Industrial revolution: Book traces history of makers in Bushwick

Industrial revolution: Book traces history of makers in Bushwick
Amanda Wasielewski

For a while, they had it made!

A new book about Brooklyn entrepreneurs delves into the dark side of creativity, analyzing how well-meaning arts-and-crafters gentrified the borough’s industrial neighborhoods. The author of “Made in Brooklyn: Artists, Hipsters, Makers, Gentrifiers,” researched how artists of yore contributed to skyrocketing rents by moving into Williamsburg and Bushwick in search of industrial space.

“Artists increasingly want to be entrepreneurs, they want to build a business and sell that business, so they’re thinking of expansion or looking outwards,” said Amanda Wasielewski, who spent three years living in Bushwick before decamping for distant Amsterdam. “But from the art world perspective, there’s no place for artists in New York anymore because it’s too expensive, but there’s [also] no place for poorer people in general.”

Wasielewski, who will cross the Atlantic to discuss her book at Word Bookstore in Greenpoint on July 12, moved to Bushwick in 2012. She studied the area by interviewing the mostly white artists and “makers” who moved to the area in search of cheap industrial space in the late 1990s. Those first few creators soon led to droves more, and eventually real estate state developers helped to make the neighborhood a hot spot filled with expensive real estate and overpriced coffee shops, forcing many of the former residents to leave in search of cheaper rent.

“Artists aren’t the great victims here, there are many victims,” she said. “I’m particularly interested in what roles artists play, because as an artist myself I’ve certainly played a role.”

The gentrification is speeding up now, since the Internet and social media have driven more creative types to flock to neighborhoods where they can be with like-minded creative people, said Wasielewski.

“It’s accelerated, neighborhoods are changing quicker,” she said. “Part of what’s driving this is the idea that our contemporary Internet culture encourages us to cultivate individual brands and identities, and that feeds into the idea of hipsters.”

Many Kings County artists juggle multiple jobs to get by, but she is skeptical they will be able to afford their Bushwick rents for much longer.

“There’s a lot more of the idea of hustling, the idea that artists in New York are often sort of toiling on multiple commercial freelance products at once, trying to support themselves as artists,” she said. “But this idea this will bring industry back to urban centers, I’m suspicious of and I wanted to see how it plays out in reality.”

Amanda Wasielewski at Word Bookstore (126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, www.wordbookstores.com). July 12 at 7:30 pm. $5.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Ground zero: The book looks at the arrival of artists and hipsters in Williamsburg and Bushwick in the 1990s.
Zero Books