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Bed-Stuy Divided on Future of BLM Mural Space, Some Suggest Moving Mural

Should the mural be moved? Fulton Street reopened? Or should the area become a permanent pedestrian plaza?
Black Lives Matter mural on Fulton St. Photo: Courtesy of Keith Forest.

After a summer of activities on Bed-Stuy's Black Lives Matter mural, the future of the space is now under debate, with some even suggesting the mural be moved.

Part of Fulton Street has been closed to cars for more than three months since the mural went up.

A collective of adjacent businesses say the street closure has hurt their bottom lines. But others say the mural has made the area a much-needed cultural destination celebrating Blackness in Bed-Stuy, and are pushing to keep the plaza pedestrian-only.

As programming winds down due to weather, the Bed-Stuy community says it needs to come together to decide what to do with the space.

A summer of events

The Bed-Stuy Black Lives Matter mural -- New York's first -- went up June 14 on Fulton Street from Marcy to Brooklyn Avenue. The next day the mayor announced the stretch would become pedestrian-only for the summer. 

artist, Billie Holiday Theatre, restoration plaza, Black Lives Matter mural, BLM mural
'A Great Day in New York' photograph of Brooklyn artists. Photo: Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez for BK Reader.
The Activate the Mural collective, of which 36th District Councilmember Robert E. Cornegy Jr. is a part of, has been responsible for most of the programming on the mural since then.

They've held a range of activities including yoga, socarobics, a "Black laughs matter" comedy show, karate, a reading of 12 Angry Men, Zumba, meditation for seniors, celebration of HBCUs, skatearobics, jazz, Feel Good Fridays, socially-distanced celebrations for West Indian Day and racial justice demonstrations.

On August 22, a couple even got married on the mural.

Ongoing battle

But Activate the Mural programming coordinator Monique Antoine said each week the street was closed was also a battle against those who felt it was hurting businesses.

"We have had to fight every step of the way from June. Some people want it open, many of us think it should be pushed as a permanent pedestrian plaza."

hat, fashion, mural, BLM, Al's Men's Shop, model
Hat Fashion Show honoring Eric Bullen and Al's Men's Shop. Photo: Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez for BK Reader.

She said Bed-Stuy has one of the lowest rates of open spaces for pedestrians in the city, and the mural had been a place of rejuvenation for the community. As long as the street remained closed, she was dedicated to providing programming on it.

Cornegy said Fulton Street will reopen to cars in the winter for safety reasons, but Activate the Mural will be going "right back to programming" in the spring. The decision on precisely what date the street will reopen is still under discussion.

artist, Billie Holiday Theatre, restoration plaza, Black Lives Matter mural, BLM mural
'A Great Day in New York' photograph of Brooklyn artists. Photo: Mateo Ruiz Gonzalez for BK Reader.

Cornegy said stakeholders were in negotiations to try to meet all of the needs of the community -- from businesses to residents to the families of those killed by police brutality whose names are on the mural.

This might mean having the street closed for programming solely on the weekend, instead of 7-days-per-week.

Programming this year was mainly funded through private sponsorship, now Activate the Mural is putting together a comprehensive budget for 2021 and seeking donations.

"You have to be sensitive to the businesses who are trying to get back on their feet at this time, you don't want to be another burden," Cornegy said. "But you don't want to miss an opportunity for this to be what it has become."

He said there was huge potential in leaving the space as a cultural destination in Bed-Stuy for "Blackness to be celebrated."

Businesses hurting

Medina Sadiq, executive director of the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID, a partnership of local businesses, said while the BID was initially excited to have the BLM mural, all the businesses it represents in the plaza have reported losses. "Some of the losses could be from the pandemic but we know that the closure has not helped the businesses," she said.

There were complaints that foot and vehicular traffic had dropped and trash had not been cleared.

The BID represents businesses along Fulton Street from Classon Avenue to Troy Avenue and along Nostrand Avenue from Atlantic Avenue to Halsey Street.

It said it had reached out to Cornegy offering for the mural to be moved to Marcy Plaza, another area it is responsible for off Fulton Street.

Marcy Plaza is a rest stop approximately 150 feet in length, less than half the current mural's size of 375 feet.

BK Reader has contacted Cornegy for a response to the BID's recommendation.

Jessy Edwards

About the Author: Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is an award-winning news and feature reporter whose work can be seen in such publications as NBC New York, Rolling Stone, the BBC, CNBC and more.
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