Introducing: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn
Up and coming, dangerous and ghetto – these are words that have been used to describe Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy for short), Brooklyn. It is the kind of place you either love or hate, and, fortunately, I love it.
Located in the central part of Brooklyn between Williamsburg, Clinton Hills, Bushwick and Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy’s history began in the mid-17th century when the Village of Bedford expanded to include the area of Stuyvesant Heights.
Back then, Brooklyn wasn’t even incorporated into the city. At the end of the 19th century, with the advent of electric trolleys, Bed-Stuy became a “bedroom community” for the lower and middle class working in downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan.
This was the time when the historical brownstone houses emerged. In the early 20th century, African-Americans started to migrate here from the South, seeking racial equality and what they called “freedoms of the north”. Now Bed-Stuy has the second largest population of African-Americans in the United States. It is also home to a sizeable Hasidic-Jewish community.
Bed-Stuy is sometimes called “Little Harlem”, because of its significant role in the development of black music and culture. Its streets and brownstone blocks were featured in Spike Lee’s movies Do the Right Thing, Crooklyn and Summer of Sam.
Chris Rock also portrayed his life growing up as a teenager in the 80s Bed-Stuy TV sitcom Everybody Hates Chris. Several famous hip-hop names come from the neighborhood – Notorious BIG, Aaliyah, Lil Kim and Jay-Z.
Jay-Z was, in fact, born in Marcy Projects, a massive public housing complex known for its drug usage and high crime rate.
What I love about Bed-Stuy is that it captures the spirit of old-school New York and possesses a real sense of neighborhood. Hipsters and young professionals increasingly move to the area and, due to its proximity to the more trendy Williamsburg and Bushwick, new bars, restaurants and cool spots have started appearing.
And don’t worry, the neighborhood is not as scary and dangerous as it used to be. New York changes rapidly, sometimes even faster than we do as humans.
Top five places to visit in Bed-Stuy
#1 – Project Parlor – 742 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11205
Definitely the number-one mouth-watering place in the neighborhood, Project Parlor is more than a bar – it is a neighborhood community and art space. Exhibitions rotate every month, whilst every night local DJs spin hip-hop, rock, punk, funk and some. There is also a fabulous offering of pre-prohibition cocktails, absinthe fountain, hot mulled-cider for the cold winter days, a popcorn machine, draft beer, a spacious backyard and so much more.
#2 Do or Dine – 1108 Bedford Ave (between Gates Ave and Lexington Ave), Brooklyn, NY 11216
Bedford Avenue’s adventurous dining spot is a must-try. The restaurant’s menu includes influences from 35 cuisines, and there you’ll find unusual meals like foie gras doughnut ($11), southern classics like chicken and waffles ($20 – comes with maple syrup, passion fruit and juniper) or exotic food like New Zealand duck breast with sansho, kiwi and fennel ($25). Sweet!
#3 A&A Bake & Doubles – 481 Nostrand Ave (between Hancock St and Halsey St), Brooklyn, NY 11216
If you’re in the mood for a more casual and less expensive snack, you should stop by Nostrand Avenue’s A&A Bake & Doubles shop. Their traditional Trinidadian doubles cost only $1.25. Pepper sauce and tamarind accompany chickpeas (also known as “channa”) in a fluffy fried dough called “bara”. The tiny bakery also offers aloo (potato) pie and other Caribbean delights.
#4 One Last Shag – 348 Franklin Ave (between Greene Ave and Lexington Ave), Brooklyn, NY 11238
Another cool bar in the hood is One Last Shag. Similar to Parlor, One Last Shag has a list of reasonably priced cocktails, $5 beer and a shot, specials and live DJs. It is a divey, hipstery, gay-friendly bar, a place to have fun and dance the night away, especially on the weekends.
#5 Street art – everywhere
The best way to really get to know the neighborhood is to wander through the streets. There is a considerable amount of snazzy street art to be seen, as well as some adorable blocks of brownstones interspersed with trees and greenery. However, a bit of awareness is important – don’t go inside the Projects and try to walk the major avenues at night. Be street-smart and enjoy.