is it safe for me to live in this neighborhood?
December 23, 2013 11:37 AM   Subscribe

I finally found a place in Brooklyn that seems perfect with one catch: it's in a semi rough area. The thing is I can't seem to get a clear opinion online of exactly how unsafe it is.

It's a nice room in a beautiful brownstone with a friend of mine. Rent is 650 for the room utilities included. The location is a couple of blocks away from the Gates Avenue stop on the J/M line. He's never experienced any problems. He's an Asian dude.

If it matters I'm a young white woman and I have a job that will require me to often come home around 11pm during the week.

Tangentially I was also wondering if being an ethnic minority in a rough neighborhood presents any problems. I asked this question on another board and was blasted for being racist.
posted by timsneezed to Human Relations (61 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Go to the neighborhood at around 11PM and walk around. Do you feel safe, or not?

Try it a few times in the next couple of weeks. If you don't feel safe, this amazing deal isn't for you. If it seems like no biggie, then move on in.

I lived in Oakland in the eighties in a semi-sketch neighborhood. I found that if I acknowledged folks as I passed them on the street that people got to know me and that I just became another neighborhood fixture. I also politely asked people not to deal crack from our apartments steps. As I'd pass someone, I'd just make eye contact and say, "S'up?" I'd get a nod back and we'd both go our own way.

I lived there for 3 years and never had a problem.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:46 AM on December 23, 2013 [10 favorites]

10/11 pm and onwards brings out a greater risk of crime in the city. Safe at 9 is not safe as 8.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:49 AM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Kruger seems to have a less-nuanced opinion of "safe" in the city, I fear; the time of day is only a small portion of the question.

That neighborhood, Bushwick, is kind of becoming a "frontier", which is why you're getting conflicting opinions; it's on the cusp of gentrifying. So you'll have older accounts which say it's unsafe, but more recent data is changing as the neighborhood changes.

I lived in the Lower East Side when it was going through a gentrification like this, and it was itself similarly sketchy when I first moved in - and I had no problem. What I found was that the people in the neighborhood were more into watching out for the block and each other than in other more "nice" neighborhoods. I treated everyone cordially, and made a point of trying to check things out in the neighborhood, and very quickly was accepted as one of those neighborhood people, and that meant that the shops on my street were definintely places I'd have felt safe asking for help at 1 am if necessary.

But your threshhold for safety is unique to you and may be different from mine. I'd second taking a walk around the neighborhood late at night - bring a friend - and see what you think.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:01 PM on December 23, 2013 [14 favorites]

You can get information about crime rates in that neighborhood, and compare that information to the rates in other neighborhoods. This will help you more objectively assess what is actually happening there. You can find trends over time, as well. Be mindful though that reported crime is not the same as committed crime. Talk to other young white women who live in the neighborhood, and see how they feel. Though, that will be a self selecting cohort. Better yet, get to know people who already live in the neighborhood who use the neighborhood. You can also take some classes in situational awareness and self defense. Looking less like a target will make you less of a target.

And then, stop framing your tags as

Framing this as being about race does look awfully racist.

Instead think about
neighborhood associations and activities

I suggest walkability, because a neighborhood with more things like post offices, well kept parks, varied shopping options, and other things to do will more likely be a safer neighborhood (not a guarantee, but possible). The more pedestrian traffic you see, the better, especially at times when you're most likely to use the street space.

Also observe the variety of public/private transitions. More stoops is better. Lots of hermetically sealed buildings, not so much.
posted by bilabial at 12:02 PM on December 23, 2013 [8 favorites]

"Framing this as being about race does look awfully racist."

Why? If racial resentments are a reality I need to know. That's why I'm asking.
posted by timsneezed at 12:03 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Is there a way of asking whether being a white woman in a predominantly black/hispanic neighborhood will expose me to more harassment without being accused of racisim? I'm not assuming this is true but it's something I need to know for my own safety.
posted by timsneezed at 12:09 PM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

I lived over by there about five years ago. I never felt unsafe walking around at night, and I never had any problems with crime. Occasionally I felt unwelcome or out of place but it wasn't a big deal.

Five years is a LONG time in gentrification years, though.
posted by Jeanne at 12:10 PM on December 23, 2013

I think you need to walk around the neighborhood and get a feel for it yourself. The most important thing is for you to feel safe and unfortunately no one on the internet can determine that for you.

I know people who live in that area who sound like they are of a similar demographic to you, and they seem to like it. I also know a number of gentrifying-type businesses recently opened around there so make of that what you will.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:22 PM on December 23, 2013

I live there now, am a woman of color. I come home all hours of the night on my own, and see all shades of people out. You'll be fine. It does look deserted a lot, but mostly because it's quiet and full of families.
posted by loriginedumonde at 12:23 PM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

Is there a way of asking whether being a white woman in a predominantly black/hispanic neighborhood will expose me to more harassment without being accused of racisim?

This is a legitimate concern and you should not be charged with racism for asking.

However, you will not be the first white woman moving into that area. Your race will not stand out as 'novelty.' Crime & harassment work on ease of target and relative opportunity. That means, a young Asian woman may reduce the likelihood a white woman being harassed - because the Asian woman is an 'easier' target. This is just an example.

That's why it's best not to move to such a neighborhood where safety has to be asked and debated - especially given the late hour arrival pattern you will have (which every study shows has a greater impact on the increased possibility of being subject to danger).
posted by Kruger5 at 12:29 PM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Is there a way of asking whether being a white woman in a predominantly black/hispanic neighborhood will expose me to more harassment without being accused of racisim? I'm not assuming this is true but it's something I need to know for my own safety.

I'm not white, but I can "pass;" when I lived in DC in predominately black and/or Latino neighborhoods, I got harassed, and saw pretty much every other woman in her 20s get harassed, regardless of race. Age, boobs, and attitude seem to make much more difference than race, in my experience. Also, in transitional/gentrifying neighborhoods, your race may mark you as a newcomer, and the harassment may be more about that than your race or gender.

Check the local crime maps/data, and go hang out at the apartment in the evenings to get a feel for foot traffic (although I'm sure this week will be weird since it's the holidays). And accept that if you're living in an urban area, you can get mugged or harassed even in "nice" neighborhoods.
posted by rtha at 12:43 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd be more concerned about finding a place for only $650 in that neighborhood rather than the neighborhood itself. That's pretty cheap, which means you're either getting a really good deal, or, much more likely, you're about to move into a brownstone that is falling apart at the seams.

I'd give that place a really, really thorough going-over: turn all the taps on and off, flick the lights, flush the toilet a few times, look for water damage, bugs, talk to your prospective neighbors, all that sort of stuff.
posted by griphus at 12:46 PM on December 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

In gentrifying neighborhoods, your (assumed) possession of money and your (assumed) displacement of more longstanding residents, combined with your (assumed) lack of knowledge about neighborhood norms/geography/mores will most likely cause you more problems than the color of your skin.

I'm not trying to attack you, but your framing of this suggests that this may be the first time you've had to think about how your skin color might make it hard for you to fit in/be safe in any environment. You'll be joining people who have to think about this, actively and painfully, on a daily basis. Your new neighbors will know that you don't generally have to think about it. And they also know that if you report a crime, there is a lower likelihood that you'll be also charged with a crime. There is also a greater likelihood that someone committing a crime against you would be charged, whereas people of color report that, for them, justice is harder to hope for when they report crimes. But as far as how frequently crimes are reported in that neighborhood, you can look up that actual information. I don't know who you should contact, but 211 is the number that I recommend starting with.

If there is anything that is going to make your transition to this neighborhood harder, it's going to be wanting an easy "yes/no" answer about safety that suggests you want permission to not truly and actively engage with your environment and the class and other struggles that are happening there. Your assumption that tagging a question with only the 4 words you chose would not (and should not) be seen as problematic is going to carry off the internet and into your neighborhood.

And on preview, griphus is right. $650 for the room is probably ok, but if it's $650 for the whole place, I'd be really worried. See if there have been any fires reported in the unit, and also how you can find out if the wiring, etc is up to code. And get renter's insurance.
posted by bilabial at 12:54 PM on December 23, 2013 [20 favorites]

I don't think you can tell what kinds of people will be targeted for crime and harassment based on color of skin. I'm an Indian American who is generally mistaken for whatever-brown-ethnicity (Hispanic, half black/half white, Chinese...). I've lived in a new nicer building very near mostly-black projects (not in a 'frontier' neighborhood, but sorta like that) for years. People don't like, give me the thumbs up because I'm brown. There's a division based on where I live, how I dress, whatever. I've been harassed and called racist because I didn't like the harassment. Which is absurd, but there it is and that happens.

That said, I have (touch wood) not been a victim of crime and I think most (like vast, vast) majority of people here are perfectly fine, upstanding moral citizens. it's expensive to live in NYC and some people need to live in subsidized housing/rougher areas, it's just how it is.

I agree that more than crime statistics, because crime can happen anywhere, what you should pay attention to is how you feel when you get off the train, especially around 10/11 on a weeknight. If you don't feel safe it's not a place you should live, ethnicities aside.

Also agreed with griphus that the price you're talking about is suspiciously low.
posted by sweetkid at 12:55 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

$650 for the room is probably ok

No, I definitely meant that $650 for a room in Bushwick is cheap enough to make me suspicious.
posted by griphus at 12:56 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Griphus: Isn't Bushwick generally pretty cheap?
posted by timsneezed at 1:06 PM on December 23, 2013

(Good thing I previewed)

It's cheap, but it's not that cheap on the whole. Not anymore, anyway. A landlord can do better than that for the short trainride to East W'burg/the more hip parts of Bushwick. So unless the person you are moving in with has already been there for a few years and has a good deal on the rent because of that, $650 off the bat for Bushwick means something is up with the actual apartment. Whether you can live with that something is totally up to you, of course.

Five years ago, I lived in a neighborhood on the opposite end of the "desirable for fun, young people" scale from Bushwick. I paid $550 for a room. To get the landlady down to $550 (from $650) I had to haggle with her for at least a half-hour, and promise to pay my rent in cash every single month. One of the walls nearly caved in from water damage, the toilet clogged constantly, and there was a mess of other problems that I was willing to deal with because I was getting a really, really good price. And, again, this is a neighborhood few young people move to willingly.
posted by griphus at 1:10 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Another point to consider is that each block in a neighborhood will have it's own character. The area I live in now is considered very scary by some folks, but in reality there are the bad streets, the ok streets, and the downright nice streets (I'm speaking in terms of safety, not money. The whole area is poor). My street is pretty nice, with lots of healthy families and polite senior citizens, and no crime to speak of. It always seems funny to me when folks are afraid to come visit me because of fear of getting robbed or assaulted, because this particular street is so nice and clean and gentle. But considering some of the other streets around here, their fear is justified.

So I wouldn't worry so much about the area as a whole, but just about the particular streets that you'll be living on and traveling through.
posted by sam_harms at 1:31 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think you can tell what kinds of people will be targeted for crime and harassment based on color of skin.

Some communities are more aware of race than others. I've never been to NYC, but the people I've met from there seem hyper-aware of race, sometimes aggressively so, so I'd probably worry about being in the wrong neighborhood for my ethnicity more if I was trying to live there, as opposed to where I live now (Columbus, OH).
posted by sam_harms at 1:35 PM on December 23, 2013

I've never been to NYC

I've lived in NYC for ten years and am basing this on my own experience. People aren't "hyper aware" of race, it's just a very diverse community. People from less-diverse communities often don't feel like they need to be "aware" of race because differences in treatment, experience, and expectation do not surface in the same way.
posted by sweetkid at 1:42 PM on December 23, 2013 [15 favorites]

Is there a way of asking whether being a white woman in a predominantly black/hispanic neighborhood will expose me to more harassment without being accused of racisim?

I don't think your original question was racist, exactly, but if you're interested in a more polite way to frame it, you might consider, "How healthy are race relations in this neighborhood?"
posted by schroedingersgirl at 1:59 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I live two stops closer to Manhattan on the J/Z (the M breaks off at Myrtle-Broadway). I've traveled down to Gates to get mail from the Post Office there, but that was the middle of the day. It didn't give me the screaming heebie jeebies like East New York around Broadway Junction or Alabama Ave did in the middle of the day. Something about East New York just unnerved me and I don't know what it is. But Gates at least passes that test. Bushwick, as a whole is a fairly safe neighborhood. My roommate is a 5'2" Asian drag queen who comes home in drag occasionally (although not as often as he used to).

The bit about rent the Griphus brings up is a valid point. I was thinking $650 was a good deal, but utilities included? Is this a legal apartment? (Not that that's a huge issue, I have friends who have lived in illegal apartments, but it does complicate things) If your roommate to be has had this place for a few years, that could explain the low rent also.

I'm 6'3" white guy. I have never been hassled about race (well, except for the teenager who yelled "Obama!" in my face after the 2008 elections, which I found funny), but that could easily be a function of size and gender. My apartment has been burgled once (by a really incompetent kid- I swear he must have been in high school- who got scared and ran off when I came out of my room), the cops have raided my upstairs neighbors twice (this time they're supposed to get evicted) for drugs, but on the whole, things are fine. I've had female friends leave my place at all hours and have no problem getting to the subway, which is four blocks away.

Finally, after all that meandering, something perhaps useful: Crime map of New York. You can zoom down to see an map of exactly where incidents occurred. Do keep in mind that the 81st is where they had that scandal about under reporting though.
posted by Hactar at 1:59 PM on December 23, 2013

Part of my concern about race has to do with an ex's experiences living for a few months in NY circa 2008. He used to live in Harlem and on two occasions he was walking down a crowded street and was punched in the face and called racial slurs. This was in broad daylight and he's a tall guy.
posted by timsneezed at 2:05 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Six-year Brooklyn res here: there are definitely rough neighborhoods in BK, but it doesn't have much to do with the color of the people who live there. The worst thing that ever happened to me while living in Crown Heights and Flatbush was getting called "Snowflake."

That said, I don't know about the Gates stop. Check out the neighborhood forums on Brooklynian.

No matter where you live, practicing common sense will cut down a sizable portion on the risk of getting jumped. I can't tell you how many fresh college grads I see staggering home drunk or bobbing along with their headphones blasting at 3AM . Don't do that.
posted by jessca84 at 2:09 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Harlem is not the same as Bushwick. That's where I think you're kind of getting tripped up here with racial stuff. Go to Bushwick. At night. See how you feel.
posted by sweetkid at 2:17 PM on December 23, 2013 [7 favorites]

What side of Broadway is it on, Bushwick or BedStuy? A cruise up the Bushwick side of Gates in Google Streetview shows a clean, well-maintained neighborhood. I'd live there.

Ten years ago (when I was a mid-20s female) I lived in Bushwick north of Myrtle and I felt fine. Whenever I had to walk home from the subway after midnight I wouldn't say that I felt totally safe, but I didn't even feel entirely safe walking around past midnight when I lived in Astoria or even in Forest Hills. Being a pedestrian in the dark can be kinda creepy.

But if you walk confidently and with purpose, and treat people courteously and respectfully, then most likely no one will harrass you. And if you do end up moving there, don't just be a commuter; take an interest in your neighborhood, talk to people, and make some friends.
posted by elsietheeel at 2:28 PM on December 23, 2013

Harlem is not the same as Bushwick

Also men and women have completely different experiences on the street. I'm a white woman who has spent 4+ years occasionally walking around Harlem, usually alone, and I've never had a single bad experience.

Honestly I feel way more on guard and vulnerable when I'm in tourist-heavy spots like Times Square than I do in slightly sketchy neighborhoods in Brooklyn. New York is extremely diverse, as sweetkid says, and with rare exceptions even the "rougher" neighborhoods are pretty racially diverse. Looking like a confident New Yorker who knows where she's going is what really matters.
posted by oinopaponton at 2:40 PM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

I nth what bilabial and sweetkid are saying.

How much traffic is there between your train stop (proposed) and your apt?

Slow way down on the Harlem/Bushwick thing. I mean, come on.

But if you are not comfortable living around black people, then don't go live around black people. That simple. No late-night test walks are necessary.
posted by skbw at 3:57 PM on December 23, 2013 [10 favorites]

Some parts of Bushwick are better than others. Why is the rent only $650? Is that market rent for that block? Is the landlord unaware of what the market rent should be? How long are you planning on staying there? The rent could be low because that's a bad block, because something is wrong with the building, or because the landlord isn't paying attention to how the neighborhood is changing. If the latter, expect that to change at some point.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:15 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I lived in bedstuy in the middle of the last decade. It was still very rough. I didn't have trouble at all outside of the standard 'holla' harassment and you just (sadly) get that for having boobs.

Now, we had crazy cheap rent, and we found out the hard way way- crazy vindictive management always terrorizing the tenants. They'd break the door and leave it wide and unsecured for weeks, turned off our hot water for months and refused to fix our mailboxes forever.

I'd be more concerned about why so cheap than any things else.

Also, while never having trouble in bedstuy, I know many friends who were robbed and assaulted in fancy pants park slope. It's all going to be about your comfort level.
posted by Blisterlips at 4:30 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have a good friend who lives right there and as a result I'm often in the neighborhood at all kinds of hours. It feels pretty safe to me. Actually more neighborhood-y than other parts of Brooklyn, in that people remember me and make it a point to say hi.

My friend has a similarly 'good' deal, but has recently found out that the building has major structural issues and might collapse. She's looking to move. So buyer beware.
posted by overhauser at 6:40 PM on December 23, 2013

6th generation New Yorker here, currently kinda bi-coastal.

Bushwick isn't that sketchy any more. If you have basic situational awareness you should be fine.

Also, two things I've learned from living in Redhook and East Williamsburg in the early 2000s, and in West Oakland (which is orders of magnitude more dangerous) for 10 years.

1. Be friendly to your neighbors, they'll look out for you.

2. Being white in a neighborhood that's predominantly not does not automatically make you a target. There is an opposite effect that people don't think about: Criminals who happen to be people of color accurately perceive police to be at least somewhat racist, if not very racist.

That provides an unexpected type of privilege: they expect that if they beat up a white person and take their wallet, the cops will care more about finding them. This cancels out the fact that you stand out visibly.


Also, a $650 room in that part of Bushwick is a fair deal, not a great deal, depending on the size of the room.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 6:53 PM on December 23, 2013

"But if you are not comfortable living around black people, then don't go live around black people." I'm comfortable living around black people. I'm more concerned about being perceived as an outsider and getting hostility because of that in all black/hispanic community. According to my friend I will be the only white person who loves on this or the adjacent block so I will really stick out.

I think it's understandable for somebody who is an ethnic minority in a rough community to feel unsafe and out of place, and I don't really understand why I've received so much vitriol for expressing my concern. Safety is my first concern, not being politically correct.

I just don't know what if anything to expect since I've never been in this situation. It could be totally fine but I'd like to get a sense of the racial climate and dynamics before I move.
posted by timsneezed at 6:56 PM on December 23, 2013

In regards to the price, I met with my new roommate tonight and he told me the prices on the next block are about 200-300 extra for a room and he thinks the price can be explained by two factors: the building is owned by an old couple so they don't have any management pushing up the prices, it's a family dominated block so doesn't appeal as much to hipsters.

Btw, the block is on Gates Avenue between Broadway and Bushwick, so it's east of Broadway.
posted by timsneezed at 7:02 PM on December 23, 2013

My advice is that if you decide to move to the neighborhood, just make sure that your feelings of being out of place don't manifest themselves in avoiding saying hello or making eye contact or being friendly to your new neighbors. I recently listened to this podcast about a gentrifying historically African American neighborhood in Portland which I think is worth giving a listen. The tl;dl is that the white people who moved into the neighborhood felt like they were minimizing their prescience (and impact of being white in a black neighborhood) by never acknowledging the black people in the neighborhood -- which in turn was interpreted as incredibly rude by the black residents. As other people have said in this thread, knowing your neighbors is beneficial and encouraged AND has the bonus of making you feel more at home.
posted by cajalswoon at 7:06 PM on December 23, 2013 [6 favorites]

Cajalswoon, thanks for the link; I'll give it a listen. I'm a very friendly person and usually make eye contact with and smile at people when I pass them on the street. Since I've moved to NY from Boston, though, I've noticed that people don't do that as much around here so I've amended my style a bit. I haven't been really sure what's appropriate but people here don't seem too comfortable acknowledging strangers. Maybe it varies from neighborhood to neighborhood.
posted by timsneezed at 7:10 PM on December 23, 2013

I feel like you're really hung up on the fact that you're white and that makes you an "ethnic minority" - like I said before, I'm Indian American, Asian, whatever and for the most part the people I see on the street in my neighborhood are white, black, or Hispanic - actually mostly white or black here (near downtown Brooklyn).

There are some areas in NYC where you stick out for not looking like other people but those are like, Hasidic neighborhoods, parts of Bensonhurst probably, plenty of others that I have no experience with so don't want to say, but - Bushwick is not one of them.

Also, black/Hispanic people are not a monolith and nonwhite people are not a monolith. It's not like you're "in" or you're "out." That's why your question is coming off a little strange and maybe like you don't understand social dynamics in the city much. Which is fine, that's how you learn, but that's why you're getting pushback.
posted by sweetkid at 7:16 PM on December 23, 2013 [11 favorites]

It does vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, you're right. My experience of living in Harlem for several years, and now going to school in Flatbush for several years, is that in those neighborhoods, at least, there is much more eye contact and greeting than on your average NYC block. That neighborliness was one of the best parts about living in Harlem, for me. I have no idea if it's the same in Bushwick.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:16 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and yeah, I'm a white lady, if it's relevant.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:17 PM on December 23, 2013

Sweetkid, no I don't understand social and race dynamics in this city. That's exactly why I'm asking.
posted by timsneezed at 7:19 PM on December 23, 2013

The best way to learn them is to experience it yourself.
posted by sweetkid at 7:34 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my experience, it really depends how you carry yourself and project through your body language, and how you feel and how much experience you have with other neighborhoods.

I've had a friend move out of an area that I considered totally fine, because they were freaked out and worried. I would have lived there, no biggie. But it made sense for that friend to move, because over time their concern about the neighborhood became a stress factor for them, which was absolutely legitimate when it concerns your home. So seconding sweetkid - walk around.

Also - are you northeast or southeast of Broadway? IMO the area is different whether you're on the Bushwick side or on the Bed-Stuy side.
posted by suedehead at 7:42 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's a block adjacent to Broadway on Gates Avenue on the northeast side.
posted by timsneezed at 7:46 PM on December 23, 2013

Also, black/Hispanic people are not a monolith and nonwhite people are not a monolith. It's not like you're "in" or you're "out."

SO TRUE. And more true in NYC than in many other cities. Race is still an issue in NYC and will continue to be. But having left NYC ten years ago and become a frequent visitor, I have to say that every time I go back to Brooklyn, I notice people getting more and more friendly regardless of race.

Race is the kind of serious issue that becomes more comfortable with a little levity. I was out in Flatbush at a liquor store last month. That neighborhood is WAY less white than Bushwick. A Trinidadian dude asked me for wine recomendations, and I jokingly asked if it was because I was white, like all white people knew about wine. He thought it was funny, and so did the clerk.

Be good natured, be friendly, be cautious but not afraid.

Learn from other women in the neighborhood what the ground rules are about cat calls, whether and when to talk back. The cat calls are the only thing I'd really be concerned about, and from what I've heard they're getting less common too.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:47 PM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

To answer the question as asked: in Bushwick, my impression is that that ship has sailed.

Were you to move there, you would most likely be one of many, many white women who regard the neighborhood as a potentially dangerous source of cheap apartments. You would probably not be the first person to desegregate your block.

If you would like to learn more about Bushwick, Make The Road By Walking is a famous nonprofit established there.

See especially their housing department. Eviction prevention (see link) is an important service. It is very tempting for landlords to apply the letter of the lease strictly in order to evict low-income tenants, renovate the apartment, raise the rent, and rent to people who can afford higher rents. Given the facts on the ground in this country, many of the new tenants are white.

As for learning about Harlem, the Autobiography of Malcolm X is a quick and completely gripping read. It explains a lot about what happened to your friend in 2008.
posted by skbw at 7:50 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

From the link:

"Over 86% of Bushwick residents are renters and nearly a quarter of Bushwick households spend more than 50% of their income on rent. As gentrification spreads east from Williamsburg, MRNY members report an upsurge in harassment by landlords, neglect of the housing stock, demands for illegal rent increases, and fraudulent eviction proceedings to force tenants from their rent-stabilized apartments. Bushwick's rate of serious housing code violations is the single highest in the city."
posted by skbw at 7:55 PM on December 23, 2013

Daily News, Nov. 2nd, 2013:

Just a few blocks from Bushwick hotspot Roberta’s, where well-heeled diners can sample the chef’s tasting menu for $180 a head, Urania Medal wonders whether she and her family will have heat this winter.

Last year, Urania’s landlord sold her building, and the new owner — no doubt seeing the potential new market — told all of the existing immigrant tenants that they had to leave. They all left — except Urania, who’s had to pay a hefty price for her strong stance.

Read more:
posted by skbw at 7:58 PM on December 23, 2013

Crain's, Oct. 15th, 2013:

Housing advocates are quite happy with a city program that forces landlords of dilapidated residential buildings to pay for repairs, but they are protesting nonetheless, claiming that it's too small.

Building owners, for their part, say the program is already effective at the current level of enforcement, and the city's housing agency says advocates are off-base.

The immigrant-rights nonprofit Make the Road plans to march Wednesday in Bushwick, Brooklyn, to urge the Department of Housing Preservation and Development to expand its five-year-old Alternative Enforcement Program to better preserve the city's housing stock and protect tenants.

posted by skbw at 8:01 PM on December 23, 2013

Yeah, I feel like what skbw is telling you, and what griphus and Blisterlips mentioned before, is that bad landlords/bad housing is a bigger threat to you than not looking like your neighbors.
posted by sweetkid at 8:02 PM on December 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

Actually no. I am saying that to understand poor neighborhoods in NYC, Bushwick among them, you've got to understand what the constant influx of riches is doing to the housing market.

OP's poorly maintained apartment in Bushwick is only one option of several for her.

For a long-time resident of Bushwick, a crappy apartment may be THE option.

If you're going to go in and take up the housing stock--free market and all--at least Google, for God's sake. Nobody's telling you that you have to LIKE poor people or go and work as a housing advocate. But at least google. Or stay on the Upper West Side. I say it as a former UWS resident.
posted by skbw at 8:09 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

Race is still an issue in NYC and will continue to be.

As someone who is not white, I love NYC because race isn't an 'issue' here, it's a visible factor.

It's a panoply of mixes and differing backgrounds, and everyone is aware. In most other cities in the US, race is "not an issue" because the racial divide is less visible. Seconding what sweetkid said above: "People from less-diverse communities often don't feel like they need to be "aware" of race because differences in treatment, experience, and expectation do not surface in the same way." So if you move to Bushwick and you find yourself more perceptive of racial and cultural differences -- that's great.


It's a block adjacent to Broadway on Gates Avenue on the northeast side.

Walk around at night, but I think you'll be fine. That area is usually super residential with families, especially the more you go northeast.
posted by suedehead at 8:12 PM on December 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

From your updates, I think you are taking your ex's experiences in Harlem as some kind of boilerplate for how race relations happen throughout New York City. That's not the case. I will give you some anecdotes with racial notations since you asked about race relations: My best friend, who is white, was mugged by two other white guys in Harlem maybe 10 years ago. When I met my now-husband, he lived in Bed-Stuy in a house full of hippie-hipsters and they were the only white household on their block for several years. They became the favorite of the families in the neighborhood because they all rode bikes and would fix the neighborhood kids' bikes for them. A friend of mine has been harassed on the street many times and carries a knife with her at all times. The most threatened she ever felt was in midtown, by two guys who were Latino (as is she). Another friend of mine and her accompanying realtor were attacked by a random guy in Park Slope while she was looking at apartments a few months ago, all the same race.

Basically what I'm trying to say is that race is not the primary determining factor in whether you will be safe in NYC. Go check out the area at different times of day and night. See how you feel there. If you do move there, make friends with your neighbors. Say hi to the guy who runs the corner store. Nobody smiles and says hello in midtown (or really most parts of Manhattan), but they do in residential areas in Brooklyn, etc. Do that. It's more about being perceived as an outsider than it is about race.
posted by bedhead at 8:28 PM on December 23, 2013 [5 favorites]

Gotta agree about Harlem. It's different. I think in someways because it's a cultural capital for Black America, and the resentment of incoming white folks is understandably better there.

I've had situations in Harlem where someone asked directions at a group of people, I answered, and they said "I wasn't talking to YOU." I also get "snowflake" there fairly often.

Not that being a dick to someone based on their race is anything other than being a dick, but it's comprehensible to me why that happens in Harlem, perhaps more so than in any other predominantly Black neighborhood in America.


In most other cities in the US, race is "not an issue" because the racial divide is less visible.

My experience is in NYC, Boston, and Oakland. NYC is by far the least segregated, the most likely to have very diverse neighborhoods. There are still lines, but if you think they're visible in New York, you haven't seen Oakland. It's appalling.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 9:10 PM on December 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

SKWB: Where did I ever say the apartment was poorly maintained? Far from it. It's actually a lot nicer inside than the places I looked at in Williamsburg. It's a beautiful, clean apartment that doesn't have any structural problems according to my friend (he's been living there for awhile).

Btw, thanks for all the input in this thread. I feel a lot more comfortable moving in now.
posted by timsneezed at 9:36 PM on December 23, 2013

Yeah, I feel like what skbw is telling you, ... that bad landlords/bad housing is a bigger threat to you than not looking like your neighbors.

Nope. That's not it at all. It's another thing you'll need to learn deal with if you're moving to Bushwick: clichéd racialized guilt trips.

As a white, 10 year resident of West Oakland, I have plenty of advice on that. But mostly it's the same as before: be nice to your neighbors, get to know them, be friendly. Me, I like to ask people to tell me stories about the neighborhood, to learn.

But am I gonna feel guilty about scoring low-cost housing in an expensive region? Nope. All's fair in love, war, and scoring an affordable place to live in NYC or the Bay Area.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 12:31 AM on December 24, 2013

NYC is by far the least segregated, the most likely to have very diverse neighborhoods.

Oh yes, I agree with you. That was a wrongly worded statement on my part - what I meant was:

In most other cities in the US, race is "not an issue" because race is less visible because of the fact that areas appear more homogeneous due to higher levels of self-segregation and clustering.

But, in my experience, the vast majority of non-white people in the US are always conscious about race and culture. Race is only really ever a non-issue for someone who is white. As such, when race becomes 'an issue' in NYC, it is really because race becomes part of a consciously perceived factor for white people as well. In my opinion, this is a very good thing.
posted by suedehead at 2:02 AM on December 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

I was born and raised in Bushwick. The area where you will be moving to is RAPIDLY gentrifying. You are not anomaly in that area. Bushwick is far far safer than is ever been in years. The sketchy areas of Bushwick are near the industrial stretches that have have no businesses and residents, side streets near major interaction under the J or M (like melrose ave between evergreen and Bushwick is an example) and the major avenues at night in the summers. And by unsafe I don't mean massive amounts of crime occurs there I mean you will feel sketched out.

I'm a light skinned Hispanic woman but I also have a expertly cultivated "don't fuck with me face." I feel very safe in my neighborhood. I've walked back from classes at 12 am and parties at 2 am.

What I would suggest is to be open but firm. A lot of new comers straight up pretend the long term residents don't exist. This is a source of great frustration to me and others. To a lot of long term residents your literal presence signifies our doom (hipper neighborhood, more affluent people moving in, rising rents, landlord giving you the boot).

Confidence in yourself and trusting your gut go a loooooong way. If you feel unsafe walking somewhere just walk down another block. If you get lost confidently and openly ask someone to help you.

Despite living here my whole life there are sometimes I just feel sketched out. If there is a loud biker gang smoking weed with giant pit bulls I cross the street! If there are a bunch of guys drinking on a corner I just walk around. I walk where there are a lot of people. I walk where families walk. And if I get a funny feeling I walk somewhere else. And I don't do that in Bushwick only I do that every where.

As a woman you wil be cat called and street harassed in whatever NYC neighborhood you inhabit. Don't pay those fools any mind. Don't acknowledge their presence. Don't give them a sliver of fuck. Go on about our way. If you're feeling especially pissed about a nasty remark depending on the person and area you can grill the living shit out of them (this takes skill!)

You're in a statistically safe place on NYC. The neighborhood is soooooo much fun and has so much to offer. Be confident, be open yet trust your gut.

Now if you were to tell me your were moving to Brownsville, Canarsie or East New York that's a totally different story....,
posted by lifeonholidae at 7:26 AM on December 24, 2013 [11 favorites]

Walk around the neighborhood during the daytime, finding the "bad" and "good" blocks. If you can find a string of good links to the subway, you should be OK.

Crowded blocks are good, not bad, except if it's all gang members sitting on stoops. The block I feel safest on is the one where the men are around a sidewalk table playing a very loud game of dominoes and the kids are rushing around like schools of fish.

Talk with the local merchants at the newsstand, restaurants, etc. -- i.e., adults -- to get their perspective. Find a police officer on patrol, make friends and ask about places to go or avoid.
posted by KRS at 7:50 AM on December 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

That area definitely isn't located in the worst parts of Bushwick but I would say it's bordering on some of the rougher areas. I find the Spot Crime maps to be pretty useful barometer for what's safe.

Clusters of shootings = bad
Clusters of robberies/muggings = okay, not great - obviously be aware of your surroundings
No crime or maybe a stray burglary or two = in the clear

As a very general rule, going South of Broadway leads the to sketchier areas. If you're living five blocks south of the Gates J stop, I would not recommend it. All in all, it's pretty unlikely that you'd be mugged in that neighborhood as long as you have some street smarts--it really depends on your comfort level.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 6:55 PM on December 24, 2013

Gates btw Broadway & Bushwick is not great and I would absolutely visit the area after 9pm to get a feel for it.

Also, fyi, East of Malcom X Blvd., and South of Lafayette Ave & Broadway also not great; East of Ralph Avenue it is worse and East of Saratoga Ave worse still.
posted by mlis at 9:19 PM on December 24, 2013

My white-looking, part-Asian daughter lived in Harlem for a while and was just fine. She also grew up in neighbourhoods where white folks weren't necessarily in the majority, though. I think attitude has a lot more to do with this question than skin colour. When I visited her, I didn't see any other Asians, but it's not like I was ever not a minority, ever since I was born, so I felt pretty much at ease. Being female is more of a problem on city streets, but that goes for any neighborhood.
posted by salix at 2:04 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older Where can I find an image of the Mountain Standard...   |   How to serve homemade noodles with a rib roast? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.