brooklyn historical society
Exhibit Dates: May 23 - August 26, 2007
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UP FROM FLAMES

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The Path To Ruin > Hitting Bottom

SECTION GUIDE

The Path to Ruin | Demographic Changes | Private Disinvestment: The Real Estate Follies |
Public Disinvestment: Planned Shrinkage
| "The Fire War" | The Many Causes of Arson | Hitting Bottom
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bushwick

Hitting Bottom
by Adam J. Schwartz

In July 1977, Bushwick hit bottom, as two events shook the city and drew the attention of the nation: the New York City blackout unleashed rioting along Broadway and the "All Hands Fire", one of the largest New York City fires prior to 9/11/01, destroyed a huge area around Knickerbocker Avenue and Bleecker Street.

Taken together, both of these events were a frightening statement of just how bad things could get.

STUDENT VOICES

The "All Hands Fire"

On July 18 1977, a giant fire took 7 blocks from the neighborhood. The fire started at Knickerbocker Avenue and Bleecker Street in an old abandoned knitting factory. It was set by three teenagers, who were later charged with reckless endangerment, third degree assault and arson, and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

It took about 3 to 5 hours to put out the fire. It took 55 units of firefighters from Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn to put out the fire. The fire hydrants were no use to the firefighters because they were low on water. It turned out that the citizens throughout the summer kept on using the hydrants to fight off the heat. The firefighters also were low on equipment because of the low budget the department received. Many citizens were affected by the fire. 65 families lost their homes and about 23 buildings were destroyed, as well as 50 people injured, including firefighters. This fire was important to Bushwick because many homes were lost and it showed how dangerous leaving abandoned buildings could be.

Lourdelis Garcia and Lita Lynne
The Academy of Urban Planning

Bushwick's economy goes bad after blackout!

Bushwick's economy went bad after the blackout of 1977. Nearly 4,500 people were arrested during that blackout. Looting was a serious problem and many people stole from stores and markets. The affects were devastating to the community and many of the store owners didn't come back to repair their damaged stores. The owners were in a difficult situation because many simply would not have enough money to rebuild their stores and continue to pay higher insurance costs. In some cases the owners never received any insurance claims.

The riots and looting of 1977 had very negative affects on the Bushwick community. The many retail stores were forced to close and never reopened. This meant that the economic life of Bushwick fell as many jobs left the community. Luckily for the community the economy of Bushwick has rebounded but only after many years of neglected and abandoned storefronts.

Dilleon Stewart and Tyshawn Jackson
Academy of Urban Planning
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