Whilst being in New York, I have the great pleasure to stay with my friend Anna who is a photographer with a very warm-hearted eye for what makes people special. Her flat/studio is located in a former shoe factory, it’s very spacious, with lots of light falling in, the sun wakes me up in the morning. And besides letting me sleep on her couch she even teaches me some photography basics. That’s a good start for my trip, definitely!
The studio is in a part of Brooklyn which is called Bed-Stuy, since the streets Bedford and Stuyvesant kind of define it. It has some famous children, like Jay-Z or Mos Def and is traditionally a residential area. Currently, it’s in a state of change and many people claim it’s the most exciting and dynamic part of New York right now.
While Williamsburg, the part of Brooklyn which is right opposite to Manhattan, could be seen at the end of a development, Bed-Stuy might be at the beginning of it. Williamsburg has lived a tremendous change in the last 20 years with the typical mechanisms of gentrification. First came the artists, later the bars and cafes, the galleries, the fashion shops and all of a sudden the rents are expensive, tourists flood the streets and no young artist can afford to live there anymore.
Williamsburg right now is a prosperous and stylish neighborhood full of people and trendy shops, bars and clubs. In Bed-Stuy you see uninhabited houses with wood nailed to their doors, lots of trash laying around and Anna’s place is in a street which was called ‘crack alley’ only a few years ago. When I arrived yesterday, I did not really feel that comfortable. It was dark, the shops you could see around where mainly second hand furniture places or cheap restaurants that sell food over a counter secured with a plastic wall and people seemed to hang out in the street for no obvious reason, just because they didn’t have anything to do. It was impossible to find a bar to sit in and have a tea and a beer.
Now, two days later, I know that there are very nice places, I just didn’t know yet where. Despite the area being mainly rough, there are some nice coffee shops already and of course many creative people who use the space they could never afford in Williamsburg, not to talk about Manhattan.
Yesterday morning, I got to see the office of longform.org who do summaries of essays and reports in magazines like The New Yorker, Time magazine or GQ. They have a very fluffy cat and look forward to their launch party to promote the upcoming ipad app. Moreover, there are coffeshops like Choice or Outpost and bars like Tip Top where I hope to meet some friends tonight. Maybe we’ll be discussing to what extend Bed-Stuy can be compared to Williamsburg and if it’s really on a similar path.