Founded in 1638, chartered by Peter Stuyvesant in 1661, Bushwick was originally Boswijck. It consisted of modern day Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint. It was a Dutch settlement until 1683, when the British crown would take over Bushwick, along with other towns, and unite them under the name Kings County.
Bushwick was primarily an area for farming food and tobacco. As Brooklyn grew, suddenly, the neighborhood became more industrial, with factories for sugar, chemicals, and oil being erected. The 1860s saw Bushwick become famous for it’s factories, from glass to chemicals. At this time, the majority of immigrants were German.
In the 1890’s, Bushwick established dominance in brewery, and was dubbed the beer capital of the Northeast. At this time, there was also expansion in railways, especially elevated ones, easing the access between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
A new wave of European Immigrants settled in the neighborhood, and some men were even becoming rich, living in townhouses on Bushwick Ave. The wealth of the neighborhood peaked during the world wars.
Italians began to come after WWI, replacing Germans as the dominant group in the neighborhood by the 1950s.
After WWII, African American and Carribean American working class families began to move in, and in the 1960’s, poorer migrant workers of Puerto Rican and African American descent in particular moved into Bushwick. The neighborhoods went from 90% white to less than 40% in a decade. Beer companies moved out with the rising energy costs and the advances in transportation. There were discussions for urban renewal, but nothing ever came from them.
In the mid-seventies, half of Bushwick was on welfare or some other form of public assistance. The once proud neighborhood was now a slum of sorts. In 1977, Bushwick was particularly devastated by the big blackout, suburban storeowners taking the brunt of the ruin from looting and burning. Desperation from the poor residents lead to violence and robbery.
After the blackout, anyone who could afford to leave left, while more Hispanics, mostly Puerto Rican and Dominican, moved into the neighborhood. Renovation and demolition made the neighborhood look desolate, so more people moved out as they could. The 1980s saw Bushwick as a neighborhood of poverty, crime, and drugs. It remained this was to the 1990’s, poor and relatively dangerous.
In the 2000s, the Bushwick Initiative began, and saw housing improvements and programs to help with the life qualities. It was out to also increase opportunities for economic development and reduce drug activity. The largely beneficial program led to urban professionals, out for cheaper rent than Manhattan and a better home experience, moving into Bushwick, mixing in with the current population. Now, the neighborhood is primarily white and Hispanic, with mixes of other low-income immigrant communities.