Walking Tours: Bedford-Stuyvesant
Bedford-Stuyvesant is one of Brooklyn's oldest neighborhoods, comprising two different historic communities: Bedford and Stuyvesant Heights.
Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York City's largest African-American neighborhood, is the result of a merging to two distinct communities. In the 1600s, the Dutch West India Company bought a large parcel of farmland from the Canarsie Indians and named it Bedford - either for the Duke of Bedford or for England's Bedfordshire. The mostly rural Bedford included the free black community of Weeksville. To the east, Stuyvesant Heights was established during the 1890s and named for Peter Stuyvesant, director general of New Netherland during the 1600s. The two communities existed separately until the 1930s.
Bedford was a rural community well into the 1800s. When Brooklyn was incorporated in 1834, Bedford became part of a large tract of under-populated, rural land where on 666 people lived in 1835. Some 20 years later, the population had ballooned to 9,000, with Blacks comprising about one third of the population. The sparsely populated area became home to several charitable institutions, including the Brooklyn Orphan Asylum, the Brooklyn Home for Aged Men, the Brooklyn Home for Consumptives and St. Mary's Hospital. As the 1870s wound to a close, the Bedford and Stuyvesant Heights sections merged and became "solidly middle-class, even upper-class residential areas inhabited by 'people of moderate fortune, intelligent, temperate, thrifty.'"1 It would be another 60 years before the first reference to "Bedford-Stuyvesant" appeared in a Brooklyn Daily Eagle article on February 21, 1931.
Throughout the 1900s, Bedford-Stuyvesant continued its growth - both geographically and demographically. The construction of an elevated train 40 years earlier supported the types of changes in the community that resulted in an increase in the Black population and a migration by that population into other areas of Bedford-Stuyvesant. By 1940, Blacks comprise 25 percent of the population of Bedford-Stuyvesant, with the majority of Blacks in Brooklyn calling the neighborhood home. After World War II, the racial and demographic character of Bedford-Stuyvesant shifted as Whites moved from the area in large numbers and Blacks took over the available housing. By the 1960s, Bedford-Stuyvesant was home to more than 200,000 Brooklyn Blacks. That population represented the core of what would evolve into the largest Black community in New York City - far exceeding the population of Harlem by the mid-1970s.2
The transition of Bedford-Stuyvesant from white, middle-class neighborhood to one dominated by Black people had occurred with the swiftness and totality that has characterized the development of large, Black urban communities everywhere in the United States.3
Fulton/Ralph Plaza (A ), completed in 1999 as partof the ANCHOR (Alliance for NeighborhoodCommerce, HomeOwnership and Revitalization) program, is located at 1934-56 Fulton Street, on the corner of Fulton Street and Ralph Avenue. ANCHOR is a revitalization program that focuses on retail and commercial development as a community stabilizer. The program, which will create more than 450,000 square feet of newly-constructed commercial retail space on vacant City-owned land, uses a combination of federal, state, city and private funds to finance commercial construction in targeted commercial corridors in Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx. Completed in 1999, Fulton/Ralph Plaza includes a Rite Aid Pharmacy, Choices - a full-service restaurant, a Laundromat and an insurance office. Four additional sites in the Saratoga Square area comprising up to 50,000 square feet will be developed through the ANCHOR program
Walk north along Ralph Avenue and turn east onto Sumpter Street, where 44 two-family homes (90-126 Sumpter Street) were constructed throughout the block in 1999 as part of the Partnership New Homes program (B ), an initiative of the NewYork City Housing Partnership and HPD. The homes, designed for families whose annual income is between $32,000 and $75,000, feature a three-bedroom owner's unit with a backyard and basement and a one-bedroom rental unit. Since the Partnership New Homes/Neighborhood Builder program began in 1984, HPD and the Housing Partnership have produced more than 15,000 units of homeownership housing. During that time,the City has invested more than $161 million, which has leveraged a total of $1.2 billion in other government and private financing.
Continue east along Sumpter Street to building 171, which was rehabilitated through HPD's Neighborhood Redevelopment Program (NRP) (C ). As part of the program, HPD conveys clusters of occupied and vacant City-owned buildings to community-based not-for-profit organizations for rehabilitation and operation as rental housing. Following the sale, the buildings' rehabilitation is funded through City capital and FederalHOME funds. Proceeds from the sale of Low Income Housing Tax Credits provide for renovation, operating and social service needs of the buildings and keep rents affordable for existing tenants.
Continue walking east along Sumpter Street to the corner of Saratoga Avenue, where two properties -- 175 and 179 Saratoga Avenue -- with a total of 27 residential units were rehabilitated through a partnership with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (D ) and Neighborhood Partnership HDFC. The HPD-LISC/Neighborhood Partnership HDFC program, which is funded by federal, state and city sources, provides for the gut rehabilitation of vacant City-owned buildings - typically in single buildings or contiguous building sites. The program operates pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding entered into by HPD and LISC/Neighborhood Partnership HDFC, non-profit entities that provide community-based organizations with technical assistance and equity raised from private investors through the sale of Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Sponsors are selected through a competitive Request for Qualifications process in which LISC/Neighborhood Partnership HDFC reviews and recommends applicants to HPD. Designation of sponsors allows the transfer of City-owned buildings and subsidized financing from HPD, which supervises the construction directly with a private lender administering the construction loan servicing. HPD mandates that the apartments be rented to tenants whose income is less than 55 to 57 percent of the area median.
Continue east along Sumpter Street, passing additional Partnership New Homes properties,and turn north onto Thomas Boyland Street (formerly Hopkinson Avenue). Here, aonce vacant City-owned building at 117-119 Thomas Boyland Street has been completely rehabilitated through the CityHome program (E ). Under CityHome, one- to four-family homes and condominiums are rehabilitated for sale to owner-occupants whose household income is between $30,000 and $70,950. The homes are fully renovated and feature a three-bedroom duplex owner's unit, new plumbing, heating and electrical systems, new appliances, and restored exteriors. Purchase prices for the homes range from $122,000 to $220,000. The program is carried out in cooperation with Neighborhood Partnership HDFC and the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC).
Walk north on Thomas Boyland Street (formerly Hopkinson Avenue) to Marion Street,site of the Marion Street Playground (F ). Part of revitalizing a neighborhood includes the development of common open spaces for residents to socialize, to facilitate recreation and to build community ties that will help maintain the neighborhood's stability. The Marion Street Playground, which features a community garden, tennis courts, sitting areas and playground equipment, will undergo an expansion that will extend the playground further east along Marion Street. Walk west on Marion Street and turn north onto Saratoga Avenue. The properties at 128 through 136 Saratoga Avenue -- between Chauncey and Bainbridge -- are an example of a property renovated through the Small Building Rehab and Sale program (G ). In that program, developers use a combination of subsidized construction financing, private financing and equity to rehabilitate vacant City-owned buildings with up to 16 units. Upon completion, the units are sold as condominiums. Sales prices are set by the City according to the area market, with eligible buyers having household incomes between $20,000 and $53,000. Since 1989, the Small Building Rehab and Sale program has provided more than $15 million in City loans for the rehabilitation of more than 400 condominium units in Brooklyn and the Bronx. Head back south to Chauncey Street and west to 312 Ralph Avenue. Walk south to Sure Drugs, a mixed-use building rehabilitated through the StoreWorks Program (H ). That program provides for the renovation of small, vacant, mixed-use buildings and restores them to private ownership. These buildings usually have a storefront at street level and one to eight residential units above. Rehabilitation of these buildings creates affordable rental housing as well as additional retail services and economic opportunities in various neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. A fitness center, an African art store and a sportswear store are among the storefronts that have been created through the StoreWorks Program. The program is carried out in cooperation with Neighborhood Housing Services of New York Community Development Corporation. After rehabilitation is completed, the buildings are sold to individual buyers at market rates. Eligible buyers may be residential or commercial occupants or investors. There are no income restrictions on buyers or renters, nor any limits on rent levels. Priority for 40 percent of the buildings is given to current residents of or people with businesses in the communities in which the buildings are located. Priority for the remaining buildings is given to City residents and those who plan to occupy the buildings. The rehabilitation is financed with loans from private lenders, as well as loans from HPD. The City also provides partial tax exemption for a 20-year period.
1 Glory in a Snapshot, McInnis, Bryant, page 10
2 Glory in a Snapshot, McInnis, Bryant, page 12
3 Glory in a Snapshot