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Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

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Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Bedford–Stuyvesant (/ˈbɛdfərdˈstvəsənt/; colloquially known as Bed-Stuy) is a neighborhood in the north central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. Formed in 1930, the neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community Board 3, Brooklyn Community Board 8, and Brooklyn Community Board 16.[1] The neighborhood is patrolled by the NYPD's 79th[2] and 81st[3] precincts. In the City Council, the district is represented by Albert Vann of the 36th Council District.

Bedford–Stuyvesant is bordered by Flushing Avenue to the north (bordering Williamsburg); Classon Avenue to the west (bordering Clinton Hill); Broadway to the east (bordering Bushwick); and Fulton Street to the south (bordering Crown Heights and Brownsville).[4] It is served by Postal Service zip codes 11205, 11206, 11216, 11221, 11233 and 11238.

For decades, it has been a cultural center for Brooklyn's black population. Following the construction of the subway line between Harlem and Bedford[5] in 1936, African Americans left an overcrowded Harlem for more housing availability in Bedford–Stuyvesant. From Bedford–Stuyvesant, African Americans have since moved into the surrounding areas of Brooklyn, such as East New York, Crown Heights, Brownsville and Fort Greene.

The main north-south thoroughfare is Nostrand Avenue, but the main shopping street is Fulton Street, which lies above the main subway line for the area (A C trains). Fulton Street runs east-west the length of the neighborhood and intersects high-traffic streets including Bedford Avenue, Nostrand Avenue and Stuyvesant Avenue. Bedford–Stuyvesant is actually made up of four neighborhoods: Bedford, Stuyvesant Heights, Ocean Hill and Weeksville. Part of Clinton Hill used to be considered part of Bedford–Stuyvesant.

Early history

The neighborhood name is a combination of the names of the Village of Bedford and the Stuyvesant Heights neighborhood. The name Stuyvesant derives from Peter Stuyvesant, the last governor of the colony of New Netherland.

In pre-revolutionary Kings County, Bedford was the first major settlement east of the then Village of Brooklyn on the ferry road to the town of Jamaica and eastern Long Island.

With the building of the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad in 1833, along Atlantic Avenue, Bedford was established as a railroad station near the intersection of current Atlantic Avenue and Franklin Avenues. In 1836, the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railroad was taken over by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). In 1878, the Brooklyn, Flatbush and Coney Island Railway established its northern terminal with a connection to the LIRR at the same location.

Built in 1863, the Capitoline Grounds were the home of the Brooklyn Atlantics baseball team.[6] The Grounds were bordered by Nostrand Ave., Halsey St., Marcy Ave., and Putnam Ave.[6] During the winters, the operators would flood the area and open an ice-skating arena. The Grounds were demolished in 1880.

Establishment as an urban neighborhood

In the last decades of the 19th century, with the advent of electric trolleys and the Fulton Street Elevated, Bedford Stuyvesant became a working class and middle class bedroom community for those working in downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan in New York City. At that time, most of the pre-existing wooden homes were destroyed and replaced with brownstone rowhouses.

Ethnicity of residents

African Americans migrated from the Southern United States in the early-to-mid 20th century, pursuing what they perceived as the racial equality and freedoms of the north. Many African-Americans moved North in search of new industry. The Bedford–Stuyvesant neighborhood became a popular landing ground for African-Americans. To this day, it is widely known as the black cultural mecca of Brooklyn, similar to what Harlem is to Manhattan. As of 2010, Bed-Stuy was 70.1% Black, 15% Hispanic, 10.1% White, 1.8% Asian, and 3% all other. Bedford Stuyvesant is a predominantly African-American neighborhood, though there are significant populations of Puerto Ricans and Dominican Americans in the eastern portion near Broadway, and Caucasians in the western portion towards Downtown Brooklyn.

1960s and 1970s

Gang wars erupted in 1961 in Bedford–Stuyvesant. During the same year, Alfred E. Clark of The New York Times referred to it as "Brooklyn's Little Harlem."[7] One of the first urban riots of the era took place there. Social and racial divisions in the city contributed to the tensions, which climaxed when attempts at community control in the nearby Ocean Hill-Brownsville school district pitted some black community residents and activists (from both inside and outside the area) against teachers, the majority of whom were white, many of them Jewish. Charges of racism were a common part of social tensions at the time.

In 1964, race riots broke out in the Manhattan neighborhood of Harlem after an Irish American NYPD lieutenant, Thomas Gilligan, shot and killed an African American teenager, James Powell, 15.[8] The riot spread to Bedford–Stuyvesant and resulted in the destruction and looting of many neighborhood businesses, many of which were Jewish-owned. Race relations between the NYPD and the city's Black Community were strained as police were seen as an instrument of oppression and racially biased law enforcement; Further, at that time, few Black policemen were present on the force.[9] In predominantly Black New York neighborhoods, arrests and prosecutions for drug-related crimes were higher than anywhere else in the city despite evidence that illegal drugs were used at at least the same rate in the White community, further contributing to the problems between the white dominated police force and black community. Coincidentally enough, the 1964 riot took place across the NYPD's 28th and 32nd precinct located in Harlem, and the 79th precinct located in Bedford–Stuyvesant which at one time were the only three police precincts in the NYPD that black police officers were allowed to patrol in.[10] Race riots followed in 1967 and 1968, as part of the political and racial tensions in the United States of the era, aggravated by continued high unemployment among blacks, continued de facto segregation in housing, the failure to enforce civil rights laws.

Following the 1964 election, Robert F. Kennedy was elected as the U.S. Senator for the State of New York. One of Kennedy's biggest tasks as Senator was fighting the war on poverty as racial rioting broke out across the urban north while the issues of the civil rights movement in southern states were still more of a priority for African American rights' activists. Rather than focus on problems facing African Americans outside of New York, Kennedy devoted a study of problems facing the urban poor in Bedford Stuyvesant as it received almost no federal aid and was the city's largest non-white community.[11][12] With the help of local activists and politicians such as Civil Court Judge Thomas Jones, grassroots organizations of community members and businesses willing to aid were formed and began the rebuilding of Bedford Stuyvesant. Kennedy's program was soon used as a nationwide model that began in Bedford Stuyvesant and would be used in other large urban areas to fight the War on Poverty.

In 1965, Andrew W. Cooper, a journalist from Bedford–Stuyvesant, brought suit under the Voting Rights Act against racial gerrymandering.[13] The lawsuit claimed that Bedford–Stuyvesant was divided among five congressional districts, each represented by a white Congress member.[14] It resulted in the creation of New York's 12th Congressional District and the election in 1968 of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman and West Indian American ever elected to the U.S. Congress.[15] In early 1975, when Seatrain Shipbuilding Corp. inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard experienced a massive layoff of its shipbuilders, 80% of those affected living in and around Bedford–Stuyvesant, it was Congresswoman Chisholm who came to their rescue. Chisholm convinced the government to restructure existing loans and guarantee new loans backed by the VLCC's Stuyvesant and Bay Ridge so the shipbuilders of Seatrain Shipbuilding could resume building the Stuyvesant and Bay Ridge. A case study of Seatrain Shipbuilding & the Brooklyn Navy Yard From 1968–1979 Seatrain Shipbuilding was the largest employer inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Seatrain Shipbuilding provided an est $750,000,000 in economic stimulus to the City of New York by way of their shipbuilding activities from 1968–1979 inside the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

In 1977, a power outage occurred throughout all of New York City due to a power failure at the Con Edison Plant. Looters took advantage of the outage, and Bedford–Stuyvesant and neighboring Bushwick were two of the worst hit areas. Thirty-five blocks of Broadway, the street dividing the two communities, were affected, with 134 stores looted, 45 of which were set ablaze.

Recent trends

Early 2000s gentrification

Beginning in the 2000s, the neighborhood began to experience gentrification.[5] The two significant reasons for this were the affordable housing stock consisting of brownstone rowhouses located on quiet tree-lined streets and the marked decrease of crime in the neighborhood. The latter is at least partly attributable to the decline of the national crack epidemic as well as heightened policing.

In July 2005, the New York City Police Department designated the Fulton Street-Nostrand Avenue business district in Bedford-Stuyvesant as an "Impact Zone". The designation directed significantly increased levels of police protection and resources to the area centered on the intersection of Fulton Street and Nostrand Avenue for a period of six months. It was renewed for another six-month period in December 2005. Since the designation of the Impact Zone in Bedford-Stuyvesant, crime within the district decreased 15% from the previous year. The Police Department has ranked Bedford-Stuyvesant as one of the neighborhoods that has experienced a steady decline in crime and has had improved safety

Despite the improvements and increasing stability of the community, Bedford-Stuyvesant has continued to be stigmatized in some circles. In March 2005 a campaign was launched to supplant the "Bed-Stuy, Do-or-Die" slogan with "Bed-Stuy, and Proud of It".[16]

Through a series of "wallscapes" (large outdoor murals), the campaign honored famous community members, including community activist and poet June Jordan, activist Hattie Carthan, and rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (who grew up in neighboring Clinton Hill near the Bed–Stuy border).[17] The campaign sought to show off the area's positive accomplishments.[18]

As a result, Bedford-Stuyvesant became increasingly racially, economically and ethnically diverse, with an increase of foreign-born Afro-Caribbean and African residents as well as other assorted ethnic backgrounds. As is expected with gentrification, the influx of new residents has contributed to the displacement of poorer residents. In many other cases, newcomers have simply rehabilitated and occupied formerly vacant and abandoned properties.

Many long-time residents and business owners expressed the concern that they would be priced out by newcomers whom they disparagingly characterize as "yuppies and buppies (black urban professionals)". They feared that the neighborhood's ethnic character will be lost. However, Bedford-Stuyvesant's population has experienced much less displacement of the black population, including those who are economically disadvantaged, than other areas of Brooklyn, such as Williamsburg and Cobble Hill.[19] Many of the new residents are upwardly mobile middle income African-American families, as well as immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. Neighborhoods surrounding Bedford-Stuyvesant in Northern and Eastern Brooklyn are also majority black such as Brownsville, Canarsie, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, East New York, and Fort Greene. Together these neighborhoods have a population of about 940,000 and are roughly 82% black making it the largest black neighborhood in the United States.[20]

Some people believed positive neighborhood changes would benefit all residents of the area, bringing with it improved neighborhood safety and creating a demand for improved retail services along the major commercial strips, such as Fulton Street (recently co-named Harriet Tubman Avenue),[21] Nostrand Avenue, Tompkins Avenue, Greene Avenue, Lewis Avenue, Flushing Avenue, Park Avenue, Myrtle Avenue, Dekalb Avenue, Putnam Avenue, Bedford Avenue, Marcy Avenue, Malcolm X Boulevard, Gates Avenue, Madison Street and Jefferson Avenue. Such changes could have brought an increase in local jobs and other economic activity. To that effect, both the Fulton Street and Nostrand Avenue commercial corridors become part of the Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District, bringing along with it a beautification project that provides various pedestrian and landscape improvements.[22]

Many properties were renovated after the start of the 21st century, and crime declined. New clothing stores, mid-century collector furniture stores, florists, bakeries, cafes and restaurants opened and Fresh Direct began delivering to the area. Despite the recent changes, violent crime still remains a problem in the area. The two precincts that cover Bedford–Stuyvesant reported a combined 37 murders in 2010.[23][24] The 81st precinct was also accused in 2010 of not reporting crimes and recording felonies as misdemeanors to make the crime rate seem lower.[25] Despite slight community changes to the area, Bedford–Stuyvesant still has some major issues with crime taking over the neighborhoods today. Bed-Stuy, much like Brownsville and East New York, is very well known for drive-bys, robbery, murders, and assaults within the area that still happens up to this day.

Early 2010s gentrification

Despite the largest recession to hit the United States in the last 70 years, gentrification continues steadily throughout the neighborhood, if not accelerated by the affordable prices of living in Bedford Stuyvesant. The strong community and abundant brownstone townhouses in the neighborhood contribute to its growth and charm. Since 2008 a score of new cafes, restaurants, bakeries, boutiques, galleries and wine bars has sprung up in the areas with a concentrated growth found along the western and southern parts of the neighborhood. These areas include blocks north of the Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street intersection and West of Fulton Street and Stuyvesant Avenues. These areas are serviced well by the express A train subway stops at Nostrand Avenue and Utica Avenue, with commute times 15 minutes to Lower Manhattan and 30 minutes to Midtown Manhattan. In 2011, Bedford Stuyvesant listed three Zagat rated restaurants for the first time, today there are over ten Zagat rated establishments.[26]

A diverse mix of students, hipsters, artists, creative professionals, architects and attorneys of all races continue to move to the neighborhood. In addition, a major business improvement district has been under way along the Fulton and Nostrand Corridor with redesigned streetscape to include: new street trees, street furniture, pavers, signage and improved cleanliness in an effort to attract more business investment.[27] Also, major infrastructure upgrades are in the works with Brooklyn's first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along Nostrand and Bedford Avenues in Bedford Stuyvesant connecting Willamsburg to Coney Island. Bus Rapid Transit is "subway like" bus service with dedicated bus lanes, traffic light priority, pre-paid boarding and limited service stops. The planning has been approved by the community and city with construction slated to start in the Summer of 2012.[28] Other infrastructure upgrades include major sewer and water modernization in the neighborhood.[29] Verizon Fios and Cablevision also continue to expand high speed fiber optic and cable service to the area.[30] Improved natural and organic produce continue to become available at local delis / groceries, at the Farmer's market on Malcolm X Boulevard and through the Bed Stuy Farm Share.[31] Fresh Direct services the neighborhood and a large member constituency of the adjacent Greene-Hill Food Coop are from Bedford Stuyvesant.


Several public schools serve Bed-Stuy. For the early grades (kindergarten and first grade in 2012), Success Academy Bed-Stuy 1 and 2 are charter schools; one is open and the other is planning to open in August, 2012. The zone high school for the neighborhood is Boys and Girls High School on Fulton Street. At the eastern edge of the neighborhood is Paul Robeson High School for Business and Technology.


Bedford–Stuyvesant is served by several New York City Transit bus routes. It is served by the IND Fulton Street Line (), which opened in 1936. This underground line replaced the earlier, elevated BMT Fulton Street Line on May 31, 1940. The IND Crosstown Line () running underneath Lafayette Avenue and Marcy Avenue, opened for service in 1937. The elevated BMT Jamaica Line () also serves the neighborhood, running alongside its northern boundaries at Broadway. Bedford–Stuyvesant is also served by the Nostrand Avenue and East New York stations of the Long Island Railroad.

Until 1950, the BMT Lexington Avenue Line served Lexington Avenue in the neighborhood. Likewise, the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line served Myrtle Avenue in the north until 1969.

Notable residents


In popular culture

  • Notorious was a film in 2009 about life in Bed–Stuy in the 1990s, emphasizing the rapper Notorious B.I.G.[44]
  • Notorious B.I.G., a rapper who included Bed–Stuy in his lyrics,[45] he "publicly claim[ed] Bedford-Stuyvesant as his neighborhood".[46]
  • Billy Joel's 1980 song "You May Be Right" includes "walk[ing] through Bedford-Stuy alone" in a list of foolhardy things the singer has done.


External links

  • Bed-Stuy's Project Re-Generation, Inc.
  • Bed-Stuy On the Move
  • New York Hoods: Photo Gallery of Bedford-Stuyvesant

Coordinates: 40°41′00″N 73°56′28″W / 40.68333°N 73.94111°W / 40.68333; -73.94111

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