Bushwick BK

New to the hood, the Castle Braid plays host to a six-week art fair in Bushwick, starting with a massive party this Saturday afternoon.

The Castle Braid, as we've covered in these pages before, is a luxury apartment building uncommon in these parts. But along with the impressive amenities (a gym, swish decor, communal bikes, a building-centric social network, etc., etc.) the development at 114 Troutman is unique in its mission to function as a hub for artists and their fellow travelers alike. It has quirks like a bocci ball court and a dog run, but the Castle Braid aims to go further, much further than anything similar, by offering a host of communal incentives for creative types.

With utilities like rentable video equipment, a media library and book-swap, a screening room, a chalkboard wall that features a new artist each month, practice spaces, and free recording studio time, the owner, ebullient art-lover Mayer Schwartz, is aiming to foster a sense of creative community as he has in the past, successfully, with projects like The Opera House and to a smaller extent, the Bedford Avenue mini-mall.

"Foster" is the key word here, and Schwartz hopes to take the training wheels off eventually. For example, though regular (free) classes will be offered to residents in the yoga studio, tenants will be encouraged to design their own courses. "I plant the seed, but we're open to anyone in the building starting their own projects," said Schwartz, who sat down in one of his empty apartments to talk with BushwickBK this Tuesday, as builders put the finishing touches on the units.

During our meeting, in between jokey asides to assistants, it became clear that the man has a genuine interest in art and design as a patron. In passing, he credited the wallpaper design firm from memory (Wolf Gordon) and later sent an apologetic word that he had forgotten to mention who designed the building and lobby (Durukan Design) and the gorgeous courtyard (Future Green Studio). Though I was skeptical from the start, what I found is that, seemingly paradoxically, Schwartz is a real estate developer by trade but a utopian at heart. His face flushed as he explained the reasoning behind his extra efforts and the resulting immaterial efforts of community that arises.

"Sure, it will cost me $2,000 to buy cameras for everyone, but if every tenant rents them for $1, they are getting so much more out of it. You add a little money and get added value by fostering a sense of community." Eager to ensure the giant complex is seen as a boon not a blight to everyone in the neighborhood, Schwartz also mentioned, as an example, the idea of setting up a second, free wifi system (beyond the interior wifi included for residents) that will serve the streets surrounding Castle Braid.

Of course, as with all pie-in-the sky plans, Schwartz's cheery visions for the building are bound to raise eyebrows. Can one really "plant" an artistic community, like sod on a field? Whether artists will be able to afford these units, or whether true bohemians will care for their sparkly newness remains to be seen. Realistically, whom the Castle Braid may end up attracting as tenants are art patrons and their kin. This would not, however, be a detriment by any means - because, say what you may - Bushwick needs patrons in these economic climes.

We won't know who moves in until October 1, when the Castle Braid will officially begin seeking tenants - the 146 units start at $1650 for a one-bedroom, $2350 for a two-bedroom, and the most expensive unit, a two-bedroom "convertible" duplex, lists for $3500. Internet and cable TV are included.

In the meantime, as a way of establishing initial rapport with the artistic circles of Brooklyn, Schwartz has wisely reached out to the Williamsburg Gallery Association. Surely he knows from experience that one must be diplomatic navigating the often prickly channels that run between art, commerce, and real estate development, but it has been a happy union thus far. For the next six weeks, he has generously offered the space to host Brooklyn Artillery, the first art fair of its kind (it may become an annual event) that includes entities like Eyelevel BQE, Fleetwing, Gitana Rosa, Horse Trader, Like The Spice, Lumenhouse, and YES! Gallery. Curators will be given free reign to do as they wish with the empty apartments. The art installation, which includes scheduled screenings, performance art, live music, and DJs, will launch with a party this Saturday, and will be open every day to the public until the end of October.

Empty apartments are the best excuse to have a party, especially if they're brand-spanking-new, filled with art, and not even yours! Stay tuned, we'll be reporting on the opening event and all the art we see this weekend.

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