Bushwick Hipsters Unimpressed by Violent Crime

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Morgan Ave. Photo: Gryffindor/Wikipedia

The block of Bogart Street between McKibbin and Moore in Bushwick was, as always, as bustling as a student quad. Outside of Brooklyn’s Natural Food Store, groups waiting for tables at the much-lauded artisanal pizza place Roberta’s mingled with residents of the area’s musician-friendly lofts and travelers from the nearby Loft Hostel. Although this week, the conversation was a little different. “It went through his head,” a young man in a knit cap was saying Wednesday night, standing next to the bench on which someone had lovingly scrawled the words, Hipster, Go Home. “Like into his skull.” He was speaking of Kevin Brennan, a plainclothes police officer who the night before was shot by a felon he was pursuing at Bushwick Houses — the public housing project on Bushwick Avenue — and miraculously lived.

The incident, which occasioned a mayoral press conference on gun control, was briefly the talk of the neighborhood. "I heard about it on Todd P.'s Twitter," said Anjelica, a twentysomething NYU grad and newly minted Bushwick resident who was sitting down the street at Cafe Orwell, a block from where the shooting occurred. She was referring to the party promoter, who had retweeted a friend’s report of the incident (“no joke a cop just got shot on bushwick & moore #wasntme.”). Bushwick is no longer a “no man's land of abandoned buildings, empty lots, drugs and arson,” as the Times once put it, and nowhere is this more evident than in the immediate vicinity of the Morgan L stop, where taco trucks and jewelry-sellers often set up shop in order to catch the youths heading from the train to former factories now marketed as "artists lofts." 

In this bohemian idyll, it’s easy to forget that it can still be a rough part of the city. Though crime in the area has declined 20 percent since 2001, the murder rate has nearly doubled from last year — there were seventeen homicides in 2011. In the fall, a string of robberies prompted the Loft Hostel and other businesses catering to the area’s not-necessarily-struggling artists "to add in extra security and stuff,” says designer Mary Meyer, and the Bushwick Houses in particular are notorious “for muggings, killings, stickups,” one former resident of the project told the Times. Although the recent incident was a reminder of these facts, residents were unaware--as evidenced by the kid who blithely rode his bike through the police blockade on Tuesday—or generally unperturbed. Mary, a barista at Cafe Orwell, said she might try to avoid that area more at night now. "Someone like me is not going to get mixed up directly in something like that," she said, between steaming soymilk cappuccinos, "but you just have to kind of watch out for gun fire wherever." Others merely shrugged.  "I think people that actually know this neighborhood understand it is somewhat dangerous and that is part of being here,” said Meyer. “It's just part of the clash of the classes that happens." Grant, a waiter at the Life Cafe, on Flushing Avenue, agreed. “Shit happens here,” he said. "We usually just throw it up to Bushwick." By Thursday, they were over it. After all, there were other things to worry about. "I'm more worried about the gas leak in my apartment,” said Anjelica. “Or that it will make international news, and my mom will call me."