A 20-minute ride from 14th Street on Duke Ellington’s famous A train lands you deep in the heart of Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant, a/k/a Bed-Stuy. Renowned for its tree-lined blocks of beautiful brownstones and other fine architectural properties, the community’s affordable housing has brought yuppies from all over the city flocking to the ‘hood. Adding to the primarily African and Caribbean American population, that influx brings new flavor to the cultural mecca of Brooklyn. The strong base of block associations and churches invites both single and family life to flourish within the serenity of the neighborhood. Late-night jaunts reveal neighbors sitting on each other’s stoops playing cards or dominos, or just talking. Kids take over the streets, playing back-in-the-day games like skelly, hopscotch, and stickball.
Neighborhood Boundaries: Flushing Avenue on the north, Broadway and Saratoga Avenue on the east, Atlantic Avenue on the south, and Classon Avenue on the west.
Mass Transit: A, C, and G trains, and the Long Island Rail Road, Nostrand Avenue; M and J trains, Myrtle Avenue; and the spectacular Franklin Avenue shuttle.
Parking: With little commercial traffic, street parking is usually available.
Average Apartment Rents: Studio: $600; one-bedroom: $750; two-bedroom: $950.
Average Price to Buy: One-bedroom co-op: $70,000; two-bedroom co-op: $80,000- $90,000; three-bedroom co-op: $100,000 and up. Prices of brownstones vary, with a one-family generally starting in the high $200,000s and two- to four-families creeping up into the $400,000s.
Main Drags: Fulton Street; Atlantic, Bedford, and Nostrand avenues.
Notable Events: Every July 4th weekend Boys and Girls High School, on Fulton Street, hosts the International African Arts festival. Over 300 vendors display the best in African arts and crafts while performers like Third World and Lauryn Hill serenade the public. In October the community shows off its real estate with the annual Brownstones of Bed-Stuy House Tour.
Landmarks: Many neighborhood buildings have been landmarked, including the exquisite Alhambra Apartments, located on Nostrand Avenue. This terra-cotta structure was designed by 19th-century architects Morris & Freeman. Four wood-framed cottages at 1698-1708 Bergen Street are the remains of a historic settlement of free blacks called Weeksville. The site is now a museum of African American history. Bed-Stuy is also home to one of two landmarked trees in New York, the magnolia-grandiflora at 679 Lafayette Avenue.
Cultural Institutions: A late-1960s visit led senators Robert Kennedy and Jacob Javits to create the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the first community-development nonprofit in the U.S. Today, Restoration Plaza on Fulton Street houses the popular Billie Holiday Theatre, the Skylight Gallery, and the Restoration Dance Theatre. In 1899 two Victorian mansions were turned into the first children’s museum in the country. The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, at 145 Brooklyn Avenue, offers an array of exhibits and programs. The Magnolia Tree Earth Center is responsible for the planting of 1500 trees throughout the area including sycamores, ginkgos, and honey locusts. The center also created several community gardens that produce flowers and fresh fruit.
Famous Residents: Local prodigies include Woodstock legend Richie Havens, Shirley Chisholm (the first black woman to serve in Congress), and Lil’ Kim. Current residents include hip-hop artist and Top Dog/Underdog star Mos Def and Essence magazine’s former editor in chief Monique Greenwood. Norman Mailer and Isaac Asimov were raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
Local Politicians: Congressman Edolphus Towns, State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, Assemblywoman Annette Robinson, City Councilman Albert Vann.
Sietsema’s Picks: Ali’s Roti Shop, 1267 Fulton Street; Dabakh-Malick, 1194 Fulton Street; North Carolina Country Store, 1991 Atlantic Avenue; Royal Rib House, 303 Halsey Street.
Best Bar: Though Pork-Knockers, 956 Atlantic Avenue, is known for its tasty Caribbean food, its bar is famous for hosting some of the best game nights in Knick history.
Crime: The dramatic revitalization of the Stuy is evident in the drop in crime. In the seven major categories listed by the NYPD—murder, rape, robbery, burglary, assault, grand larceny, and grand larceny auto—there was a 61 percent decrease from 1993 to 2001 and a 15 percent drop as of April 14 this year compared to complaints at the same time last year.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 7, 2002