Resident Williamsburg tattoo expert Richie Bulldog, owner of Hustlers Parlour, witnessed the area evolve into the “hot” neighborhood one new bagel store and coffee house at a time. Two decades later, he’s bracing for another transformation.
“It’s going to change the whole universe here,” Bulldog said referencing the looming L train shutdown. “That’s the money train because the L train has blown this neighborhood up.”
The tattoo artist, a lifetime resident of the borough, chatted with the two filmmakers behind the upcoming L train documentary on a Friday afternoon last month. His shop — on the “ever so popular” Bedford Avenue and Fourth Street intersection in “teeny, teeny Williamsburg” — shut its doors for over an hour to let in the doc’s independent film crew.
A small team of two, Ian Mayer, 39, and Emmett Adler, 29, manned cameras in the parlor to record an interview for their film, while an artist continued to design a tattoo and a mother-daughter duo got matching nose piercings in the background.
“No one’s going to want to live here for a year, and a New York year is 10 years everywhere else,” Bulldog exclaimed, his own tattoos peeking through the sleeves of his Hustlers Parlour-branded sweatshirt.
Hustlers Parlour is one stop of dozens on Mayer and Adler’s filming list, which they’ve been chipping away at since the initial shutdown announcement in 2016. So far, they’ve sat down with transit execs (NYC Transit president Andy Byford), business owners (Kate Buenaflor of Williamsburg’s Kilo Bravo and Soft Spot), government officials and locals to record their projected woes.
While filming, Bulldog said he feels his shop’s luxurious and niche appeal will keep it safe from the shutdown’s inevitable monetary impact, which could potentially plague the area’s business profile with shuttered storefronts.
“A lot of our customers, they’re not neighborhood people, they come from other places but they would still come for our artists,” Bulldog said as he leaned back into a stool, an artist doodling on a notepad behind him.
But, he stressed the 15-month closure for repairs beginning in April 2019 would leave the area as a whole in distress.
“Everybody’s scared. Where are we gonna get the business from? I don’t know, maybe I’ll get a boat and start ferrying people across South Street Seaport,” he joked. “People are going to have to get creative.”
Though they’ve been filming for about two years, Mayer and Adler are still in the early stages of production on their untitled project which won’t wrap until after the shutdown begins.
They release bits and pieces of behind-the-scenes footage from their shoots on the doc’s social media pages and are attempting to approach the closure with a variety of angles and perspectives, from business owners like Bulldog to locals and officials.
“We want to focus on the humanity and not get too lost in the specifics,” Mayer said.
At the heart of the yet-to-be-cut film: the human stories. At the heart of Williamsburg: the L train.
“The L train is the main artery from the heart that pumps the blood into Williamsburg,” Bulldog explained.
Whether or not Bulldog feels his Williamsburg parlor will be financially impacted may change as the shutdown grows near as he estimates 90 percent of the customers traveling to his business do so on the L train.
“The people who tell themselves, ‘We still have the J train’ are lying — those are people who have to go to work but are people going to say that who are coming into the neighborhood?” he questioned.
Mayer and Adler plan to follow up with Bulldog and the rest of their interview subjects post-shutdown. After that, they expect their film to be packaged up and hit the festival circuit in fall 2019.
You can follow their progress at Ltraindoc.com.