For those not living in Brooklyn, what’s going on here is that artist’s spaces and alternative communities such as ours can be frequent targets by the city. As a result, folks such as Vito Lopez made a Loft Law bill (no link provided as I cannot find a neutral one–even NY Slime’s link is blathering on about pigeon feces and “black magic”) that provides us with the rent stabilization and legal protection that dwellers in more traditional brownstone setups enjoy. It ensures that we can continue to live and work in Bushwick without facing a Park Slope sized price-gouge at the whim of an owner. Some critics try to claim that this law will invite gentrification and drive out manufacturing but fer reals? The factories, plants, and warehouses that are currently in business are not being forced to close down or convert. The lofts that have been converted into residential and art spaces had long been untouched –ours was an abandoned coffin factory. There is another, presumably superior coffin factory still open and doing a brisk business just around the corner. And gentrification? Well, the local small business owners, biker club, and other neighbors are all on a “how do you do?” friendly term with me and Eric. But I don’t see any yuppie or trustafarian types looking at our bedraggled, tattered clothing asses and counting us among their ranks. Which suits me fine, the older lady who runs the truck stop that doesn’t open till 2 AM probably has a lot more things to tell than the college kid who thinks he’s a wildman cuz he went on a 4 Loko and cocaine bender. (Yeah, I overheard someone loudly boasting about this on a cell phone once.)
But yeah, the city? They’ll monitor our place, raid it, arrest you and not tell you what you’re being charged with for 23 hours, yeah they’re a wacky bunch. Seriously, in other neighborhoods I’d find the police a mixed bag. Yeah, there were plenty who were corrupt as shit, there were the police who did the things I recounted in my 1999 World War 3 piece (go look it up if you want to know, it’s kind of an involved story.) But there was also the sympathetic cop who dealt with me after I was mugged, paying out of his own pocket for me to duplicate my roommate’s key to replace the one in the stolen bag and have a simple meal when he learned I hadn’t eaten that day. Or the ones I observed once while playing a punk show in Tompkins Sq. Park, bopping along with the music rather than hassling the crowd, their arms sporting tattoo sleeves. Probably guys who signed up cuz it was steady work after whatever it was they thought they were going to do in life didn’t pan out in this economy.
The cops in this neighborhood though? Imagine every cliched cartoon image of a cop out of a 60’s underground comic or movie you can imagine. Every “I don’t like the looks of you freaks, whaddaya doin’ drugz or sumpin’?” Willoughby Sharp in “Police State” pudgy yet muscled caricature you just thought was too over the top to really exist. Every high school jock who’s glory days are behind them looking to bust heads. Got it? Ok, that’s them. We actually had a van pull up beside us once and give Eric a hard time about the way he was walking. Though they quickly dropped it when he explained his disability.
So yeah, anyway, that’s what all that is about.