Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Bushwick. Yes. Bushwick.

As I have said before, and will no doubt say again, if you want to know what the next hot location is, just think of a place where you wouldn't be caught dead.

Years ago, and very early in my career, somebody explained the difference between Little West 12th Street and regular West 12th Street.  "Everybody wants to be on West 12th.  Nobody wants to be on Little West 12th.  That's the meatpacking district."

I passed by it once.  Huge, bloody carcasses hung from hooks along the sidewalk,  which was cracked and broken.  It looked and smelled like a meatpacking district; that is, dreadful in every sense of the word.

Well, you'll still find bloody carcasses there, but now they're on plates.  And they're in "A large central lounge area...furnished with creamy leather banquettes and textured crocodile tiles.....Theatrical lights illuminate each table, while smoky mirrors allow patrons to catch a glimpse of the surroundings..."

This is how its website describes the STK steakhouse, at Ninth Avenue and, you guessed it, Little West 12th Street.  A porterhouse steak at STK, only slightly less rare than one on a hook in the same place twenty years ago, will set you back $64 (a side of green beans is an extra $12).  

But that's just one example.  Tribeca is another.  In the late 1980s there were about two residential buildings in Tribeca.  The lofts were cheap, but you couldn't sell them.  Nobody ever got divorced; they couldn't divide the community property.

Last February, a Tribeca loft sold for more than $19,000,000.  The average price per square foot at 101 Warren Street is close to $2,500.

In that not-so-distant past, SoHo was a forlorn part of Manhattan full of huge, dusty, high-ceilinged lofts with minimal plumbing and freight elevators that only moved when you pulled hard on a rope.  You legally had to be an artist to live there.*

"Never take a customer to SoHo who isn't an artist," I was told.  "Their lawyers will never let them buy.  And if their lawyer does let them buy, tell them to get another lawyer."

Today those same lawyers are living there, along with hedge fund managers and rock stars, in those same lofts.  Only now they have maximal plumbing in three or four enormous bathrooms with steam showers, Jacuzzis and who knows what else, plus kitchens with Sub-Zero refrigerators, Bosch dishwashers, vast islands spread with Pietra Cardoza limestone and key-locked passenger elevators.  Some have doormen.  Some have dog spas.

Farther uptown, Madison Square Park was once a combination dog run and drug market.  In the late evening, you could also find ladies of a certain ancient profession there.

Now it's home to Danny Meyer's Shake Shack, periodically changed high art, Wednesday night concerts with musicians you've actually heard of, and five ridiculously expensive condo buildings, in one of which a president's daughter lived for a while. 

The ladies of the evening have been replaced by dozens of nannies pushing their charges in Bugaboo strollers every morning.

Brooklyn might as well have been in Canada.  People came from there, but nobody ever went.

Which brings me, at last, to Bushwick.  I can remember hearing after the blackout of July, 1977, when riots occurred, that Bushwick had burned, and there pretty much was no more Bushwick.

Well, turns out there is, after all.  In this month's VOGUE (yes, VOGUE!) in an article about Brooklyn restaurants in general, Jeffrey Steingarten, VOGUE's restaurant critic, writes: "My other nomination for sheer gastronomic indulgence is Blanca, the most recent addition to...BUSHWICK [capitals mine]."

Steingarten says, of a strip of wagyu (who knew they had wagyu in Brooklyn, much less in Bushwick?) that, "It was the most tender, rich, juicy, flavorful mouthful of animal flesh I've ever eaten." 

He rhapsodizes over Blanca for five long paragraphs, about king crab legs ("sweetly perfect"), handmade pastas ("chewy and farinaceous") and a ragu of squab offal ("pungent, gamy").

VOGUE has been to Bushwick.  And loved it.

What's next?  Queens?  The South Bronx?

There was once a cartoon in The New Yorker which pictured a large person wearing a sweatshirt that said DKNJ.  The caption was, "Donna Karan's worst nightmare."  Could the next hot, edgy, hipster-populated place possibly be New freaking Jersey?

Well, anyway.  What are some fun facts about Bushwick besides the availability of a ragu of squab offal that's pungent and gamy? 

Bushwick is roughly rectangular in shape, slightly north of the geographical middle of Brooklyn, surrounded by Williamsburg, Ridgewood, Brownsville, East New York and Bedford-Stuyvesant.

At present, there are eight co-ops, seven condos, 15 single-family houses and 18 multi-family houses for sale in Bushwick, as listed in Streeteasy, most at prices that would barely buy a closet in today's Tribeca.  All of the co-ops are priced at less than $200,000.  Condos range from $279,000 to $799,000.  Houses, $258,000 to $2,100,000.

In July of 2011, Jake Mooney wrote in the New York Times that, "City statistics show major crimes in the precinct are down 75% since 1990 and about 20 percent since 2001. 

"Robberies in 2010 were down 16.5 percent from 2001, to 460 from 661, and felony assaults were down 30 percent in that period.  Burglaries dropped 8.2 percent in the decade to 479 from 522, but murders have held relatively steady since the late 1990s; there were 13 in 2010.

It will be very interesting to see what Bushwick is like just five years from now.  Williamsburg, formerly one of those places where you wouldn't be caught dead, is now so chic and trendy it hurts. 

If it can happen to Williamsburg, it can happen to Bushwick.

*Legally you still have to be an artist to live in Soho, but for many years, nobody paid much attention to that law.  Now it's becoming an issue.  See http://withconfidence.blogspot.com/2011/06/should-soho-and-nohos-artist.html

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