Within the Brooklyn area is one of the areas that has become a source of gentrification throughout the years. Yet, the story of Bedford-Stuyvesant reflects the story of American migration, changing economic times and the rebuilding of a piece of history.
Brief history of Bedford Stuyvesant
Originally, this neighborhood was created by the combining of two separate villages. By the 1800s, it was designated part of the town of Brooklyn, later becoming part of the 7th and 9th Wards. During the 1870s, the gridiron street pattern was developed and laid in place. Construction began on the row houses, which identify with Brooklyn, creating an urban feel to this once rural district. In 1833, Bedford became connected to the Brooklyn and Jamaica Railway. Over time, this stop became a connection with other areas of the city.
By means of the trolleys and trains, this neighborhood grew into the home for the city’s working class. At the end of the 19th century, this area was a prominent middle class neighborhood with beautiful row houses. However, the owners of these large homes gradually found themselves unable to keep them, either through death or changes in fortune. Thus, the neighborhood began to be sold off, attracting migrating black families. Therefore, Bedford-Stuyvesant became the other large black enclave, besides Harlem. The solid tradition of private ownership, good air and quality schools became the calling card of the district.
However, the social unrest of the 1960s sent the neighborhood into decline. The gang warfare created collateral damage in driving out families and leaving the Bedford Stuyvesant vulnerable to a variety of criminal activities. Urban and race riots continued throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Looting and destruction of buildings and properties were common. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the city began to work to reclaim the neighborhood. By the early part of the 21st century, the neighborhood relatively affordable housing stock made it ripe for gentrification.
Stores, restaurants, bakeries and a variety of other businesses opened, and the residential make up became increasingly diverse, although it remains a primarily African-American neighborhood. Large outdoor murals were created to reflect the accomplishments of various individuals from the neighborhood. There has also been much less displacement of poorer residents, as newcomers have rehabbed a large number of abandoned or vacant properties. The business district has also been part of a beautification effort to reflect the rehabilitation taking place among the residences.
Despite the recession, the gentrification has continued. The results are that this remains one of the most diverse areas within Brooklyn. While crime still remains a problem, there have been significant efforts made to patrol the area and some stability has been the result. Today, infrastructure improvements continue to make high speed internet and other services available.
However, the racial issues still plague this district. In 2014, two police officers were killed allegedly for revenge in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Bedford Stuyvesant is a true slice of American society today, struggling with how to define itself in terms of race and police relations.