The September tornado took down a few lightpoles and damaged some roofs, but most of the damage was to the neighborhood’s mature trees.
Photo by Aaron Short for BushwickBK
It may seem like the recent blizzard, its persistent slush, and the mayor’s fingerpointing is the story of the year, but 2010 was full of interesting and transformative events for Bushwick. One is another storm, far shorter but more destructive. Others concern legislation, politics, crime and justice, and of course, transportation. It was difficult to pick the most important stories of the past year, but we’ve settled on these five.
A Tornado Tosses Bushwick
Nothing was bigger news than a tornado, that boogeyman of Kansas trailer parks, smashing its way through Brooklyn and Queens on Sept. 16. Amazingly, hardly anyone was hurt, and though many buildings sustained minor damage, the real shock was all the large old trees the neighborhood lost. Maria Hernandez Park was down 54 mature trees, Irving Square Park lost several more, and on some streets throughout Bushwick and Ridgewood, trees that had provided shade for decades were smashed down like dominoes in a minute. The cleanup, including fixing damage to playgrounds, was estimated to be in the millions.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. An alliance of private organizations had already been spending millions to plant new street trees on our sunblasted blocks, and their efforts picked up after the storm. In Maria Hernandez, they splurged on 71 very expensive large trees to replace the ones lost. In the future, Bushwick may have its own "friends" organization to maintain and repair our parks and pick up where the City leaves off.
Loft Law Expanded, Effects Still to Be Seen
The law adds residential rental protections to certain tenants living in illegally converted warehouses in Bushwick and East Williamsburg. Tenant groups largely praised the law, and its sponsor, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, but industrial advocacy groups and even Mayor Bloomberg worried about its effects on local industry.
In practice, however, the law seems poised to raise rents in buildings that will see the most improvements, which a landlord is required to make if his property merits Loft Law protections. Tenants will have stabilized rents, but only after an initial rise to help pay for renovations. The law has also begun to ignite wars between warehouse owners and their illegal tenants, such as those living at 360 Jefferson Street, who found their units vandalized by their landlord after they applied to the city’s Loft Board for the new protections.
The verdict is still very much out on this legislation, but it is sure to have some long-term effects for the neighborhood. Exhibit A: Tribeca. Exhibit B: Soho. Common characteristics: no low-income artists.
Vito Lopez Beats His Foes, Again
Speaking of Bushwick’s living political legend, Vito Lopez had an astonishingly difficult year marked by burgeoning investigations, a rapacious media onslaught, and a recurrence of cancer.
The Assemblyman spent much of the beginning of the year reaching out to new constituencies, particularly new Bushwick residents and loft dwellers.
But his legislative and political victories were dwarfed by the revelations of alleged fraudulent activity within the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council in September and two federal investigations that were probing connections between the local nonprofit organization and Lopez, the man who founded it.
The media drumbeat continued unabated through the year, as Lopez won reelection to both his Assembly seat and his perch atop the county’s Democratic Party but acknowledged that he was suffering from cancer.
He had been receiving treatments since late summer, when he hosted one of his celebrated senior picnics — and looked worn out doing it.
But in recent weeks, Lopez has been downright chipper, hosting both Thanksgiving and Christmas events for RBSCC, as well as his own holiday party in Williamsburg this week and expects to attend Governor Cuomo’s inauguration this weekend.
Sucuzhañay Saga Ends
Also this year was the culmination of the Sucuzhañay saga — two years after the beating death of the Bushwick resident by homophobic Bronx thugs, both of them were thrown in prison for decades. This came after an initial mistrial for the main suspect, who was quoted at his arrest saying "So I killed someone. That makes me a bad guy? What’s the big deal?"
MTA Cuts Make the M Train Awesome
2010 was the year the trains got worse for everyone except Bushwickers. The M train, once just a tagalong for the J train, bumped the V line and stole its route, providing the neighborhood with no-transfer access straight to midtown. Myrtle Avenue is suddenly a lot easier to live near, at least on weekdays.
With Aaron Short