Thursday, November 20, 2008

Bushwick, NY (a quiet Olde English Towne)

I missed a stop on the way to a meeting the other day and ended up strolling down Bushwick Avenue where it looks like Main Street New England circa 1853. That's the date the church above (the South Bushwick Reformed Church) was built, and it looks the part. The avenue is lined with some spectacular houses of similar vintage, which another blogger has done a great job of cataloguing here, along with some neighborhood history.

On a broader note, I've noticed that Brooklyn's grand avenues, for the most part, remain intact even where they aren't in the process of being gentrified or rehabbed. Bushwick is a prime example, as are chunks of Bedford and Nostrand in Crown Heights. The current state of affairs will slow any development down considerably, but I wonder how long it will take for the old Bushwick mansions to start looking like the ones on Clinton Avenue in what is now Clinton Hill. According to the "Forgotten NY" site (linked above), the fashionable district of Bushwick once went by "the Boulevard," and it seems only a matter of time before the brown signs designating the district pop up and the buildings start being refurbished.

Still, there's something romantic about the current state of the mansions, populated by tenants who live in the cut-up remains of someone's grand old staterooms and parlors. It almost feels as though an entirely new and distinct civilization has grown up and in around the ruins of another. Thomas Hartley Cromek was going for this effect in the Campo Vaccino, though certain critics will argue that in calling the once-great Forum the "cow field," he was consciously devaluing those who lived there and calling for a return to its greatness. The analogy is just a convoluted way of saying my romanticism may be well-meant, but it can easily be co-opted to make a case for "restored glory" that pushes the current residents out. Will it happen in Bushwick? Some already call parts of it "East Williamsburg." Should be interesting to watch.

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