An imaginary line cuts across Broadway, separating Bed-Stuy from Bushwick and, just a few blocks north of the street’s intersection with Myrtle, Williamsburg begins. At any given hour here, the confusing jumble of crisscrossing streets are jammed with a chaotic crush of street traffic and pedestrians going about their day. The looming JMZ track overhead holds the busiest sections in near-permanent darkness, and at night, when the neon comes on and flickers across the fetid puddles of who knows what, Myrtle-Broadway starts to feel like a scene from Blade Runner. People have started to call this area “Zombieland” now that it has become a hot spot for K2, a synthetic cannabinoid that city leaders and cops can’t seem to get rid of, even though it carries a distinctly gnarly smell, and is sold and used out in the open, day and night.
When we arrived at the intersection of Myrtle and Broadway today, the often hectic meeting point of Bushwick and Bed-Stuy was even more chaotic than usual– midday traffic jams were in full effect as trains rattled overhead at the JMZ transfer point and a crowd had gathered to hear a press conference held by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. The racket was so loud that it was nearly impossible to hear at times, but the commotion was nothing compared to what went down here yesterday, when 33 people were plucked up from the area and rushed to the hospital after a “mass overdose.”
The Mayor signed a series of laws today criminalizing K2, part of the City’s continuing effort to crack down on the use and sale of synthetic marijuana. The drug, which Mayor de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bratton both referred to as “poison,” is a liquid substance manufacturers spray on herbs. It has been marketed as incense, spice and, perhaps the most hilarious departure from its actual use, bath salts.
“I have a really high tolerance for people doing stuff on the street,” said G Lucas Crane, a member of the Silent Barn collective. “I’m from Brooklyn, I just wanna see people do their thing, I don’t want to call anybody out– but when it gets to this level of saturation, the community needs to do something about it.”
The Silent Barn sits just a block from the intersection of Myrtle-Broadway, a hotbed for K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids that have been targeted by city officials. Now, a coalition led by Council Member Antonio Reynoso is bringing a new kind of attention and care to this bustling but problematic corner.