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Neighborhood Profile: Bedford-Stuyvesant

Bed-Stuy prides itself in its artistic brilliance, soul food, Black businesses and overall good vibes.
Decatur Street in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Lena Horne, Jackie Robinson, Jay-Z, The Notorious B.I.G, Eddie Kaine, Chris Rock and Lenny Kravitz. 

These are just a handful of the inexaustive list of African American figures born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Therefore, it is no surprise that this neighborhood, colloquially known as Bed-Stuy, continues to influence young talent emerging from the neighborhood today.

Bedford-Stuyvesant is located in the heart of central Brooklyn, surrounded by Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, Bushwick and Crown Heights, and boasts a diverse population of about 170,000.  

Herbert Von King Park. Andre Carrotflower via Wikimedia Commons

Black people who migrated from the south and immigrants from the Caribbean cemented their roots from as far back as the 1920s in the historically white neighborhood.

It was known as a solidly middle-class neighborhood for several decades. But the massive emigration and settlement of Black people into Bedford- Stuyvesant came at the cost of disinvestment, which resulted in crime and poverty. However, these challenges did not deter some of Bedford-Stuyvesant's prominent personalities from success. 

Kaine articulated the contrast between Bed-Stuy's good and bad in his 2021 interview with HipHop In Je Smoel

"I look back at growing up in Brooklyn as bittersweet. I've had good times, but also times that were just extremely crazy and dangerous," said Kaine. "Brooklyn babies need to grow up fast. But don't get me wrong, I don't want people to think that New York is a terrible place. It's actually an amazing and beautiful city with a lot of love to give, and that truly never sleeps. It's just certain areas that are extremely gritty and gutter." 

However, Bed-Stuy has changed and continues to evolve with rapid gentrification, which has seen rent prices soar in the past 20 years. It is now known as one of the handful of previously low-income neighborhoods that has pricey real estate, according to the NYC government

The median price of a home listed for sale on StreetEasy in April 2024 was $1.2 million, while median rent was listed as $3,057.

However, the long history of Black residents translates into large swaths of Black business ownership. According to the borough's Commercial Needs Assessment, people of color and women dominate Bed-Stuy's business district, which is comprised of hundreds of soul food and Caribbean restaurants, retail stores and hair salons. 

In addition, Bed-Stuy residents pride themselves in owning and supporting local businesses and nourishing their community from the ground up through numerous community gardens. 

According to the New York Restoration Project, the Garden of Hope, a name true to the community's resilient spirit, was founded by locals in 1982. In 2006, Brooklyn native and interior designer Ellie Cullman, co-founder of the design firm Cullman & Kravis, Inc., adopted the garden, which reopened in 2008. 

Visitors and locals can watch live dance and musical performances at the Billie Holiday Threatre and the Youth Arts Academy. Both institutions, part of the nonprofit Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, have not only nurtured Bed-Stuy's creatives for decades, they stand as a reminder that the borough's artistic brilliance is unstoppable. 

The neighborhood's education landscape combines private, public and community-based initiatives. The New York City Department of Education runs public and charter schools, the latter which offers alternative education options that are publicly funded, but operate independently. These schools often specialize in a specific educational focus or philosophy. 

Bed-Stuy does not have a college, but higher learning institutions, including the City University of New York (CUNY) Medgar Evers College, are easily accessible from the neighborhood. 

The neighborhood is well connected by several public transportation systems like the A, C and G trains, several bus lines, and plenty of access to Citi Bikes, making it easy for residents and visitors to move in and out of the area.