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Photo tour of Bushwick in Brooklyn, New York City

This industrial New York neighborhood is shedding its hardscrabble reputation and welcoming an influx of artists and restaurateurs

 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenChildren keep cool in Maria Hernandez Park, renamed for a community leader and longtime resident who fought drug dealers in the area. She was killed in her home in 1989. Maria Hernandez Park, Knickerbocker Ave from Starr to Sudyam Sts, Bushwick, Brooklyn (nycgovparks.org)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenA bodega on Irving Avenue near Maria Hernandez Park stocks a variety of suds.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenOn one block along Troutman Street, the windows of each brick building are adorned with these ornamental stone sculptures.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenThese brick buildings on Troutman Street are just one of the types of edifices you’ll find in Bushwick.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenBehind a garage door on Starr Street, you’ll find Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, a tiny Mexican eatery and working tortilla factory. Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, 271 Starr St between St. Nicholas and Wyckoff Aves, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-456-3422)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenA group of artists roll down Wyckoff Avenue.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenFestooned with international flags flapping in the wind, Sea Town Fish & Meat Market provides residents with an impressive selection of fresh catches. Sea Town Fish & Meat Market, 328 Linden St at Irving Ave, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-417-8888)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenFresh catch offered at Sea Town Fish & Meat Market is ready to be filleted and wrapped. Sea Town Fish & Meat Market, 328 Linden St at Irving Ave, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-417-8888)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenMen get their hair trimmed at a barbershop on Myrtle Avenue. This block, near Gates Avenue, is full of local businesses, including a thrift store, a pizza joint and a hair salon.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenThe M train travels through Bushwick, making a few stops above Myrtle Avenue before terminating in neighboring Ridgewood, Queens.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenThis colorful mural can be found near Troutman Street.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenLocal bodegas don’t just stock foodstuffs; you’ll also find religious iconography and models of superheroes.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenAt Myrtle Avenue and Menahan Street, a string of discount stores sell wares for 99¢ beneath the tracks of the roaring M train.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenMannequins at Colombian Jeans get straight to the point: Women looking to highlight a certain asset can pick up levanta cola—or “butt-lifting”—denim. Colombian Jeans, 136 Irving Ave between DeKalb and Hart Aves (718-418-8254)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenTandem, which opened on Troutman Street in 2009, features an enticing menu of small plates and specialty cocktails. The eclectic decor is especially unique: Many of the accents were handmade by the owners, siblings Jane and Cathy Virga. Tandem, 236 Troutman St between Knickerbocker and Wilson Aves (718-386-2369, tandembar.net)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenEvidence of impending gentrification can be found throughout Bushwick, as shiny condos rise alongside older vinyl-sided buildings.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenPuerto Rican pride is on display throughout Bushwick, where Spanish-speakers make up a large portion of the population.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenA pit bull poses on a stoop near Maria Hernandez Park.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenThis isn’t street art: As the sun sets, shoes tossed over a power line can be seen in silhouette.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenResidents get their afternoon caffeine fix at the Wyckoff Starr, a coffeeshop opened by the owners of Northeast Kingdom in 2007. Wyckoff Starr, 30 Wyckoff Ave at Starr St, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-484-9766)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenBroken bottles atop a gate between two townhouses make for a rather creative (and effective) security system.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenDuo Bao Live Poultry (housed in the former El Pollo Mas Bueno space) is one of several remaining live-poultry purveyors, which were once commonplace in Bushwick. 39 St. Nicholas Ave at Starr St, Bushwick, Brooklyn (718-386-4646)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenIn keeping with the rustic decor at Pearl’s Social & Billy Club, libations are served in mason jars. After knocking back a few during happy hour—which offers $2 off drafts, well drinks and specialty cocktails from 2 to 8pm during the week and noon to 8pm on weekends—you may want to pop into the photo booth hidden in the back corner. Pearl’s Social & Billy Club, 40 St. Nicholas Ave at Starr St, Bushwick, Brooklyn (347-627-9985, pearlssocial.com)
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenThere’s no need for a trip to the laundromat when you can dry your clothes in the breeze.
 (Photograph: Jolie Ruben)
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Photograph: Jolie RubenThe Bodega, whose name translates to “wine cellar” (who knew?) offers patrons more than 20 vinos by the glass or bottle. Opened in March 2010 by Gina Leone and Ben Warren, the establishment also has 14 beers on tap. The impressive mural outside was painted by Brooklyn artist Rah Crawford in 2011. The Bodega, 24 St. Nicholas Ave at Troutman St, Bushwick, Brooklyn (646-924-8488, thebodegabk.com)
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Bushwick was shot with a Lomo LC-A+ ($280), available at Lomography Gallery Store (41 West 8th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves; 212-529-4353, lomography.com).
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Bushwick was shot with a SuperSampler ($55), available at Lomography Gallery Store (41 West 8th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves; 212-529-4353, lomography.com).
By James Thilman |
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The “heavy woods” from which Bushwick gets its name are difficult to imagine these days. One of the first 17th-century Dutch settlements in Brooklyn, the farming community eventually gave way to an industrial epicenter. At the end of the 1800s, Bushwick Avenue was home to prominent bankers, brewers and developers. But the factories closed and the breweries ran dry; beer companies moved away from New York, taking jobs with them. That loss of industry, along with shady real-estate practices, contributed to Bushwick’s hardscrabble reputation in the 20th century.

RECOMMENDED: See the full Bushwick, Brooklyn guide

By the 1970s, more than half of the neighborhood’s residents were receiving public assistance. During the 1977 blackout, dozens of local businesses were destroyed by rioting, looters and arson. By the 1980s, Knickerbocker Avenue had garnered a disparaging nickname, “The Well,” for its seemingly limitless drug supply. But a city program called the Bushwick Initiative, combined with a surge of residents drawn by cheaper rents, breathed new life into the area. Slowly but surely, Bushwick has begun to rebuild.

A burgeoning art scene is helping to transform the gritty industrial blocks near Jefferson Street. The annual Bushwick Open Studios festival, which recently celebrated its sixth anniversary, welcomes hundreds of participants. Meanwhile, hot spots like farm-to-table restaurant Northeast Kingdom(18 Wyckoff Ave at Troutman St; 718-386-3864, north-eastkingdom.com) and specialty-cocktail bar Tandem(236 Troutman St between Knickerbocker and Wilson Aves; 718-386-2369, tandembar.net) draw curious patrons from other parts of town. Plus, rents are lower than in nearby Williamsburg or Greenpoint: A one-bedroom can still be had for close to $1,300 per month.

Despite the influx of new residents, Bushwick isn’t just a scenester neighborhood: Residents new and old find common ground at farmers’ markets and playgrounds in Maria Hernandez Park(Irving and Knickerbocker Aves between Starr and Suydam Sts, nyc.gov/parks). In backyards near Myrtle Avenue, clean laundry flaps in the breeze. Children play on quiet side streets lined with townhouses, and residents congregate on their stoops. Crime is down, new businesses are opening, and the city is planting hundreds of new trees along Bushwick’s avenues—signs that not just gentrification, but a larger neighborhood restoration, is under way.

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