Last night members of the Bushwick arts community—its early adapters and its relative newcomers, its gallerists, artists and artist-gallerists, its landlords and its leaders, its bloggers and its bar proprietors—filled The Bogart Salon, one of many new art spaces to move into 56 Bogart Street in the last year, a conspicuous concentration and densification of the neighborhood’s burgeoning gallery scene that, in many ways, was the impetus for the evening’s panel, Confronting Bushwick. Moderated by Hrag Vartanian, founder and editor-in-chief of art blogazine Hyperallergic, the panel featured Deborah Brown, artist and owner of Storefront Bushwick, Thomas Burr Dodd, artist and owner of Brooklyn Fireproof, Carolina A. Miranda, art critic and arts journalist for WNYC and Artnews, and Marco Antonini, director of Nurture Art. Nobody knew exactly what to expect from the evening’s discussion, but (almost) everyone seemed very pleased with the way things went.
Bogart Salon director Peter P. Hopkins, while introducing the panelists, made sure to characterize each as both an observer/critic of the scene and a resident or active participant in it, hinting at one of the qualities that later speakers would characterize as the community’s distinctive interdisciplinarity, its entrepreneurial self-sufficiency and its alternative economy. “We understand we’re in this moment when Bushwick is emerging,” Hopkins said, “and what does this mean?”
Miranda, who recently filed a soon-to-be-published article on the Bushwick scene, grappled with this question first, citing a conversation with longtime Williamsburg resident and recent Bushwick transplant Fred Tomaselli, who told her that he missed the more underground, word-of-mouth nature of that earlier neighborhood’s heyday. “It’s a very professionalized gallery scene,” she said. “This isn’t the art world, this is the art industry… this is where the entry-level workers of the art industry live.”
Though she avoided using “the G word,” much of the ensuing conversation concerned the ways in which the gentrification of Bushwick will or will not proceed differently from the way it has in other areas. “We’ve seen a lot things happen in Williamsburg that are going to happen here,” said Antonini, whose non-profit gallery left Williamsburg last year to move into the basement of the building where last night’s panel took place. This seemingly sudden shift, the sense that Bushwick has reached critical mass in the past 18 months or so, seemed to be nearly universally shared. “This stuff has been going on under the surface for so long,” said Brown, “but we’re only now seeing the outwards manifestations of that.”
Brown, an artist, owner of a building and a gallery in the neighborhood, and a board member at Nurture Art, is also on the local Community Board (CB4), a position that made her uniquely qualified to speak on the scene’s relationship to city government, but also to the rest of the neighborhood’s 100,000+, predominantly Latino residents. “The Community Board never talked about this community until a few months ago,” she said. “Now it’s all anxiety and fear.”
From her time on CB4, Brown characterized the neighborhood’s residents as fundamentally split into three groups: the longtime Latino residents, the newly (sometimes illegally) immigrated from Central and South America, and the art community. “I think we need to be sensitive to what’s here,” offered Dodd, “and give something to the community.” But ideas for how to foster exchange between these groups living side by side proved scarce. “The arts community doesn’t create blue-collar jobs,” said Miranda. “This is not a shipyard, this is not a brewery, this is not a factory.” From the audience, artist William Powhida volunteered: “I moved out here in 2008 and I still feel like an occupier, in the bad way.”
As the discussion opened up to include the audience things tended more towards anecdotes and claims of old-timer credibility, but there was a palpable sense of widely-shared concern for the ongoing vitality and sustainability of this scene that so long seemed to be building momentum, and now has shifted into overdrive. “This seemed like a watershed moment to me,” said Paddy Johnson of the concentration of galleries at 56 Bogart—a subject she addressed in a well-circulated blog post.
How, then, to preserve this community in the midst of such rapid and widespread change? “If you want a cautionary tale,” Powhida said, “Pierogi (in Williamsburg) is a place that has stayed true; it wasn’t washed away in the tide of money.” Jason Andrew, who runs the arts organization and gallery Norte Maar in his apartment, concurred with this sentiment about staying true to a scene’s origins. He warned: “The one thing that kills Bushwick is organization. That’s what killed Williamsburg, the weekly gallery nights. What keeps Bushwick interesting is the spontaneity.”
Irritatingly, but appropriately, the night’s final comment came from an artist and gentrification fatalist in the audience, who was convinced he’d awakened everyone to some harsh, heretofore uncontemplated and incontrovertible truth: “There’s no stopping it.” Though many rolled their eyes at this, in some way it seemed to galvanize the community gathered there last night to the stakes of this confrontation and the expectations of those watching it unfold from the outside.
Speaking to me after the panel, Ted Hovivian, the landlord at 56 Bogart who has encouraged so many galleries to relocate there, illuminated what was for me a crucial blind spot in the evening’s discussion, the question of zoning—which is so significant in the narrative of Williamsburg’s development. “Until the zoning laws change,” he said, “the neighborhood won’t change that much. And the city is very reluctant to change the zoning; they want to keep this area industrial.” Though this suggests some security for the neighborhood’s character, it may do little to slow the monetization of its art community, most clearly epitomized by the imminent opening of Chelsea gallery Luhring Augustine’s outpost two blocks away—what Brown called “the big gorilla.”
That strange development, which nobody last night seemed able to explain, inverts the movement many saw as the Williamsburg scene’s death blow, when galleries began moving to Chelsea. Gallerist (and L Mag contributor) Paul D’Agostino, never without an apt quotation, offered one to all of us trying to anticipate how closely or not Bushwick’s development will mimic that of previous art communities like Williamsburg or Soho: “I’ve heard it said that ‘history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes,’ and I think that’s relevant here.”
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I appreciate that this conversation is happening, but I want to point out an interesting fact. Here, note that it is impossible for adults in “the scene” [whatever that means] to discuss gentrification–indeed, it is even largely omitted from this article, and when it is referred to it is qualified as “the dreaded G.” Now, we’re talking about adults here–college-educated, middle to upper middle class.
I went to a meeting at JHS 50 on South 3rd concerning the invasion of a charter school there. As I walked into the auditorium, I passed three conversations about GENTRIFICATION. The words “gentrification” and “displacement” were openly used. I turned to look: children. Hispanic. Poor. As the meeting progressed there were further conversations I could hear where the word ‘gentrification’ lit into my ear–I turned again: children. Hispanic. There were shouts from the crowd: “Stop Gentrification.” “Stop displacement.” People on the mic spoke about GENTRIFICATION and DISPLACEMENT. Who? Children. Young adults.
Ours is a community often maligned as “less than intellectual”–here you have a “forum” to discuss what is obviously GENTRIFICATION, but ADULTS, MIDDLE TO UPPER MIDDLE CLASS, LANDLORDS AND COLLEGE-EDUCATED, are paralyzed. The word seems to almost induce psychotic fits. It can’t be spoken–it has a magical efficacy to paralyze ADULTS, MIDDLE TO UPPER MIDDLE CLASS, LANDLORDS AND THE COLLEGE-EDUCATED.
Let’s get this straight: these people will always be seen as AGENTS OF GENTRIFICATION as long as they pepper their observations with “let’s play some ode to ‘community’ here.” The only way to maneuver out of it is to be FORTHRIGHT: openly acknowledge that it is GENTRIFICATION that “happened” to Williamsburg, and it is GENTRIFICATION that is “happening” in Bushwick. Then, from that forthrightness will come the appropriate and stated and public OPPOSITION TO GENTRIFICATION.
This isn’t 20 years ago when the persons who knew what the word “gentrification” was and meant were esotericists of academia. CHILDREN, YOUNG ADULTS, HISPANIC, BLACK, WHITE AND POOR USE THE WORD OPENLY AND ARE LEADING THE WAY.
It reflects poorly on all of us that ADULTS, COLLEGE-EDUCATED, MIDDLE TO UPPER MIDDLE CLASS AND OVERWHELMINGLY WHITE cannot even speak the word for fear of spontaneous combustion.
Here is a valuable account of artists being forthright about GENTRIFICATION:
This account will dispel many romances about the relationship between artists and gentrification, namely the myth that “artists” inhabit some superordinate status in real estate development in Williamsburg [and Bushwick]. In this account, the forthrightness of the artists allow us to finally see that artists are also given their quarters to oppose gentrification, as subordinate, not superordinate, to LANDLORDS AND REAL ESTATE INTERESTS. Let me quote this valuable observation in the end:
“To Ron Rocco, who spent almost 20 years [at an ‘abandoned building’ near JHS 71 in the Southside], this building tells a story “about real estate and the arts in New York…. Its a dirty story and art is supposed to be pristine… but the fact of the matter is that it has been dovetailed and undermined by the real estate presence in this town, because its the first wedge that brings in gentrification. The artists themselves don’t have anything to gain from it – they just become pawns in the game.”
@dennissinned: I did not intend to give the impression that the topics of gentrification and displacement were deliberately avoided during last night’s panel. In fact, I stated the opposite: “much of the ensuing conversation concerned the ways in which the gentrification of Bushwick will or will not proceed differently from the way it has in other areas.”
Benjamin, you forgot to add the preceding clause to that very sentence you quoted: “Though she avoided using the dread ‘G’ word,” and then we can proceed to your quote.
People talking about “changes” in the area with a wink to gentrification is not a forthright discussion on gentrification. If you want to have a forthright conversation on gentrification, don’t repeatedly qualify it and avoid using it but instead say, “The talk was very much like gentrification, but it wasn’t gentrification talk.”
My advice to the panelists and participants: have your discussion at El Puente or in the Southside and have the word GENTRIFICATION front and center, and not all this pretense and coyness, right on the publication material, and make it the focus of the discussion. Make the first talk, “What is Gentrification?” But all this other seeming nonsense is just that–seeming and nonsense.
Besides–any conversation on gentrification is inauthentic if it lacks the perspective and participation of the people and area being gentrified. This was no “conversation” about GENTRIFICATION. This was a group therapy session for catharsis.
I was involved in the whole of the artist settlement in Williamsburg in the 1980s and 90s. And today I rent a studio at Bushwick Fire Proof. It has been an amazing trip, to see this development from the early 80s on the waterfront, right up to the Bushwick era. The most notable change in the art community to have taken place in this 30-year period, is that today there are a lot more arts-related and artisan businesses. There is more design, fashion, and of course a whole lot more media. At the same time, there is also just as much painting and sculpture being made as ever, and some very interesting work at that.
Carolina A. Miranda has it right when she says, “This isn’t the art world, this is the art industry… this is where the entry-level workers of the art industry live.” If you had talked about the “art industry” in Williamsburg in the 80s or early 90s, people would have thought you were referring to some Frankfurt School philosopher ruminating about commodification, the “culture industry” and so on. Today in Bushwick the notion of the “arts industry” has a more immediate and concrete implication. We can see it every time a film shoot occurs on Ingraham Street, or when a music production house opens, or in the Bauhaus-like complex of the 3rd Ward.
Deborah Brown tells us, “The Community Board never talked about this community until a few months ago.” Which is interesting, since the New York State Legislature was talking about this community three years ago, when they extended the “Loft Law” to Bushwick. Apparently our constituency comprises not only an “industry”, it also enjoys political support as a constituency and an industry.
Fred Tomaselli, whom I’ve known for decades and whose work I first saw at Minor Injury Gallery in Greenpoint in about 1985 or so, knows well that I know what he means about the “underground, word-of-mouth nature” of the old scene. But this is a perennial condition in the arts. Every art scene of the past hundred years has been preceded by a supposedly more “underground” scene that came before. 25 years ago in Greenpoint we were shadowed by the old downtown avant-garde, which in turn was haunted by the old European avant-garde, and so on.
But once you get into it, once you find your passion, connect with your contemporaries, and throw yourself into the thrill of being a young artist, the ghosts blow away, and the next thing you know you are pretty much as underground as the guy who came before you. In all my years in Brooklyn, I have never ceased to be surprised and amazed by the new art that I see.
Ted Hovivian, the landlord at 56 Bogart who has encouraged many galleries to relocate here, rightly points out of course that zoning is everything. The City has already rezoned large tracts of the waterfront to residential, and no, the City does not want to rezone Bushwick. The commitment to an “industrial valley” in East Williamsburg goes back to 1981 with the creation of “IBZs” (Industrial Business Zones) in this area.
But what kind of an industrial valley will this be? I expect the art, design, film, and media industries of North Brooklyn to evolve and eventually to fill out the space formerly occupied by manufacturing. This might be augmented by the addition of technology firms. And some trees as well I hope.
When I moved to Williamsburg in 1983, the manufacturing sector was already only a fraction of its former glory. To be sure, there was more industry then than now. But industrial vacancy was very high, and many of the landlords were carried through the difficult period of the 80s by renting lofts to artists. Those artists voted for people like Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who rewarded them with the Loft Law. That, my friends, is called a constituency. And may there be more rewards to come.
A forum like this is very inspiring, and I thank the Bogart Salon for putting it on, and look forward to more discussion like this among the artists of Bushwick.
@dennissinned I think you’re simplifying the conversation. The term gentrification ends up becoming a shorthand for terms that end up being stereotypes and transformed into an US vs THEM. It’s been robbed of most meaning over the decades. Perhaps you think it’s useful but for many people, including myself, it isn’t and doesn’t really get to the root of any problem. The world has changed since the 1970s when the term entered the mainstream and I think we need to try to discuss it in new ways. I think the discussion was fruitful and was about sharing information, particularly at such an early stage of any series. Perhaps you should attend a future discussion.
@Hrag. Heh! Maybe in this case “gentrification” is shorthand for “resentment”.
@Hrag, is it possible we are ignorant of each other’s definition of “gentrification”? I will go further than you–the word “gentrification” did NOT enter the mainstream of American dialogue. It was already 30 years old in academia when its FIRST usage OUTSIDE of academia, which is not the same as “entering the mainstream”, was by a Hispanic advocacy group in 1971 called Accion Latino who leafleted against the gentrification of “brownstone Brooklyn”–Sulemain Osman’s The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn is most instructive in this regard. But all this is still coy, we haven’t even gotten to what I actually mean by “gentrification”–so you have no idea what my “definition” actually hues to. As to whether or not your meeting was meant to be a “meet and greet for further consideration”–you yourself have validated how “gentrification”, whether it came from the 1970s or from the 1940s when it was first coined by a London sociologist, remains academic.
Excuse me, that second sentence should have read, “I will go further than you–the word “gentrification” did NOT enter the mainstream of American dialogue *in the 1970s”.
Now, the idea that somehow we must “get another definition” of gentrification is misleading–avoiding its use altogether because of the emotional valence of its application is not a wish to ‘broaden discussion.’ Especially when it is ACTUALLY NOW that the term is entering mainstream consciousness, and NOT for the past 30 years as you have mistakenly characterized it–unless, of course, you assume that “mainstream consciousness” is elite academia where the word actually existed for the past 70 years [not 40 years as in your estimate] except when it was extricated from those remote sections by, ironically enough, Hispanic advocacy which indeed labored to “expand mainstream consciousness” [in the 1970s by Hispanic advocacy in Brownstone Brooklyn, and in the 1990s by Hispanic provocation in Southside Williamsburg–outside of these two venues, the word has had a marginal existence in “mainstream consciousness”].
But to further this “conversation” on “gentrification-avoided-like-the-plague-and-not-because-it-is-too-mainstream-and-not-hip-enough-for-us-though-we-don’t-know-what-it-actually-means”, I will copy-paste what is actually meant by “gentrification” and weigh it against what you hint and wink and think is gentrification, from the Gothamist comments section, “Williamsburg’s Condo the Edge Opens Its First Rock’n’Roll Place”:
“Let’s put aside the word “change” for the second because “change” is universal and that makes it useless to think any further about things when we say “they change.” All things “change”–this is axiomatic. What TYPE of change is gentrification?–this is what is important. Gentrification is preeminently displacement–“gentrification” is NOT what it is most popularly coupled with, “development.” “Development” is an entirely discrete other phenomenon, both historically and theoretically. Genuine development can transpire without displacement–opposing gentrification does not mean opposing new people in their neighborhood, or a new building, or a new business, but all these things can be, as they are in Williamsburg, incidental to gentrification so it is impossible to discuss gentrification without first discussing the current state of development in places we know to be “gentrifying.”
When we say “displacement” in Williamsburg we mean specifically the Puerto Rican and Hispanic community of Williamsburg but we don’t mean it generally. Generally speaking, gentrification displaces the poor with the middle class. But the specific circumstances of the gentrification of Williamsburg center around the unique history of her Puerto Ricans and Dominicans. This doesn’t mean that the Poles in Greenpoint haven’t also experienced displacement, but it is the Puerto Rican and Hispanic groups who are consistently, implicitly and explicitly referred to when the neighborhood’s past is dredged up to justify the gentrification, i.e. “Williamsburg demonology.” This is how we know the gentrification of Williamsburg is not about “development” because it makes no reference to any “achievement” or “action” or “cause” or “philosophy” or “school” or “thinking” or “mode” or “artwork”–more than anything Williamsburg is held up as an “improvement on the before.”
Here is a link to an L Magazine article by Henry Stewart about the CPC/R New Domino development that will soon be your neighbor to the southwest on Kent Avenue:
This is an excellent and brief introduction to some current players in the gentrification of Williamsburg. Note Stewart’s summary of my interview with him about how gentrification proceeds in Williamsburg:
“Williamsburg has always had white people, but the post-white-flight whites have tended to have more college education than their predecessors. And because they’re young, and have been in college not so long ago, Williamsburg has become the “superimposition of a college campus on an urban locale.” A college town without a college…
In the aughts, Williamsburg saw a dramatic rezoning and a rush of large-scale development, but ended up with little to show for it besides a shuttered firehouse. When thinking about Williamsburg, Farr says, we need to stop thinking about the stores, about the strips of pan-Asian restaurants that prove the area’s hipness. We need to stop thinking about what’s being consumed, and start thinking about what’s being created.”The thing about Domino Sugar,” he says, “is not what it builds but what it will replace. Or displace.” When people talk about the gentrification of Williamsburg, they don’t talk about what it has created, but only about the “bad things” it has replaced. For the gentrifiers, the former landscape needs to be destroyed, or at least gussied up beyond recognition
Now, that should only be a “start” to what WE THE COMMUNITY IN WILLIAMSBURG understand as “gentrification.” Is that your understanding? If not, then having a discussion with any aim sounding remotely like looking for an alternative to the word “gentrification” will only be seen by people in this community as pretentious at best and escapist at worst. If you want me to be a part of any future discussion, I respectfully decline and ask instead that you seek out the leaders of my community, in El Puente on South 4th Street, Los Sures HDFC on South 4th Street, Esteban Duran on Community Board 1, or any of the many many heads of the churches in the area. For too long they have been excluded from a dialogue that involves their displacement, and they should be invited to any dialogue on the community if all the groups in the community involved wish to heal.
And Councilwoman Diana Reyna is our elected official–she has recently spoken eloquently and with knowledge at both JHS 50 and PS 19 about the displacement of the Puerto Rican and Dominican quarters of Williamsburg. Any future discussion you have on the changing dynamics of Williamsburg-Bushwick-Ridgewood will be greatly enhanced if you include her:
Her contact info is:
District Office Address
217 Havemeyer Street, 2nd FL.
Brooklyn, NY 11211
District Office Phone
District Office Fax
Legislative Office Address
New York, NY 10007
Legislative Office Phone
Legislative Office Fax
@dennissinned I’ve very well aware of the definition of gentrification and I’m not sure why you think you’re the only one who knows the meaning of the term and wants to drown out other opinion.
Do your ideas of the one way evils of gentrification include the fact that LGBT populations are more public and thriving in neighborhoods that are gentrified or is that population not part of your equation?
And if I resent anything here, it is the insinuation that I am “simplifying” anything–hurling “simplification” or “oversimplification” at someone’s argument or position is a tired tired bromide whose prescription has expired for decades. I should know–I have been brawling in public about “gentrification” for the past 20 years. There is nothing simplistic about “gentrification” or how we perceive and know it. Whereas the Hispanic population in Williamsburg and Bushwick is unmatched and unprecedented in its endeavors to bring the term and phenomenon to light and discussion, it remains mired in academic snark.
@Hraq–what are we discussing here, then? Are you suggesting that the LGBT community should juxtapose itself against the Hispanic population because it does well in gentrification? That is a slippery slope, my friend. Especially when advocacy for the LGBT community is powerful in the mission of groups like El Puente–who also mitigate against gentrification.
Now, as before when you hurled the old “simplification” bromide, you’re not responding to any of the points I’m raising–this time, it’s “oh, you think you know everything you meanie Dennis, well I know things too!” and saying “I’m flooding the comments section” while you yourself are cloying at “discussion” is further validating the notion that there is no intention to discuss anything here but to validate egos. Which is it? Do we wish to continue on this nonsense? What shall I be guilty of next? UNDER-simplification? Saturation? Vehementification?
Or, would you rather go to the phone and contact one of the community leaders and invite them to your next discussion?
Also, if you didn’t know that the word “gentrification” did not, as you earlier claimed, “enter the mainstream consciousness” 30 years ago but was instead introduced to the lexicon of housing advocacy by Accion Latino, then you don’t know what the word “gentrification” means but you certainly process it.
@dennissinned I’m using the point as a rhetorical device to point out that everyone should feel comfortable to discuss the issue from their perspectives.
I should also point out that the discussion was about the art community and it was about sharing information.
You can resent as much as you want but you are discussing a two-hour discussion that you have read about through one summary. I do think you should be conscious of there being more nuance to what you may be perceiving.
Also, I have not idea what you’re talking about when you write, “saying ‘I’m flooding the comments section'”
If we’re all afraid to use a pass
In terms of “rhetoric,” you have now made 3 posts, and written more than 425 words, all of them only alluding to something that is more complex and nuanced than I can possibly understand–time and space better served actually furthering the summary here on L Magazine so as to prove my “simplification” and “lack of nuance.” Meanwhile, you are being quite loquacious rather than using the opportunity to further summarize or extend the dialogue.
And, in those 3 posts, you have moved from one tired bromide to the next. Rather than actual discussion, exchanging information [as you claim this meeting is about] or exchanging views, you have moved from my simplicity, my lack of nuance, to my “resentment.”
To my reference about you claiming I am “flooding this discussion,” this is more escapist nonsense–it reminds one that loquacity is not, in of itself, substance. Did you not write this in your comment at 7:48pm right here?:
“I’ve very well aware of the definition of gentrification and I’m not sure why you think you’re the only one who knows the meaning of the term and wants to drown out other opinion.”
Let me take a step back for a second: you indeed did offer one “point” to make some legitimate response: that the LGBT community, seemingly successful in previous and concomitant modes of gentrification, should possibly juxtapose itself against the Hispanic community that is displaced in gentrification. We reject that offhand because it is divisive, AND because its logic is corrupt: to suggest such a thing is similar to saying that liquor store owners, because they do fantastic business on reservations, should mitigate against anti-colonialism. That is absurd on its face.
As to when the term “gentrification” entered the mainstream lexicon: that is also a distortion. It’s rare and vague referencing [very much like what you and your summary and your meeting are doing] is not what is meant by “mainstream lexicon.” I’m not sure what you think “mainstream” is, but it sounds like quite the narrow confine.
Now, whatever finalized form this “summary” shall take, my points about the avoidance of the term “gentrification” to describe a situation that is in fact GENTRIFICATION to pander and flatter stand. It’s unfortunate, if true, if elected officials declined invitation to speak. It may have been due to the venue–maybe if you transport that to a community space you will have greater fortune?
And one thing before I rest for the moment: I reject your reference to “art community.” That is a radical distortion and an undue valorization–anyone who sits down to discuss displacement and gentrification while being agents of gentrification [though not necessarily agents FOR gentrification] is no artist. Anyone who does so is a prostitute for Real Estate interests.
It is high time we make distinction between genuine bohemians and illegitimate philistines in this discussion.
Excuse me, let me rewrite the point about “mainstream lexicon” in that second paragraph in the previous post, since I recognize my language there is murky and i don’t wish to be accused once again of “lacking nuance” lest I become “resentful.”
“As to when the term “gentrification” entered the mainstream lexicon: that is also a distortion. It’s rare and vague referencing in venues like the NY Times thirty years ago [very much like what you and your summary and your meeting are doing] is not what is meant by “mainstream lexicon.” I’m not sure what you think “mainstream” is, but it sounds like quite the narrow confine.
To the end about “mainstream lexicon,” I direct L Magazine’s readers to consider the comments section in the NY Times article, “Perpendicular to Brunch” [Christian Wright, June 2011 http://community.nytimes.com/comments/www.… ]
In that comments section I offered the beginnings of a bibliography as to when “gentrification” supposedly “entered” the “mainstream lexicon” and I urge readers to go back, read those articles, consider that it preceded the Internet and thus was not easily accessible to the “mainstream” and was published in what is considered to be an elitist venue:
October 16, 1983: Lee Daniels:
Dennis is trying very hard here to convince the artists that they are as vulnerable to gentrification as the Latino population. Hence it is important that we understand, for example, that we “do not” have a “superordinate status” with regard to real estate. And so on. It’s another way of saying, “Don’t think you’re so special, you’re in the same boat as us Latinos.” But of course we’re not in the same boat, and if we were there would be no need to push the point.
Latinos are being displaced by gentrification, artists are being integrated into it, and their numbers have been increasing steadily for 30 years. Granted, we get pushed to the suburbs of the Northside to make room for the lawyers and brokers. But even then this is only in the residential sector. Non-living artist studios are plentiful all over the Williamsburg and Greenpoint waterfront. Gentrification accommodates art. It even models itself after the artistic lifestyle, and incorporates the artisan economy as part of its own.
The specter of a “greater Williamsburg” that has been, let’s face it, largely defined by artists, is the source of resentment here. That is, the unspeakable possibility that we may have succeeded where others failed. And it is interesting and not a little absurd how the resentment on that account expresses itself as a strenuous attempt to convince artists that we are not instrumental in our own success. Of course we are, and the purpose of forums such as this one at the Bogart Salon is at least partly to come to terms with that success.
WOOF, I guess I came off pessimistic instead of realistic. My apologies to the group.
” Though many rolled their eyes at this, in some way it seemed to galvanize the community gathered there last night to the stakes of this confrontation and the expectations of those watching it unfold from the outside.”
*This is in fact what I wanted, which was to spark confrontation about the issues directly related to “the stakes”. I realize this is the first of many panel discussions that might address the issues in an insightful way.
What do people think the stakes are?
The stakes? For artists in Bushwick? If I told you that you would not let me into the next panel discussion. And I definitely want to make the next panel discussion. Really sorry I missed this one. I didn’t even have to go online to hear about it.
Thank you, Julian. I think a full understanding of these “stakes” as you describe can be had by contacting the following parties [they are all very busy but have been discussing this issue for decades and will continue to do so]:
D-34 Councilwoman Diana Reyna
Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez
El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice
There are also many other individuals who are thoroughly familiar with the “stakes” and are germane to the discussion and I will continue to add them as the discussion proceeds.
Simultaneously, if you’re interested in source material, may I suggest The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn by Suleiman Osman and A Plague On Your Houses by the Wallaces? The former’s objective is self-evident, but the latter is on New York City’s Housing Commissioner Roger Starr’s actualization of “benign neglect” in places like the South Bronx [also implemented in Southside Williamsburg, but lacking the same level of exploration] in the 1970s that led to what is known as massive “burn-outs.” Excellent introduction into the background dynamics of places like Williamsburg.
And Julian, do yourself a favor, unlike other people here who pretend to be important, don’t ever find yourself NOT INVITED TO THE NEXT PANEL DISCUSSION BECAUSE PEOPLE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU THINK, even though you rent an actual space in Brooklyn Fire Proof and you don’t seem to get the hint that even the proprietors from BFP didn’t want you there.
And why is it, I wonder, that if Dennis thinks the artists are not instrumental in gentrification, that he spends all his time yelling at us about gentrification? Why does he crave our attention so much, if in his view we are not important? And why, whenever I hit these nerves with him, does he react with slander? He craves a certain kind of argument, avoids the ones I give him, feeds on those who are a little susceptible to liberal guilt. Welcome to my street, Dennis.
Definition of philistine:
1) A person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.
2) The etymology of the word into English is from Old French Philistin, from Late Latin Philistinus found in the writings of Josephus, from Late Greek Philistinoi (Phylistiim in the Septuagint) found in the writings by Philo, from Hebrew Pli
Invader? I’m sitting in my office in Bushwick writing about a meeting that took place around the corner. Off you go now, get some game.
Anyone who is interested in ART and funding community organizations, please consider donating or otherwise aiding El Puente at
Donations can be made through:
Also, when I spent my time talking about how special I am, what a magnificent Atlas-shrugging Galt-gulched artist I am, my landlord ACTUALLY INVITES ME TO MEETINGS about art. I don’t kiss his ass, or name-drop him constantly, or harass him in the halls, or try to lure adolescent girls into my studio, AHEM, so that when he goes to a meeting on things I pretend to care about he doesn’t invite me or think about me or even want me there.
I’m supposed to donate money to Luis Garden Acosta, who still calls us “Newcomers” after 30 years. Who do I make out the check to, the “Outgoers?”
If I was such a mover and shaker in Bushwick art and community, those artists and community would have remembered to invite me.
Oh, and Luis Garden Acosta doesn’t refer to artists as “newcomers.” He refers to the 1% who are currently in Williamsburg right now as “newcomers.” Luis Garden Acosta was employing artists in the Southside of Williamsburg before certain philistines had even moved in–unlike, say, the artists of Bushwick, who do not employ any locals period. El Puente is a successful award-winning ARTS institution, an A rated high school whose pedagogy and epistemology is model for schools nationwide. It has employed more bohemians than any bohemian organization–PERIOD.
Yes, I got the invitation. And I have no doubt the Latino community also got it.
Of course they employ local people, all the time. Game, Dennis, game.
Taken from the El Puente website:
“This holiday season, El Puente looks back at nearly 30 years of celebrating a unique American success story. Because of the conscientious, spirited support of so many like you, our young people continue to defeat their destined “drop-out” status to assume one of Ivy League graduates, Broadway “Tony” award winners, doctors, lawyers, actors, police officers, educators, artists, job creators, and more.
Each year, El Puente helps over 2,000 members engage in a holistic development, while ever mindful of our obligation to bridge the gap between the American ideal and the day-to-day reality of so many. Through four Community Leadership Centers, an award winning “A+” rated New York City public high school (the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice), our “Espiritu Tierra” Community Garden and the Community Health and Environment Institute; El Puente is proving that change is possible. The Southside of Williamsburg, a once forgotten community, has risen to become a model of smart, comprehensive community development and a source of hope for neighborhoods across America.”
@Dennis – Thank you? Although I’m not unfamiliar with the subject matter of those texts, I haven’t read these in particular. I will contact the parties you suggested although I can not imagine why they would be at all concerned with the many artists who do not have families living in Bushwick and who probably do not vote or even have NY state residency.
I’ll have more questions for you and will have something to add as soon as I’ve heard their concerns though I will guess it has everything to do with families and their children’s education, votes, and nothing to do with the posterity of the arts.
@Ethan, please share your thoughts as it sounds important
Son, I’m not arguing with El Puente. I’m arguing with your line of crap.
Oh, and I forgot to mention, Luis Garden Acosta doesn’t have a friend named Konstantin or Jan from Germany with an adolescent daughter who doesn’t speak English he tried to lure into his studio for some good old predation on top of some bad sketches he hopes everyone will someday think is “real art.”
@Julian–El Puente is an ARTS organization in the community. Their founder, Frances Lucerna, founded the first Arts Council in Williamsburg, and El Puente is the largest employer of artists in the area. They are the longest running arts institution in the area–going on 30 years now. On the contrary, El Puente’s mission is indeed about the posterity of the arts.
Julian, I’m happy to share my thoughts. They are summarized in a comment on this thread. I am passionate about the creative economy. I believe the artists of North Brooklyn can create an art and artisan economy the likes of which the world has never seen. I am also very interested in the possibilities of creating good, walk-to-work, entry-level jobs for local youth. The Latino youth of this area have a right to participate in the new economy here. I would like to see them employed in wood shops, metal shops, production houses, places where they can learn skills and launch careers.
@Dennis, Slow down – there was no mention of El Puente in your last comment to me. I was skimming the reading material you assigned to me until I just now posted that last comment to you. I missed your whole chat with Ethan about El Puente. Try to stay cool. Now.. That’s very interesting about El Puente. I always thought the largest employer of artists was dominos.
Anyone who is interested in ART and funding community organizations, please consider donating or otherwise aiding El Puente at
Donations can be made through:
They can be reached at 718-387-0404
El Puente has succeeded and endured LONGER than all the OUTGOING businesses of gentrification in Williamsburg, such as the L Cafe, Oznot’s Dish, Green Room, Epoche, MINOR INJURY–El Puente has outlasted every single one.
@Julian–dominos? I don’t understand.
Welcome NURTUREart to Bushwick!
“Vita brevis, Ars longa!”
WTF?! I think this thread has wandered into strange places that require a lot of links to research, pulled quotes, and donation pages that have nothing to do with the article I just read.
I am part of the artist gentrification of Ridgewood, Queens (bordering Bushwick) which I’m sure Dennis will be able to comment on in two to five years when “Ridgewood Confronts Itself in Panel on Art Scene’s Future” is an article on this site.
No, I won’t be commenting on it. You will.
I’ll probably be moderating it.
Do a good job. In five years the discussion will be another creature, altogether–it won’t be like here, where “artists” are terrified to confront gentrification. In 5 years, I’m guessing the whole of the art world will be embroiled, for and against, not just in their discussions but insofar their discussions are part of their creations.
Terrified to confront gentrification? There are those of us who openly promote it, and those who are terrified to confront us.
It’s a way of broadening the conversation. Perhaps we should invite some pro-gentrification voices to the next panel discussion?
Maybe we need to open more of a dialogue with the real estate developers themselves. They seem to be the one party that is always absent or estranged from the conversation about gentrification. And we assume that this is because they are callous and indifferent to the community. And maybe they are. But should we not at least invite them to a meeting and find out?
Look at the ridiculous over-building that took place in “Colonial” Williamsburg over by the river. Had those developers had more of a dialogue with the community, and been educated more about the community, they might have built better and smarter. Their investments would have been more sound, and the community would have been the better for it as well. Shouldn’t artists who have been doing creative work in a community for five years or more, be able to provide creative ideas to developers? Something other than the cookie-cutter plans they always come in with?
Mr. Liquori–I appreciate your continued responses, and your growing thoughtfulness. Let me identify myself: I am a writer and an artist, even though decades ago I published an infamous periodical with some juvenilia purporting hostility to “artists.” I was born and raised in a community of artists: the very first Arts Council in Williamsburg was founded not by “transplants,” but by “locals,” Frances Lucerna’s WACCY [Williamsburg Arts and Culture Council for Youth in 1980]. The oldest, longest running and most successful institution of art in Williamsburg is also a “local” creation, El Puente School for Peace and Justice [on South 4th]. El Puente and similar community organizations in the Southside are likely and ironically the trigger for gentrification since they were the first and remain the greatest employer of transplanted “artists” in Williamsburg–not, as many have claimed, due to exorbitant rent in the Lower East Side [this myth denies the influence of the gentrification of brownstone Brooklyn, which preceded Williamsburg by at least 3 decades] or due to false social darwinist and Ayn Randian pomposities by beneficiaries of government and private aid who fancy themselves members of an outlandish Galt’s Gulch of Williamsburg history. The vast majority of participants in the gentrification of Williamsburg were dilettantes fiercely protected by vocal antagonists in the community seeking to gratify their own egos while pretending to be “artists.” When I attack these ‘consumers’ as you describe them, I always place “artists” in quotes in relation to them because I do not believe them to be artists. Neither do I believe artists support or further gentrification–indeed, anyone who supports gentrification is a modern day segregationist, not an artist. It has been such that I have had to battle advocates/principals/agents of gentrification who disguise themselves as “artists” that I have often appeared to be “anti-art” or “anti-artist.” Not true–I am opposed to “gentrification.” However, the appearance of anti-gentrification sentiments are in desiderata as a form, trope or motif in the overall production of art in Williamsburg, and that is depressing. Nevertheless, I prognosticate that gentrification will soon reach “theme” in the art world, and it will be more knowledgeable and sympathetic and less selfish than anything that has yet come out of Williamsburg [except for my own writings]. Let me quote from another comment I made in response to the NY Times’ “Gauging Artists’ Contribution to Property Values”:
“On Kent Avenue, the struggling condominium towers have rented space to a large Duane Reade. Right across the street from them, a larger CW Pharmacy is soon to open. Exactly parallel, east a few blocks down, on Bedford Avenue, another large Duane Reade is slated to open. The appeal of some of the restaurants on Bedford Avenue conceals the fact that many are small but growing franchises
Oops, that was meant to be posted to another thread. Apologies all around.