When I moved to Cripplebush in September 2011, it felt like an outpost on the savage frontiers of hipster Brooklyn. Beyond Cripplebush, the L train plunged into a wilderness of suburbs and neighbourhoods utterly devoid of dive bars and vegan bakeries. Out here in the post-industrial wilds, the final battle for Brooklyn would take place, as humans fought bed bugs for dominion over the borough.
If nothing else, I figured there’d be a lot to write about.
The bed bug invasion, as it turned out, was almost over, but there were other interesting things going on. Every week or so a new Japanese kid would get stuck at the door of our building, looking for the illegal hostel on the third floor. Rumours circulated that the dealer on the second floor had a secret stockpile of weapons. The band on the second floor had riotous parties but were incapable of playing more than one instrument at a time. From the first floor came the occasional cascade of far better music, and it got about that Twin Sister was rehearsing down there.
Things took a turn for the worst when we lost our roof access. Thick padlocks were knotted around the doors, accompanied by stern signs warning that the doors were now alarmed. The given pretext for this was that people had been throwing shit at police officers from the roof. Actual shit. It was too weird to be made up, but too logistically implausible to make any real sense. Whatever the reason, about fifty apartments lost their own common meeting space, and with it the only hope we had of ever figuring out who had been flinging faeces, and how, and why.
As the months went by Cripplebush continued to promise great things, but could never quite deliver on these. A new ramen place opened up, but one of the longer-standing cafe/bars closed down. The frontier of gentrification moved on to more fertile ground in Bushwick, leaving Cripplebush looking pretty much the way it always looked – kind of interesting, kind of dingy, kind of sort of vaguely promisingish.
With rent rapidly rising, people began to flee Cripplebush. My housemates and I packed up our apartment, and eagerly awaited the chance to move to other parts of Brooklyn. An endless parade of possible future tenants – each group younger than the last – knocked on our door, chaperoned by a landlord with a remarkable gift for creeping everybody out. The guys that eventually signed for the place brought a contractor with them; they had plans to gut the space so they could build an indoor half-pipe.
There will always be new arrivals eager to realise their dreams of half-pipes or recording studios or speakeasy hostels or whatever out in the Cripplebush wastes. It is a region of particularly high turnover in a city that is constantly coming and going. Where it might take decades or generations to become truly local to other parts of the city, anyone who has lived among the Cripplebush lofts for more than a few years can claim seniority, having witnessed the many almost-changes, almost-realisations and almost-fulfilled promises of the hipster utopia in the post-industrial badlands.