When I heard my 21-year-old grandnephew, Casey, was moving into Bushwick, I immediately wondered: Is it a safe neighborhood? Is this where the hip, artistic kids go now that they are priced out of Williamsburg?
What I really meant was: Is it safe for a kid who spent most of his life snowboarding in the mountains and surfing down the New Jersey shore? He’s not what I’d call a city kid. I am his only relative who lives in NYC, but was I silly to worry?
Casey has done well since he graduated from the New York Film Academy. He landed an internship at Milk Studios in Chelsea and was offered a job with benefits. He moved into an apartment with several guys from work. He’s excited, loves the convenience of the subway and plans to get around the area on his skate board. Naturally, he thinks the area is safe.
I reached out to a friend in Park Slope who is familiar with Brooklyn. She knows people living in Bushwick and said it’s “reasonably” safe. She emailed: “It’s like the East Village once was. It’s safe to some, not to others.”
Suddenly, I flashed back to my first NYC apartment in 1975, an East Village sublet. I was robbed a week after I moved in. I had been set up by thieves who used a kid I stupidly let into the hallway because there was no intercom. They broke the glass transom above my door and boosted him through it. Still, I was determined not to go back to New Jersey.
A few weeks later, I landed a job teaching GED classes at night in a storefront between Avenues B and C. I’d been warned about Alphabet City and not to go below Avenue A. I recall walking fast and looking over my shoulder when I came home after dark.
Some real estate websites have reported at least the perception of high crime in Bushwick. I’m not sure how much to read into that, but had these real estate websites existed in the 1970s, I’m sure it would have said the same about the East Village.
This is the ongoing cycle of NYC: Young people moving into affordable but marginal neighborhoods that are gentrified. I loved living in the East Village when it was still edgy. My first apartment was a railroad flat with a bathtub in the kitchen. Casey’s? His is a renovated space with modern appliances. Dwellings have changed, but the excitement of moving to NYC remains the same.
I hope he has as much fun as I did.
Kate Walter is the author of “Looking for a Kiss: A Chronicle of Downtown Heartbreak and Healing.”