; an apartment with an iconic city view clearly cost the buyer more. However, I believe that for many it is more than that. The feeling I get when I am in a wonderful apartment with a view of New York City’s stunning skyscrapers is a cinematic one. So many filmmakers have set the scene with a sweeping view of our skyline that to have such a view from the windows of our own homes roots us firmly in the city. The idea of mise-en-scène, the generating of a sense of time and place in a film, and setting a mood, can generalize to an individual’s creation of the kind of feeling they want in their home. For me, a city view embraces New York and all that it represents, grounding a person in this place and time.

So which is worth more, the view of nature that answers our animal beginnings, or the view of the city that sets us clearly within our current human-made environment? It’s an individual choice, and the one that speaks to you when you see an apartment will reveal which provides value to you.