Panel to duscuss 1970s Bushwick at Brooklyn Historical Society

Veterans of 1970s Bushwick discuss burning questions

The Brooklyn Paper
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Meryl Meisler has seen Bushwick at its best — and at its worst.

The artist and teacher spent 13 years documenting the neighborhood when it was arguably at its lowest point, devastated by years of poverty, crime, and fire in the wake of the blackout of 1977.

“Some of the buildings looked like empty honeycombs,” said the photographer. “It was odd to imagine how many people had lived there, had kids there, done homework there.”

On Nov. 17, Meisler will share her memories and thoughts on the neighborhood’s troubled past and its rapidly changing present as part of a panel titled “Brooklyn’s On Fire: Bushwick is Burning” at the Brooklyn Historical Society. The discussion will be moderated by Jonathan Mahler, author of the book “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning,” and will also include a tenant lawyer, an FDNY fire marshal, a community board manager, and a displaced Bushwick resident.

Meisler first started documenting Bushwick in 1981, when she got a job as an art teacher at IS 291 at the corner of Wilson Avenue and Palmetto Street.

“When I first arrived, it looked like the day after a war had ended,” said Meisler. “And that was interspersed with kids playing on the streets and people living normal lives.”

She worked there until 1994 and took as many photographs as possible during her tenure.

“I took photographs on the way to school and on the way from school and during fire drills,” said Meisler. “I took photos constantly.”

Meisler kept the photos in a box in her apartment for years until fellow artists approached her about putting her work in a gallery show. Earlier this year, the Jefferson Street bar Bizarre asked her if she wanted to release her photos as a book. The resulting tome, titled “A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick,” juxtaposes her snaps of the neighborhood with others she took of New York’s glitzy disco scene during the same period.

Meisler said her favorite photos of Bushwick are the ones that show neighbors, especially children, living happy lives amidst the burned out buildings.

“I was most interested in the people, who I found joyful and uplifting,” she said. “And I was always aware of the beautiful light hitting things.”

“Brooklyn’s On Fire: Bushwick is Burning” at the Brooklyn Historical Society [128 Pierrepont St. at Clinton Street in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 222–4111,]. Nov. 17 at 6:30 pm. $5 (free for Brooklyn Historical Society members).

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Hello Ms. Meisler, I stumbled on to your information on my childhood neighborhood. I lived on linden street from 1965-1970, attend Halsey Junior High School and Bushwick High School, until my family moved to New Jersey. I have fond memories and pictures of my friends that continued living on Linden Street till 1980. I also have pictures of Teachers, Coaches, Principals, Police Officers, Boy Scout Troop 247, Saint Barbra's Church, Knickerbocker Ave, Woolworths, Bushwick High School and many individuals that impacted my life. With their help, I managed to continue my education, graduating at East Side High School in the Ironbound section of Newark, Completing several College Degrees, becoming a Municipal Police Officer and wore the double button winter Police Coat from a Police Officer rom the 83rd prescient that helped me. I also became a Military Officer, deployed overseas several times and represented the US Army during NATO operations and finally a Senior Investigator for the State of New Jersey General Enforcement and Public Contracts. Teachers, Coaches, Police Officer's, Firemen from Knickerbocker Ave, Priests, The Boy Scouts and countless others provided a reward that I could never repay, one to Swimming Coach Richard Shair, who taught me how to swim and excel on the team which led me to compete in the AAA and as a wrestler. Coach Shair instruction saved my life many years. I have recently located friends that also lived on Linden Street and we are sharing our childhood memories, If I can assist you in any way let me know. My phone is 201-341-4637, I can be texts if my messages are full sometimes since I am involved with Children and Veterans. I can also be emailed at sempr@msn There is a lot of Good individuals that were involved in the neighborhood.
Nov. 13, 2014, 4:30 am
Raul Gil from Hancock st says:
Hiw or were can I buy your book I would like to see if I recognize friends that when to Bushwick I was a swimmer and a musician first the school
Dec. 4, 2015, 8:38 pm

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