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posted: 5/18/2014 5:45 AM

Discover street art, trendy cafes in Bushwick, Brooklyn

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  • A young woman stands at the intersection of Wyckoff and Troutman streets against the backdrop of bold and colorful street art in Bushwick, New York.

      A young woman stands at the intersection of Wyckoff and Troutman streets against the backdrop of bold and colorful street art in Bushwick, New York.
    Associated Press

  • Jermaine McGriff, 20, a Bedford Stuyvesant-based rapper whose rap name is Flispy Flexin, records a music video in front of a street art portrait of the late rapper Biggie Smalls, also known as Notorious B.I.G., in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood.

      Jermaine McGriff, 20, a Bedford Stuyvesant-based rapper whose rap name is Flispy Flexin, records a music video in front of a street art portrait of the late rapper Biggie Smalls, also known as Notorious B.I.G., in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood.
    Associated Press

  • Patrons sit in an industrial-style courtyard where the walls are formed from pieces of metal shipping containers at Roberta's, the most popular of a crop of trendy restaurants in Brooklyn's cutting-edge Bushwick neighborhood.

      Patrons sit in an industrial-style courtyard where the walls are formed from pieces of metal shipping containers at Roberta's, the most popular of a crop of trendy restaurants in Brooklyn's cutting-edge Bushwick neighborhood.
    Associated Press

  • A customer enjoys a slice of "Tanya Charding" thin-crust pizza, featuring Swiss chard, speck (a cured meat) and Robiola cheese, at Roberta's, the most-well-known of many new restaurants in the emerging Bushwick neighborhood in New York.

      A customer enjoys a slice of "Tanya Charding" thin-crust pizza, featuring Swiss chard, speck (a cured meat) and Robiola cheese, at Roberta's, the most-well-known of many new restaurants in the emerging Bushwick neighborhood in New York.
    Associated Press

  • Doorways, a goth music performer and producer, works on her laptop at a cafe on a spring day in Brooklyn's cutting-edge Bushwick neighborhood. The area draws creative young people from all over the world.

      Doorways, a goth music performer and producer, works on her laptop at a cafe on a spring day in Brooklyn's cutting-edge Bushwick neighborhood. The area draws creative young people from all over the world.
    Associated Press

  • The Bushwick Food Cooperative is located at the Shops at the Loom, on the site of a former textile mill in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood in New York.

      The Bushwick Food Cooperative is located at the Shops at the Loom, on the site of a former textile mill in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood in New York.
    Associated Press

  • People gather outside Maria Hernandez Park, which is named for an activist who fought to rid her neighborhood of drug dealers, but was killed in 1989.

      People gather outside Maria Hernandez Park, which is named for an activist who fought to rid her neighborhood of drug dealers, but was killed in 1989.
    Associated Press

  • Proprietor Archie Broady adjusts the wick on a "courtship candle," one of the unusual items for sale in his tiny gift shop, named for his mother Iola, situated in a hallway at the Shops at the Loom.

      Proprietor Archie Broady adjusts the wick on a "courtship candle," one of the unusual items for sale in his tiny gift shop, named for his mother Iola, situated in a hallway at the Shops at the Loom.
    Associated Press

  • Customers dine at cozy Dear Bushwick restaurant in Brooklyn's edgy Bushwick neighborhood. It's one of a number of trendy eateries that are bringing visitors to the area.

      Customers dine at cozy Dear Bushwick restaurant in Brooklyn's edgy Bushwick neighborhood. It's one of a number of trendy eateries that are bringing visitors to the area.
    Associated Press

  • Artist Beau Stanton created the wall mural behind Argentine street artist Leandro Weisberg in Bushwick.

      Artist Beau Stanton created the wall mural behind Argentine street artist Leandro Weisberg in Bushwick.
    Associated Press

  • Visitors to Bushwick can see Danielle Mastrion's portrait of education activist and heroine Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education.

      Visitors to Bushwick can see Danielle Mastrion's portrait of education activist and heroine Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani schoolgirl who stood up to the Taliban and defended her right to an education.
    Associated Press

  • Joseph Ficalora, a native of Bushwick, grows serious as he recounts his father's 1991 murder in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood in New York. Ficalora works to promote the edgy neighborhood's colorful street art.

      Joseph Ficalora, a native of Bushwick, grows serious as he recounts his father's 1991 murder in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood in New York. Ficalora works to promote the edgy neighborhood's colorful street art.
    Associated Press

 
By Beth J. Harpaz
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- For the last few years, a neighborhood called Williamsburg has been the epicenter of Brooklyn cool. But with prices for Williamsburg condos hitting $4 million and up, young creative types are migrating to trendier -- and less expensive -- ground. They seem to have found it in nearby Bushwick, known for colorful street art (please don't call it graffiti!) and kale pizza at a place called Roberta's.

Yet Bushwick's emergence as part of cutting-edge Brooklyn has not completely erased memories of the bad old days, when the working-class neighborhood was notorious for crime. Maria Hernandez Park is named for a woman who was killed in 1989 after standing up against drug dealers. Today the park is filled with flowers, skateboarders, dog-walkers and families. "No more shootings," said Elvin Alvarado, sitting on a park bench. "It used to be at 8 p.m., you could not pass. People were waiting for you."

Joe Ficalora grew up in the neighborhood; his father was killed by a crackhead here in 1991. But Bushwick's murder rate has dropped 90 percent since then, and Ficalora is thrilled with the transformation. He points to an old warehouse, now renting out gleaming apartments, as proof that the neighborhood will not "turn into Detroit."

"No one wanted to live here before," said Ficalora, who promotes street art through a group called the Bushwick Collective. "No one wanted the beast. Now everyone loves the beast!"

Where the hipsters of New York City go, tourists are sure to follow. So for out-of-towners willing to explore Bushwick, take the L subway line to Jefferson Street and start wandering. You'll find great eats and great art.

Street art

Along Troutman, Starr, Wyckoff and other streets, artwork decorates old factories, warehouses and even small apartment buildings. There's everything from a portrait of Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai to a picture of a flotation device with the words: "Street art saved my life." On a recent afternoon, several young men chose a mural of the late rapper Biggie Smalls as a backdrop for filming a music video. "I was looking for good artwork and this caught my eye," said the video's 20-year-old star, who goes by the name Flispy Flexin.

You may see artists at work with spray paint, stencils, ladders and other tools of the trade, and you can sign up for a Bushwick street art tour through FreeToursbyFoot.com, where participants pay what they wish for tours. Organizers estimate some 500 people have taken the two-hour "New York Graffiti and Street Art Tour" since it launched March 1.

Ficalora also organizes an annual street festival showcasing artists, musicians and others contributing to the neighborhood's renaissance. It's planned for 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 1 on Troutman between Wyckoff and St. Nicholas.

Shops

Ficalora's family operates a steel products company that's one of a number of manufacturers still located in Bushwick. But some industrial buildings have been repurposed for residential and retail use, like Shops at the Loom, which houses 20 stores in a renovated textile mill at 1087 Flushing Ave., including Gnostic Tattoo, the Bushwick Food Cooperative, Brooklyn Yarn Cafe, Loom Yoga Center and Kave, a coffee bar that offers nut-milk lattes and Wi-Fi.

Archie Broady owns a boutique at Shops at the Loom named for his mother, Iola. In his store, he says, "anybody should be able to find something beautiful." His eclectic wares and "found objects" range from hand-cranked candles wound around a coil, to bandages designed to match various skin colors.

Passing through Shops at the Loom on a recent day was Laura De Marco, an Italian visitor scoping out loft space for a photography workshop. "A lot of young artists live here," explained De Marco. "We're looking for a big space with light. Brooklyn is the place to do photography. This is the real Brooklyn."

Even folks from other parts of Brooklyn are intrigued by Bushwick's newfound trendiness. "I'm from Williamsburg, but I'm here for a few days to explore the neighborhood," explained Jodi Jones, a fashion photographer stopping by the Kave cafe. "I keep hearing the hipster scene is in Bushwick."

Eating and drinking

Bushwick is an increasingly important player in Brooklyn's foodie scene. A tiny, upscale restaurant called Dear Bushwick at 41 Wilson Ave. offers a sumptuous "English Country Kitchen" menu with entrees in the $22 range like stuffed bass and roast chicken. Intriguing vegetable sides include roasted carrots with "medieval nut pesto" for $7. Try Dear Bushwick's version of Pimm's, a refreshing gin cocktail that originated in 19th-century London. And enjoy the quirky decor: A picture of a caped damsel on a white horse sits next to a handwritten nursery rhyme, "Ride a cockhorse to Banbury Cross, to see a fine lady upon a white horse."

Ficalora recommends Northeast Kingdom, 18 Wyckoff Ave. "Awesome place, comfort food," he says. Menu offerings include "This Morning's Farm Egg" for $12, seared local scallops for $25, and maple walnut bread pudding for $8. Other area bars, nightspots and cafes include Bodega Wine Bar, 24 St. Nicholas Ave.; The Rookery, 425 Troutman St.; and Pearl's Social & Billy Club, 40 St. Nicholas Ave.

No description of Bushwick would be complete without Roberta's, 261 Moore St. The industrial-zoned block can seem deserted even when there's an hourlong wait for a table. Sometimes you can snag a seat at the bar and order food from there; additional tables are located in an atrium inside converted shipping containers, a hipster dreamscape of corrugated industrial-chic green. In warm weather, there are outdoor tents and a tiki bar.

Food critics rightly laud Roberta's fabulous thin-crust pizza. Kale is a favorite topping but an excellent option is "Tonya Charding" pizza with robiola cheese, speck (cured meat), chard and green garlic for $17.

Roberta's co-owner Brandon Hoy says "there weren't a lot of people with their eyes on what was happening here" when they opened in 2008. "There's a fine line between dangerous and wildness, and the neighborhood still has this very art-centric feeling of wildness," he said. "That's what drew us here and that's the foundation that created this art scene and culture. Craziness happens here in a fun way."

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