Photos by stevesweatpants
Castle Braid is a luxury apartment complex in Bushwick that’s straight out of an episode of “Girls.” The building’s amenities include a rooftop dog park, a recording studio, a wood shop, a screening room, and a gym, just to list a few. It’s decked out with unusual furniture, like swings and stationary bikes, designed by an artist who resides in the building. Castle Braid is catered to artists, probably more than an actual art studio is, creating a community similar to an SVA dorm. An art commune.
Daymon Green is one of those artists. He owns Community 54, an LES lifestyle boutique that boasts an arcade, sells vintage streetwear, and hosts events. Last October A$AP Rocky performed in the the backyard the night before dropping Live.Love.A$AP. Community 54 is a cultural hotspot, a nucleus of urban culture in the LES. It’s no surprise that Green resides in Castle Braid. “I was the second person to move in here. Back then it was way different. They had zero security and put a bunch of flat screen TV’s in the lobby – all that shit got stolen. There were a bunch of squatters and shit too. It was crazy.”
By the time I moved into the building in the spring of 2011, they had hired security and put the flatscreens in rooms only tenants could access. Coming from Boston, and having already lived in the South Bronx and Harlem, Castle Braid was safe as far as I was concerned. I didn’t know that Bushwick was an area known for violence and crime. “This spot wasn’t too good a couple years back. When I told my girl’s dad we were moving to Bushwick he asked if I had a gun,” says Green. Now, Bushwick is considered a trendy neighborhood for all types of artists migrating to NYC. I doubt any of them would have stepped foot in the neighborhood back in the ’90s, myself included.
Similar to the tension that led to fires in the Bronx, Bushwick was riddled with problems stemming from race. In the mid 1960s poverty stricken blacks and Puerto Ricans from the south came up to New York City. When they settled in Bushwick, so began white flight. Due to fraudulent appraisals, incoming Bushwick residents – a majority of them black and Puerto Rican – were sold houses they ultimately couldn’t afford. Numerous residents defaulted on their mortgages leaving the homes vacant and prompting owners to burn their property to collect insurance.
Bushwick’s devastation continued in the following decades. From the looting during the 1977 blackout to a staggering 77 murders during 1990, Bushwick was far from a trendy hood. Increased camera surveillance and more manpower created safer streets which led to an economic upswing to help revamp Bushwick. Not until a decade after those advancements would an apartment building like Castle Braid exist.
Now that it does, some Bushwick residents are pissed. In a NY Post article, Angelina Dreem, a yoga teacher who’s been living in Bushwick for four years, said, “It’s like an adult children playground. They’re all like, subsidized.” The general consensus among people who live in the area, but not the building, is that Castle Braid is filled with rich kids whose parents pay their rent.
It would be difficult to figure out if people’s parents are in fact paying the rent. What’s more interesting is said yoga teacher’s animosity towards her new neighbors. Maybe there’s a new breed of residents moving to Bushwick but best believe that yoga teachers aren’t Bushwick natives. Once you were the new person in the neighborhood Ms. Dreem, and I doubt the single Spanish mother with four children was fond of the boughie people heading to your studio.
The hostility surrounding Castle Braid has become enough of an issue where Bushwick residents disapproving of the building have started a Twitter account @AntiCastleBraid. The creator of the page uses the platform to constantly harass the New York City Housing Department about the building’s tax exempt status (the building could not be reached for comment on the matter). Castle Braid had its own Twitter account as well, @CastleBraid, that has recently been taken down, most likely due to the constant bickering between the two.
Regardless of the Twitter fights, Castle Braid’s tax exempt status, or the absurd amenities throughout the building, the irony in this story is astounding. Dreem, @AntiCastleBraid, and other angry Bushwick residents are complaining about gentrification when 10 years ago they were the ones who set this whole transformation in motion.
The gentrification of Bushwick was inevitable. It’s a breeding ground for up-and-coming bands like DIIV and Widowspeak, along with several coffee shops and dive bars. Williamsburg, once a harbor for struggling artist, is now overrun with pricey clubs and young finance bankers from Ivy league schools. People needed to deem somewhere the new hip place, and that place was and is Bushwick.
Most importantly, in speaking with the residents of Castle Braid they really enjoy the atmosphere throughout the building. A videographer I met said, “Living with other artists, people who are your friends, helps you to create. I have been able to get several freelance jobs because of this building. Yeah, there are some management problems, but overall, I really enjoy living here. I’m going to miss it a lot when I’m gone.”
If the building is promoting art and culture who cares if a couple of people are so called subsidized? There are bigger issues than some hipster living rent free.