Remember “The Neighborhood”? It’s that cheerful yet faintly sinister project that’s looking to seed a 1-square-mile zone of San Francisco with “builders, researchers, founders, artists and more” in the hopes of creating a kind of gooey-techie community that endures across generations. We don’t quite know what that means, but there are signs that it will probably be in Hayes Valley—if it isn’t already.
Now it appears that another group of individuals is hoping to do something similar—this time, in Brooklyn. Specifically, the future denizens of Neighborhood NYC will head straight to the Morgan Avenue stop on the L subway line in Bushwick, which just happens to be my last address before moving to San Francisco in 2008.
Curbed caught wind of Neighborhood NYC earlier this week, noting that the co-founders are explicitly looking to “bring high-agency, emotionally intelligent New Yorkers within walking distance of one another” as a kind of combination Burning Man-slash-startup that one likens it to “Montessori x MIT Media Lab x Aristotle x Chobani.” They want 1,000 diverse nerds in their live-work dominion, and they’re making sales pitches at dinner parties in the hopes of winning converts, or at least a short-term sublet or two.
In spite of all that has gone terribly awry for us, the spirit of San Francisco lives on. Considering all the grumbling about East Coasters who move here, make tons of money, complain about eucalyptuses and leave a mess, it’s nice to see this energy directed toward another coast for a change. Neighborhood NYC has a refreshing utopian spirit, akin to 19th century socialist communities that constructed beautiful home furnishings before fizzling out, or that group of libertarians who once tried to conquer a town in New Hampshire only to be driven out by bears.
Why Bushwick, though? Well, it’s cool and it’s cheap, relatively speaking. It’s like the Mission in 1994. When I moved there 17 years ago, people would do whatever they could to emphasize its proximity to Williamsburg. I lived essentially atop the entrance to the Morgan L station, in a rat-infested, ground-floor railroad-style apartment that was across the street from one cement factory and next door to another. A glance at Google Street View reveals a restaurant has opened adjacent to my bedroom window, but the block remains industrial in character and fairly desolate.
While nowhere near as gentrified as ultra-pricey Williamsburg, Bushwick has seen its substantial Puerto Rican and Dominican communities struggle to remain. Treating the neighborhood like a blank slate may be a dicey proposition, even before luring entrepreneurs through comparisons to a school for rich children, a think tank closely associated with Jeffrey Epstein, the ancient Greek philosopher who believed eels didn’t reproduce and upmarket yogurt. But at least Neighborhood NYC isn't renaming it “Cerebral Valley.”