Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

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Bedford-Stuyvesant (pronounced /ˈstaɪvəsənt/; also known as Bed-Stuy) is a neighborhood in the central portion of the New York City, USA, 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.

Bed-Stuy is bordered by Bushwick to the north (bordering Williamsburg); Classon Avenue to the west (bordering Clinton Hill); Broadway and Van Sinderen Avenue to the east (bordering Bushwick and East New York); Park Place and Ralph Avenue to the south and west (bordering Crown Heights) and as far as East New York Avenue (bordering Brownsville).[4]

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, blacks left an overcrowded Harlem for more housing availability in Bedford-Stuyvesant. From Bed-Stuy, blacks 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 (Template:NYCS Fulton 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.


Early history

The neighborhood name is an extension of the name of the Village of Bedford, expanded to include the area of Stuyvesant Heights. The name Stuyvesant comes from Peter Stuyvesant, the last governor of the colony of New Netherland.

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

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

The community of Bedford contained one of the oldest free black communities in the U.S., Weeksville, much of which is still extant and preserved as a historical site. Ocean Hill, a subsection founded in 1890 is primarily a residential area.

Establishment as an urban neighborhood

Bedford-Stuyvesant brownstones

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 row houses. These are highly sought after in the neighborhood's contemporary renaissance. Many consider the area to be the black cultural mecca of Brooklyn, similar to what Harlem is to Manhattan.

Ethnic changes

During and after World War II, large numbers of African Americans, migrating from the Southern United States upon the decline of agricultural work and seeking economic opportunities in the North, moved into the neighborhood. They often preferred it to the available housing in Harlem.

Post-war problems

A series of problems led to a long decline in the neighborhood. Some of the new residents who had been rural workers had difficulty finding reasonably paid work in the urban New York economy. The city itself was in a period of steady decline, exacerbated by abandonment of parts of the transportation network, disappearance of industrial jobs, decline of public facilities and services, inability to deal with increasing crime, and difficulties in municipal government. The movement of significant parts of its population to suburban areas ghettoized a racially diverse neighborhood.

1960s and 1970s

The 1960s and 1970s were a difficult time for New York City and affected Bedford-Stuyvesant seriously.[citation needed] 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."[6] 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.[7] The riot spread to Bedford-Stuyvesant and resulted in the destruction and looting of many neighborhood businesses, many of which were Jewish-owned[citation needed]. Race relations between the NYPD and the city's black community were strained as crime was high in black neighborhoods and few black policemen were present on the force.[8] In black New York neighborhoods, crimes related to drugs and homicides were higher than anywhere else in the city 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.[9] 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, and the murder of Caucasians by blacks.

In 1965, Andrew W. Cooper, a journalist from Bedford-Stuyvesant, brought suit under the Voting Rights Act against racial gerrymandering.[10] The lawsuit claimed that Bedford-Stuyvesant was divided among five congressional districts, each represented by a white Congress member.[11] It resulted in the creation of New York's 12th Congressional District and the election in 1968 of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman ever elected to the U.S. Congress.[12]

In 1977, a power outage occurred throughout all of New York City due to a power failure at the Con Edison Plant. As a result, looting was widespread throughout the city, especially in poor black and Puerto Rican areas of Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn. 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–Mid 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 handsome 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 which occurred in the late 1980s and through the 1990s and also to improved policing methods which New York has used in the last decade.[citation needed]

In July 2005, the New York City Police Department designated the Fulton Street-Nostrand Avenue business district in Bedford-Stuyvesant as an "Impact Zone".[citation needed] The Police Department has also ranked Bed-Stuy as one of the neighborhoods that has experienced a steady decline in crime and has had improved safety[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Despite the improvements and increasing stability of the community, Bedford-Stuyvesant has continued to be stigmatized in some circles by a lingering public perception left from the rough times of the late 20th Century as well as from people who are current residents. In March 2005 a campaign was launched to supplant the "Bed-Stuy, Do-or-Die" image in the public consciousness with the more positive "Bed-Stuy, and Proud of It".[citation needed]

Through a series of "wallscapes" (large outdoor murals), the campaign hopes to honor famous community members, including community activist and poet June Jordan, activist Hattie Carthan, rapper The Notorious B.I.G., rapper Lil Kim, rapper and actor Mos Def, and actor and comedian Chris Rock.[13] Additionally various artistic and cultural neighborhood events and celebrations such as the neighborhood's annual Universal Hip Hop Parade[14] seek to show off the area's positive accomplishments..

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 college students from assorted ethnic backgrounds. As is expected with gentrification, the influx of new residents has sometimes 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 had experienced much less displacement of the black population, including those who are economically disadvantaged, than other areas of Brooklyn, such as Cobble Hill.[15] Many of the new residents are upwardly mobile middle income black 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. [1]

Some people believed positive neighborhood changes will 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 renamed Harriet Tubman Avenue),[16] 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 in 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 Bedford-Stuyvesant Business Improvement District, bringing along with it a beautification project that provides various pedestrian and landscape improvements.[17]

File:Lafayette Patchen jeh.JPG
21st century building

Late 2000s–present continued gentrification

Many properties were renovated after the turn of the century, and crime declined. A number of whites and middle-class blacks, as well as a large number of students, moved into the area. New clothing stores, mid-century collector furniture stores, florists, bakeries, cafes and restaurants opened and Fresh Direct began delivering to the area. However, violent crime still remains a problem in the area. The two precincts that cover Bed-Stuy reported a combined 28 murders in 2009.[18][19] The 81st precinct was accused in 2010 of not reporting crimes and recording felonies as misdemeanors to make the crime rate seem lower.[20]


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

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

In popular media

Bedford-Stuyvesant's neighborhood identity is due in part to its representation in a variety of popular media. Director Spike Lee has prominently featured the streets and brownstone blocks of Bedford-Stuyvesant in his films, including Do the Right Thing (1989), Crooklyn (1994), Clockers (1995), and Summer of Sam (1999). Chris Rock's UPN (later CW) television sitcom, Everybody Hates Chris, portrays Rock's life growing up as a teenager in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1982-1987.

Bedford-Stuyvesant is featured in the 1971 film The French Connection, in which NYPD narcotics detective Popeye Doyle is assigned to a Brooklyn police station that appears to be located in Bedford-Stuyvesant as mentioned by his supervisor Walt Simonson. On a 1997 episode of NYPD Blue, "Taillight's last Gleaming", NYPD Lieutenant Arthur Fancy requests that an officer who pulled over him and his wife in a racially motivated manner be transferred to a Bedford-Stuyvesant precinct as punishment to learn how to better interact with various black citizens. Bedford-Stuyvesant is featured in the 2002 film RFK where following the Watts Riot in Los Angeles, New York United States Senator Robert Francis Kennedy tours the neighborhood as a means of figuring out how to confront the war on poverty.

Billy Joel's 1980 single, "You May Be Right" mentions the neighborhood with the lyrics "I was stranded in the combat zone / I walked through Bedford-Stuy alone / even rode my motorcycle in the rain" when discussing crazy things the singer had done in his life.

The neighborhood was also the setting for portions of Dave Chappelle's 2004 documentary Block Party. Chappelle and many prominent rap and soul artists performed an impromptu concert at the Broken Angel House in Clinton Hill, which is a neighborhood that borders Bed-Stuy.

A large number of well-known hip hop artists have come out of Bedford-Stuyvesant, including such notables as Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek, Aaliyah, The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Kim, Big Daddy Kane, Mos Def, Fabolous, Maino, Ol' Dirty Bastard, GZA, and Papoose.

In "Scan," an episode of the television show Prison Break, fugitive Fernando Sucre flees to Bedford-Stuyvesant to meet his friend, only to find out that his sweetheart will be getting married in Las Vegas.

The Notorious B.I.G. song "Unbelievable" starts with the line referring to himself as "Live from Bedford-Stuyvesant, the livest one." Also his song "Machine Gun Funk" contains the lyric: "Bed-Stuy, the place where my head rest" referring to Biggie's roots in the neighborhood.

In the film Notorious, The Notorious B.I.G., played by Jamal Woolard, states that he was growing up in: "Do or Die Bedstuy".

Mos Def raps "Blacker than the nighttime sky of Bed-Stuy in July" in the Black Star song "Astronomy (8th Light)" from their album Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star.

The neighborhood (and instructions for its pronunciation) are featured in The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe.

In the series finale of Third Watch the character of Maurice "Bosco" Boscorelli is transferred to Bedford-Stuyvesant after an explosion and fire force the closing of the fictional "Camelot" precinct.

The music video for M.I.A.'s song "Paper Planes" was filmed in Bed-Stuy.

In Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind", he raps "Me, I'm out that Bed-Stuy, home of that boy Biggie".

In Big Sean's remake of Gucci Mane's Lemonade, he says "D-town, West side yeah I said it, West side, But they yellin' B.I.G. So much that you would thought its Bed-Stuy".

In 1995, GZA mentions Bed-Stuy in the song "Duel of the Iron Mic" citing "...I ain't particular, I bang like vehicular homicides on July 4th in Bed-Stuy"

In 2005, Young Jeezy mentions Bed-Stuy in the song "Last of the Dying Breed"... "Im from even where the dead die, but try and do it big like the kid from Bed-Stuy."

Notable natives and residents


File:Antioch Baptist Greene jeh.JPG
Greene Street Baptist Church


  1. Brooklyn Community Boards, New York City. Accessed December 31, 2007.
  2. 79th Precinct, NYPD.
  3. 81st Precinct, NYPD.
  4. "Brooklyn Community District 3" (pdf). New York City Department of City Planning. December 2007. Accessed April 25, 2008.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Echanove, Matias. "Bed-Stuy on the Move". Master thesis. Urban Planning Program. Columbia University. 2003.
  6. Clark, Alfred E. "GANG WARS UPSET AREA IN BROOKLYN; Bedford - Stuyvesant Tense Following Two Slayings." The New York Times. Tuesday May 2, 1961. Page 31. Retrieved on January 22, 2010.
  7. Jacoby, Tamar. "How a Campaign for Racial Trust Turned Sour". APF Reporter. Vol. 15, No. 3. Alicia Patterson Foundation.
  8. "No Place Like Home". Time. July 31, 1964.
  9. Darien, Andrew. "Police Fraternity and the Politics of Race and Class in New York City, 1941-1960". Regional Labor Review. Spring 2000.
  10. "The City Sun Editor-in-Chief Andrew W. Cooper dies". Business Wire. January 30, 2002. Retrieved January 30, 2009. 
  11. "Andrew W. Cooper". Retrieved January 30, 2009. 
  12. Lueck, Thomas J. (January 30, 2002). "Andrew W. Cooper, 74, Pioneering Journalist". The New York Times. Retrieved January 30, 2009. 
  13. Daily News, March 5, 2005
  14. Universal Hip Hop Parade
  15. "The Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Price of Art" Time Out New York April 2005
  16. Bed-Stuy Gateway Business District
  17. Beautification of the Bed-Stuy Gateway streetscape receives major financial support
  21. Vasquez, Emily. "Brooklyn-Born Rapper Is Arrested After Being Shot", The New York Times, October 18, 2005. Accessed October 7, 2007. "Mr. Jackson, raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, became famous in late 2001 with his debut single, "I Can’t Deny It.""
  22. Ogunnaike, Lola. "A Flourish, and Lil' Kim Goes From Star to Inmate", The New York Times, September 20, 2005. Accessed October 19, 2007. "Ms. Jones spoke about her rise from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, to stardom and about her deepening relationship with God."
  23. Lee, Felicia R. "Where Everyone Loves to Love Chris", The New York Times, October 30, 2006. Accessed October 6, 2007. "It was a scream heard all the way down the block on Decatur Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant. If you know TV, or ikif you know that Brooklyn neighborhood, you know it’s a sweet stretch of well-tended homes and the setting for "Everybody Hates Chris," the comedy series on the CW network inspired by the adolescent adventures of the comedian Chris Rock."
  25. Beck, Howard. "PRO BASKETBALL; Wilkens Denies He Was Asked to Go", The New York Times, September 28, 2005. Accessed November 20, 2007. "A native of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Wilkens had added motivation to succeed in New York, which made leaving so quickly that much tougher."

External links

Coordinates: 40°41′00″N 73°56′28″W / 40.6833333°N 73.94111°W / 40.6833333; -73.94111 Template:Brooklynda:Bedford-Stuyvesant es:Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn) fr:Bedford Stuyvesant it:Bedford-Stuyvesant ja:ベッドフォード・スタイベサント地区 no:Bedford-Stuyvesant pl:Bedford-Stuyvesant pt:Bedford-Stuyvesant sv:Bedford-Stuyvesant

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