The Mixed-Use Zone consists of the property bounded by Flushing Avenue, Broadway, Myrtle Avenue, and Beaver Street. This area is significant as an intact grouping of structures that reflect the development of a mixed residential, industrial, and commercial district during the late nineteenth century in Brooklyn. Although common historically, few historic mixed-use zones survive in Brooklyn today—and where they do, few of the buildings retain their original functions.[[#_ftn1|]] The Bushwick Mixed-Use Zone presents an important opportunity to preserve historic industrial buildings, a manufacturing community that operating within the original design intent of its build environment, and the surrounding context of a traditional mixed-use neighborhood that retains historic building fabric.
Bounded by the elevated transit lines along Broadway and Myrtle Avenue, and the commercial corridors of Flushing Avenue and Broadway, this area is defined by the industrial structures, educational facilities, and wood-frame workers’ housing that fill in the interior of the blocks. This heterogeneous combination of building forms and uses distinguishes the area from the remainder of the Bushwick Avenue corridor Study Area, with its predominately residential character. The industrial stock is unlike the general fabric of the Study Area, and the surviving wood-frame tenements, built singly or in small rows of four or six, help create a distinctive sense of place despite significant alterations to exterior finishes.
Originally rural, increased urbanization and development of this area was spurred by the development of Bushwick’s famous brewing industry and improvements in transportation. The Myrtle Avenue horse car line was extended east to Broadway in 1855, and the elevated rapid transit line, operated by the Brooklyn Elevated Railroad, reached Broadway and Gates Avenue in 1885. By 1880, 35 breweries had been established in Brooklyn, including at least 11 located in the14-block section of the Eastern District known as “brewer’s row,” and other industrious German immigrants opened factories and knitting mills in the area. Low-cost, wood-frame tenements and small rowhouses were built in the surrounding lots for workers and their families. Speculative builders, mostly of German descent, generally financed the housing construction, and William Ulmer was just one of many beer barons who invested their profits into real estate. A second wave of development began after the construction of the elevated railroad along Myrtle Avenue in 1888, making the area an attractive alternative to congested downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.[[#_ftn2|]]
Much like the rest of the Bushwick Avenue corridor, this area’s distinctive sense of scale and subtle charms are threatened by real estate pressure to demolish existing building stock and build out of scale and out of character development. The recommended zoning adjustments discussed in Section 3D would help to preserve a character-defining sense of scale, but not the most unique and salient feature of this part of the Study Area: the historic live/work nature. There is significant real estate pressure to convert buildings from manufacturing to residential use despite the shortage of affordable manufacturing space in Brooklyn. Luckily, there are several initiatives that could be put in place to retain the distinct mixed uses of this “district,” create opportunities for manufacturing jobs, and preserve low-cost housing in a neighborhood where employment and affordable housing are both of vital concern.
[[#_ftnref1|]] Although 78% of manufacturing zoning districts in New York City already contain residential land uses, many of these residential units are either new construction or conversions of formerly industrial buildings. See Making It in New York: The Manufacturing Land Use and Zoning Initiative, vol. 1 (New York: The Municipal Art Society, 2001), 71, 121.
[[#_ftnref2|]] Landmarks Preservation Commission, Ridgewood North Historic District Designation Report (New York: New York, 2010).