Known for its historic brownstones and tight-knit enclave, Bed-Stuy has increasingly left behind its early reputation for being a “bedroom community” and transcended into a highly desirable neighborhood.
Distinct for its aesthetic, it is populated with ornate buildings characterized by cornices, friezes, finials, fluting and other marks of classic architecture. Built up during the period from 1870 to 1900, its historic district runs to the north of Jefferson Avenue, to the east of Malcolm X Boulevard and to the west of Tompkins Avenue.
At one point known as “Brooklyn’s Little Harlem,” the shape of the area has shifted toward attracting a wider demographic of people thanks to the influx of bars, restaurants, antique furniture stores and vintage boutiques. More police enforcement paired with the decline of the crack epidemic at the beginning of the 2000s also opened the door for increased development, as well as the occupation of formerly abandoned buildings and spaces.
Billie Holiday Theatre. Take in a performance at the historic Billie Holiday Theatre. Built in 1972, the founding of the theater was spearheaded by Franklin A. Thomas, with the intent to “expose the black community to the arts while providing an outlet for local talent.” The theater seats 218 people and is part of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s Restoration Plaza.
Bedford-Stuyvesant Museum of African Art. Check out the Bedford-Stuyvesant Museum of African Art, offering a collection of artwork from over forty African countries. This cultural gem is a wonderful place to spend a day getting in touch with enriching art that speaks to the past.
Fulton Street. Walk down Fulton Street, one of the main business thoroughfares of the area.
Bed-Vyne. Have a cocktail at Bed-Vyne (at Throop Avenue and Halsey Street), a relaxed bar with a patio. The intimate setting also offers frequent DJ sets.
Catfish. Enjoy authentic Cajun cuisine at Catfish. With NOLA-inspired menu items (including the cocktails), the restaurant is one of many community-oriented hubs of Bed-Stuy where sharing a lengthy meal is an integral part of bonding.
Peaches HotHouse. Southern comfort food and mason jar cocktails combine to create another primo dining experience at Peaches HotHouse, where it’s easy to get lost in a sea of cornbread, ribs and, of course, Nashville hot chicken.
Saraghina. Because every New York neighborhood has its own unique pizza outpost, trying out the options at Saraghina is a must. The Neapolitan-style pizza is served from a wood-burning oven that also offers a coffee bar at the front of the restaurant.
Dynaco. Known for drawing a large crowd in during the winter thanks to its cozy fireplace, Dynaco is unique for offering readings and performances in its back room, as well as not being inclined to commit to any set menu for coming up with its cocktails. Plus, there’s complimentary Goldfish crackers.
LunÀtico. Want some live music to go with dinner and drinks? Check out neighborhood staple LunÀtico on Halsey Street. Italian fare paired with nightly performances of every genre imaginable (ranging from Bollywood to Southern swamp rock) speaks to the arts-friendly nature of Bed-Stuy.
Harold and Maude Vintage. On the hunt for some vintage threads? Try out Harold and Maude Vintage or The Meat Market, the latter also offering regular music, film and art events.
Bedford Galleries Inc. When it comes to vintage furniture and antiques, look no further than Bedford Galleries Inc., featuring an ample selection of mid-century modern pieces.
What You Might See
Classic brownstone row houses. With this being one of many particular Brooklyn neighborhoods featuring this style of housing (including nearby Fort Greene), the charm of these blocks is undeniable.
A strong sense of community, especially among black and Afro Caribbean residents. With numerous small churches on every block, it is most particularly on Sundays (when walking past the open doors of these spaces) that one can be privy to such close-knitness.
Plenty of bar and food options, ranging from Southern cooking to Caribbean food.
What’s In The Future
With continued affordable price points drawing in middle class black families and upwardly mobile young professionals, Bed-Stuy is likely to persist in experiencing growth and ever-improving infrastructure.
Subtle and gradual additions like pavers, more greenery (such as the planting of trees) and public outdoor furniture have also helped to improve the overall appearance and cleanliness of the neighborhood.
What You Might Not Know
Bedford-Stuyvesant takes its name from combining the neighboring communities of Bedford and Stuyvesant Heights. The former was likely named in honor of the Duke of Bedford, while the latter was named after New Amsterdam’s final governor, Peter Stuyvesant.
The race riots of the late 60s in New York were largely concentrated in Bed-Stuy, with dissatisfaction among the black community over unemployment and a lack of enforcement of civil rights reaching a crescendo during this period. Providing a key example of discrimination and economic disparity, then New York senator Robert F. Kennedy took specifically to the Bed-Stuy neighborhood to conduct his studies for the war on poverty. At the time being the part of New York with the highest concentration of black residents, Bed-Stuy was a hotbed for examining the rage and frustration behind the race riots and civil rights movement.
A subsection of the neighborhood called Ocean Hill was founded in 1890, and quickly became a hub for working class Italians.
7 Arlington Place, the family home shown in Spike Lee’s 1994 film, Crooklyn, famously sold for 1.7 million dollars in 2013 and was subsequently turned into a bed and breakfast.
Bedford, Stuyvesant Heights and Weeksville are additional subsections of the area, with Bedford being one of the first early settlements of the Village of Brooklyn before the American Revolution.
Jay-Z hails from Bed-Stuy, famously growing up in the Marcy Projects and beginning to sell crack at the age of thirteen at the height of the epidemic. His name, in fact, is taken from the nearby J/Z trains.
What We Love
The bar and restaurant-centric nightlife. To boot, the nabe leaves one with a decidedly diverse and all-embracing impression. While it continues to change and adapt to new and increased residents, the integrity and overall sense of history one gets when walking through Bed-Stuy remains overwhelming in the best possible way.