Bushwick on the block: Locals worry sale of Knickerbocker stores spell end for old nabe

Bushwick on the block: Locals worry sale of Knickerbocker stores spell end for old nabe
Brandon Levesque

They don’t like what’s in store.

A real estate firm is marketing three Knickerbocker Avenue discount stores as one big opportunity for developers, worrying longtime Bushwick locals who fear it will be the beginning of the end for a shopping strip that has largely withstood the neighborhood’s rapid gentrification until now.

“This will definitely change the area, and there’s already been so much negative change,” said Ariel Salas, who grew up in the traditionally low-income Latino area and manages the Payless Shoe Source that has occupied one of the storefronts for decades and is now on the chopping block. “They’re probably gonna build some luxury apartments and put a little bistro on the first floor.”

Property investment outfit Eastern Consolidated is selling the trio of three-story buildings between Stockholm and Stanhope streets — also home to a 99-cent emporium and an electronics store — for $11.75 million, and has been showing them off as potential sites for fancy retail stores, luxury apartments, or offices to investors who are now flocking to the nabe, according to a company honcho.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter of Bushwick,” said Kevin O’Donnell.

Salas agrees — but he doesn’t necessarily think it is a good thing. The retail corridor — the site of a major fire that precipitated the Bushwick Riots in 1977, and a hotbed of crime and drugs in the ’80s and ’90s — is currently lined with discount stores and thrifty chains that he says have served the community well, but are now disappearing as high-end eateries and apartments pop up in their place.

“This is a neighborhood store,” he said of the Payless, where he remembers shopping as a kid.

And O’Donnell also says any new properties at 373–379 Knickerbocker Ave. will likely be aimed at a different demographic — he thinks investors will be attracted by the young creative types increasingly flooding the nabe, and the tech and advertising companies setting up shop in local warehouses in the hope of employing them.

He thinks the area will only become more popular for real estate investors in the years to come, when he predicts more young folks and businesses will flee Williamsburg due to Metropolitan Transportation Authority closing the L train connection to Manhattan for years of repairs in 2019.

“There is a lot of redevelopment potential here, there’s an influx of creative talented people, there’s no issues in terms of the M train,” he said. “For an investment, Bushwick is as solid as it gets.”

Reach reporter Madeline Anthony by e-mail at manth[email protected]nglocal.com or by pnone at (718) 260–8321.

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