Total bullshit and a lie from Assembly Member Clyde Vanel:

In terms of affordability, he said that southeast Queens’ longtime foreclosure problem has been “slowing down” and that he is trying to keep prices low enough to attract younger people and make sure there is no “exodus” from the neighborhood. “Our young people go and live in Williamsburg or they move to Harlem or they move to Fort Green or they move to Astoria,” he said. “Part of the reason is that we don’t have rentals here, you have to buy a house—but even when they buy, they buy elsewhere. We want to be able to attract them and keep them here and buy here.”

BIG LIE: Part of the reason is that we don’t have rentals here.

YES, Vanel we do have plenty of rentals here in Jamaica, so I don’t know what the hell you are talking about, Zara Realty alone, which has many buildings in the downtown area have rentals. Yeah, maybe in places like Queens Village or Laurelton or other far off areas from Downtown, BUT young people are not going to live in those areas, there is no subway access and they sure are not going hop some crappy Jamaica Bus for a long ride to the subway. SO THAT IS A LIE.

The young people who are leaving are bright, educated, hard working individuals who don’t want to live in some filthy garbage strewn ghetto mentality community. You mentioned Williamsburg, Harlem and Fort Greene, which all three are completely different from Jamaica. They are NOT GHETTO, they have nice stores, restaurants, cafes and bars. They have a night life and things to do.

NEWSFLASH: Not all young black (or older) folks are ghetto or uneducated and they like nice things and not the bullshit nonsense that happens in ghetto communities like Jamaica.  Jamaica pretty much has NOTHING to offer smart educated young people, so they move out to something more of their liking.

You elected officials still do not fucking get it. You can build all the damn buildings you want, but if you don’t clean it up, you don’t maintain the parks, and you stop having tons of homeless shelters in the area and shelters that could be rental apartments like the big El Camino homeless shelter on 8930 16st St, which was an apartment building until they turned into this homeless shelter with problematic people in 2007. AND to give community board 12 credit (and even former BP Helen Marshall) for trying to fight what the damn city was cramming down their throat (

The area needs CLEANED UP, better businesses, proper enforcement on quality of life issues and a nightlife .

Damn elected officials, I mean how can you just flat out lie in this day and age. I guess that is just the norm anymore with them (look at our President Man Child).

Dangerous falling apart vacant homes with garbage. By the way to this day (6.30.17) this place is still boarded up.



From Queens Press:

New Pols Envision The Future of Southeast Queens


As southeast Queens continues to develop, the new faces of in the region’s political sphere are weighing its pressing needs and future growth.


Clyde Vanel

Assemblyman Clyde Vanel (D-Queens Village) said that his top priority is to make it a more affordable place to live—particularly for younger people looking to start their lives.

Vanel also described his vision of what he called “Silicon Jamaica”—expanding the financial hub of downtown Jamaica to include a technology industry for the area.

“They’re building a number of high rises down there and there’s going to be some office space included and we’re trying to attract bigger companies and we’re trying to attract a tech industry to downtown Jamaica,” Vanel said.

Vanel said that “Silicon Jamaica” was in its “infancy stage,” but that he has passed a bill to study pockets in the city that need better access to high-speed broadband internet. He said that a stronger infrastructure there could help attract those tech companies.

Donovan Richards

Donovan Richards

He described his district as a “great community” with a large number of homeowners and a working-class and middle-class neighborhood. For Vanel, increasing affordability starts with expanding job opportunities.

“The next generation and the current generation have to be able to have jobs and businesses and entrepreneurships to be able to afford to buy the houses in this neighborhood and maintain and live in the neighborhood,” he said. “We have to make sure we attract those jobs and we help build the businesses to be able to maintain and sustain the future of southeast Queens.”

The most immediate area for attention, he said, is the future of John F. Kennedy Airport, which recently received $10 billion for redevelopment. Vanel hopes to connect the surrounding community to the possible benefits of the reconstruction.

“We are an airport community,” he said. “We have companies in our neighborhood that are employment agencies that need those contracts. We also have restaurants and restaurateurs coming out of Queens that don’t have any of the retail spaces at the airport. That’s our biggest economic generator in southeast Queens and we are not properly invested in that airport.”

In terms of affordability, he said that southeast Queens’ longtime foreclosure problem has been “slowing down” and that he is trying to keep prices low enough to attract younger people and make sure there is no “exodus” from the neighborhood.

“Our young people go and live in Williamsburg or they move to Harlem or they move to Fort Green or they move to Astoria,” he said. “Part of the reason is that we don’t have rentals here, you have to buy a house—but even when they buy, they buy elsewhere. We want to be able to attract them and keep them here and buy here.”

Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) agreed with Vanel’s assessment that southeast Queens is having a difficult time retaining young residents.

“We’re a low density neighborhood, but we’re a neighborhood that young people are finding hard to stay in,” Richards said. “A lot of our young people don’t have [the money] because wages are not as high.”

Richards added that building more affordable housing, senior facilities and revitalizing commercial areas, such as Merrick Boulevard with its empty storefronts, can help.

“One thing I’m looking at is land use and how we unlock potential in my area,” he said. “On average, people in Laurelton earn 80 percent [of the Area Median Income], but the boulevard doesn’t reflect it.”



168 pl at 90 ave in downtown Jamaica

We deserve better than this. This is a first class community,” said Archie Spigner, former Council Member, to applause, about not learning of upcoming events until he sees signs in the community.

That was the famous quote from former three term Councilman Archie Spigner, who Comrie worked for and then took his place for three terms followed by Comrie’s boy, I. Daneek Miller (see a pattern there), which appeared in the Communities of Color article recently (


Sure the small area of the historic district Addesleigh Park with it’s gorgeous homes and beautiful manicured lawns make you feel you are not even in Queens, let alone Jamaica and a few spots in St. Albans are nice and there are smatterings of other areas and blocks over on Foch Blvd and parts of Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Cambria Heights, but let’s be real, the majority of Jamaica is on par with Motel  6 and would not even be considered a 5th or 6th rate community. I mean walk around most of the area or bike it, like I do and I have seen much of it. Garbage & litter are everywhere, major amounts of illegal dumping, garbage strewn and high weed vacant lots, abandoned homes and buildings, illegal conversions, illegal curb cut & parking spaces, abandoned, junked, unlicensed & high amount of out of state vehicles all over the place, Merrick Blvd thug auto body shops have made a mess of that area, the poisonous & polluting Royal Waste dump in the downtown area, numerous hanging wires from telephone poles, illegal truck driving & parking on residential streets, large waste trucks parking inside LIRR overpass tunnels, tons of homeless shelters with tons of the homeless walking dead all over the place, homeless encampments in parks and the local subway stations, major noise issues, drug clinics with bad behaving clients, do I need to go on and I have not even mentioned the high crime of shootings, killings, prostitution and drug dealing. Plus Rev. Floyd & Elaine Flake’s underage house of prostitution at the Greater Allen Senior Residence on Merrick Blvd, where a 15 year old girl was kidnapped and pimped out of this location for FOUR MONTHS with not one comment by the Flakes, Greater Allen Church, elected officials and folks like Spigner.

171st and 107 Ave THE FAMOUS BUSHWALK

FIRST RATE MY ASS, so let me show you your first class community of Jamaica, Spigner.

Ruben Wills District of prostitution, garbage and other ghetto messes. 157 and Tuskegee Airman Way

Rufus King Park

Over a million dollars and you would think this is some little kid playing the slums of Calcutta.

Cause from over a two week water main break on Hillside Avenue that the city took their damn good old time getting to.


The running of the bulls in downtown Jamaica


Royal Waste comprises the entire blue rectangle. As can be seen thousands of homes and a park are at risk.

The future of Jamaica

168 pl at 90 ave in downtown Jamaica

Elderly man’s legs are crushed by dangerous tractor trailer truck in downtown Jamaica, Friday (7.8.6) due to chronic neglect by elected officials and city agencies.


Vacant “condo” where Con Ed has put up a sign that “electricity of off due to lack of payment. Can you say ghetto B&B.

Another ghetto crook, Yolanda Vitulli, the executive director of Tender Care Human Services Inc. has been charged with stealing $100,000 from the not-for-profit company.

Parked all last weekend from Friday thru Monday.

Come visit Jamaica Ave, home of low-class ghetto & crap third world shopping.

Totally Illegal blocking of sidewalk. Pretty Girl is one of many stores on Jamaica Ave doing this. Besides making it difficult to manuever, it is low-class ghetto/third world country EYESORE.

She certainly does not look like some starving young girl in Africa.

Problematic Drug Clinic at 175 st and Hillside Ave

Downtown Jamaica, UNACCEPTABLE

Watch your step!

Is that Assembly Member Vivian Cook addressing her constituents.

Queens City Council members Ruben Wills, Shirley Huntley and Bill Scarborough have all been investigated for corruption. Photo: Ellis Kaplan/Paul Martinka/AP

Good old Downtown

Jamaica Center Station

A pattern of illegal garbage dumping for years.

Is this an example of being on “the right track”.

Homeless shelter with local residents hanging out all day. Two blocks from downtown Jamaica Ave

Supportive housing



Asshole leaders. The same shit over and over in different positions.

Jamaica Waste Transfer Station near homes and York College

Miller’s District

No this is not a quality of life issue that destroys a neighborhood’s quality of life…………no not at all, this is just ghetto parking in the hood.

More third world dreck, no green.

Jamaica’s corrupt web

Merrick and 108 Ave


Don’t let the powers that be in NYC fool you, New York City is far from progressive as they say they are and democracy especially when trying to just get on the ballot is far from democracy and is what helps keeps crooked, do nothing incumbent  elected officials in power and the idiotic throwing out of signatures is the tool the do nothing and crooked elected officials like Leroy Comrie and Ruben Wills have used many times to keep competition out, since many of them know that the right candidate will stop them in their tracks.

Case in point, a bright, educated, Navy veteran, wounded warrior, cyber expert who knows her way around Washington DC, Cambria Height’s Bernadette Semple,  wanted to get on the ballot to challenge Leroy Comrie for a Senate seat. Well, I guess this did not set too well with Comrie and his henchman, like Archie “The Dean” Spigner, who immediately began challenging petition signatures of Bernadette Semple. After court hearings and a financial cost to Semple, she was thrown off the ballot and Comrie ran unopposed and the community got SHIT again after 12 years of his fat ass as city council member ( We could have had a bright, educated veteran and woman of color to represent us and instead we got fat ghetto Comrie. I mean what a role model Semple could have been to young females of color in this community. Crooked Ruben Wills did the same thing in his past elections of eliminating the competition ( And Assembly Member hack, Alicia Hyndman also engaged in this shady practice ( The most dangerous ghetto hood rats are not on the streets of Jamaica, they are in local political office.

Berndadette Semple for Senate in 2014

AND besides idiot sheeple who listen to crooked preachers like Rev. Flake and are too stupid to think for themselves, this archaic system is another reason why we have the SAME OLD SHIT in office year after year after year.

NYC, not  as progressive or democratic as you think it is, but yet the elected officials will spend all of the energy on Trump. BUT we have a city that is exploding and imploding at the same time do to greedy, corrupt, do-nothing, dirty elected officials.


From The Daily News:

SEE IT: Collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot is inefficient, frustrating and very 19th century


This is no way to run a democracy.

Sometime this weekend, you will no doubt be accosted by a chipper campaign volunteer with a clipboard asking you to sign a petition to help get a candidate on the ballot.

Every candidate for any citywide office needs to get these signatures — 450 in the case of City Council members, 3,750 for mayoral candidates. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but then again …

1. The signatures must come from registered voters.

2. Those voters can only sign petitions for candidates in their party.

3. And they can’t have already signed for someone else running in the same race.

Old school: Not much has changed since these guys collected signatures on the street.

4. And those party members must live in the jurisdiction in question (so much for collecting signatures at crowded places like Grand Central if you’re running in the Bronx!).

5. And these voters must sign the petitions the right way, with their signature in the signature line, their printed name under that, and their address to the right exactly as the Board of Elections has it in its files.

6. Most voters have never seen these petitions and have no idea what you’re talking about when you ask them to sign. Many believe you are asking them to support the candidate, rather than merely get the candidate on the ballot.

7. Most people, in general, do not like to be bothered by other people asking them to do something. Especially in a park. Because it’s weird.

8. Oh and sometimes it rains, meaning that you have to take cover indoors (and library branches or post offices don’t let you collect signatures!).

And when it rains, it’s a complete washout (and your shirt gets wet). Yes, that is a puddle below me.

The arcane rules and multiple chances for error discourage many candidates from even bothering. Those who persist will typically have their petitions challenged by their richer, more-connected opponents. That’s why most campaigns collect three to 10 times more signatures than they need — so when the Board of Elections throws out half the signatures on technicalities, the candidate can still get on the ballot.

Of course, those challenges cost money to fend off, and take time off the campaign trail, which is another failure of the current system. About the Bar Association says that half of all election litigation in the country is conducted in New York State, thanks to our way of doing things.

“Whether a challenge is valid or not, it can tie you up in court for a week or two. And there goes 20 or 30 grand,” said John O’Hara, a longtime Brooklyn gadfly who is trying to get on the ballot against the Democratic Party establishment for a seat on the civil court. “That’s why a lot of first timers don’t get on the ballot. It’s sort of a minefield set up by the Legislature to keep candidates out of the system.”

Indeed, true grassroots campaigns tend not to have deep pockets to pay for signature collectors, so they rely on volunteers. Or, they rely on me.

Yes, despite the journalistic credo to merely observe rather than participate in the stories I cover, I spent a few days last week carrying these petitions for Cristina Furlong, a community activist who wants to run for the City Council in central Queens. (Full disclosure: There’s nothing to disclose; I don’t know Furlong personally. She’s a grassroots community leader who wants to do politics the right way, not for gain or spite, but to improve our neighborhoods. Oh, and she’s also running against an actual criminal named Hiram Monserrate and a party hack named Francisco Moya, so there’s that, too.)

Even top politicians — like former Gov. Eliot Spitzer — collect signatures to get on the ballot. It was REALLY hot the day this picture was taken, by the way.

(David Handschuh/New York Daily News)

I got about 15 signatures in the first two hours, but then had to stop because of torrential rains (see note 8 above). The inundation of my shoes eventually subsided, but my frustration did not. So I went out again a few days later and got about five signatures in 30 minutes. And I did a second pass through Park of the Americas in Corona and, again, got another five John Hancocks (though I really mean Julio Janquillo, given how many Spanish speakers I encountered, as you can see in the above video). In all three cases, every time I approached someone for a signature, I felt like I was holding out a bag of excrement, albeit one with the word “democracy” on it.

It’s a flawed system. Other states have other ways, of course, but this is politically dysfunctional New York State (yes, I’m looking at you, Albany). Certainly, candidates need to show some level of support before they should be allowed on the ballot — indeed, if there was no bar to getting on the ballot, there would be 10,000 candidates for every open seat — but can’t we do better than sending out sweaty volunteers with 17th-century writing implements and sheets of paper to accost apathetic people in the vain hope that they are actually registered voters?

“Maybe you could qualify for the ballot if you meet the threshold for matching funds,” said election lawyer and expert Jerry Goldfeder, who has run for office himself. “Or you could pay a straight fee.”

I didn’t like the sound of a ballot-access fee, which party leaders could set too high for grassroots candidates to qualify, but Goldfeder said if the fee was set properly, it would end up being cheaper than printing up petitions and spending all that time and money to collect signatures and ward off petition challenges.

There has to be a better way in our digital age. But until that day comes, you’ll still be bothered by someone like me with a clipboard and a pen.



Former Councilman Hack, Archie Spigner’s famous quote in a Communities of Color article (



Damn Spigner, are you as blind as Stevie Wonder.  Look at those fucking pictures below, is that the epitome of a first class community. Well,  I guess if your standards are low-class ghetto shit, then it is a first class community according to your ghetto view point. In REALITY WORLD, Jamaica is not even a 5th class community.

You clowns must love to hear yourselves talk. Good for me though, since I love to put stupid shit said by elected officials or former elected officials or has beens on my site. SO,  A HECK OF A JOB ARCHIE.

And this is the guy that Assembly Member Clyde Vanel did a bullshit video calling him “THE DEAN”. Dean of what, ghetto crap. AND why do we keep hearing about this clown. OH YEAH, it is election time and he wants to make sure his good ole boys stay in office.


From Pamela Hazel, the TRUE JAMAICA COMMUNITY ACTIVIST & Resident:

Since April, l have been reporting to Boranian about the dangerous, electric wires. They have been hanging off the light pole and dragging on the ground. I have also, contacted 311 and 911. It’s about two months, and  still no action.  Now children must be taking the electric wires for ropes.  Yesterday, children were running, jumping and riding near the pole.
Some were even standing on broken glass beneath the wires. Parents were warning their children to stay clear of the garbage next to the wires.
Photos were taken yesterday, 6/28/17
Corner of Merrick Boulevard & 108th. Avenue
Meanwhile, bushwalk/sidewalk and Zika Park have taken a turn for the worst. Horrible, but not surprising; because the political gangsters have abandoned Jamaica Queens and it’s constituents. That’s until they need you to pull the lever.
Zika Park, 109 Avenue & Merrick Boulevard.

Nonetheless, exposure will continue. Hopefully, Borough President/Katz, her liaison/ Boranian and the rest of oppressors will pay for their ill-gained salaries.

P. Hazel: Social Media Journalist for Justice.


From Communities of Color:

Many who gathered felt that there was a clandestine effort by elected officials to push alcohol at events, with Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman’s name dropped frequently an agent in that effort.  Their evidence of such included the speed and secrecy of the initiative coming to pass, especially in light of an approved liquor license.  Some even asked why Council Member Ruben Wills’ office, who supported the authorization, had a representative at the meeting as his District does not include Roy Wilkins Park.

SO why didn’t the local elected  officials in this district call out that corrupt major asshole ebony clown Wills, on this shit. WHY? He has no fucking business sticking his nose in districts that he has nothing do do with. This fucking clown cannot take care of that ghetto mess district that he is in charge of.


AND what is officials like Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman pushing alcohol at this event, is he getting a kick back. Yeah, just want you want at an outdoor concert at Roy Wilkins Park in Jamaica, alcohol, so some hood rats can whip out guns and cause ghetto nonsense, like this did before at another event at the park.

And another old fart former entrenched elected officials, hack Archie Spigner stated: “We deserve better than this.  This is a first class community” . REALLY  Jamaica is a first class community. Damn the bullshit cup is fucking overflowing. Spigner, do you ever walk around the community, do, even Roy Wilkins Park as garbage and litter problem. First Class, you don’t get out much Spigner do you. These elected officials and former ones need to step out of the picture, you are the ones that help the community go downhill by your inactivity on quality of life issues, your greed, your laziness and your stupidity.

YOU ALL NEED TO CLEAN HOUSE WITH ELECTION TIME, throw all the incumbents out.

Ruben Wills District

Ruben Wills District of prostitution, garbage and other ghetto messes.

Councilman Ruben Wills being arrested in November of 2014


From Communities of Color:

Community Fights Against Alcohol at Parks Events

June 27, 2017

Days prior to the R&B concert event ‘Groovin’ in the Park’, civic leaders, residents, elected official representatives and Southern Queens Parks Association (SQPA) board members met with representatives from the Parks Department to discuss authorizing alcohol as part of the event.

The community’s position was clear.  No alcohol.

Although NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver’s presence was requested, Queens Borough Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski was the designated representing official.  She was apologetic about another appointment she had that would mean leaving the meeting early.

The issue at hand was whether the promoter would be able to add alcohol to the event slated to take place in three days.  Alcohol would be in the form of four two ounce wine samplings which would be reserved for the event’s VVIP and VIP sections and not for the general ticket holders at large.  There would be an estimated 1500 concert goers and samplings would be tracked by a wristband system.

In order to have this item attached to the event, the promoter was required to fulfill three requirements:  reach out the local community, provide a site security plan and have a license from the NYS Liquor Authority  At the time of the meeting, the promoter had only done one of those three items, provided a site security plan.

It was a who’s who of community leaders that gathered for a heated conversation in opposition to granting authorization to the promoter including civic organizations in closest proximity to Roy Wilkins Park: Addesleigh Park Civic Association, St. Albans Civic Association and Greater Tri-Angular Civic Association.

The community was concerned about ‘Groovin’ and alcohol because it was outside of the scope of the mandates regarding of liquor at events.  Furthermore, the promoter did not do his due diligence in order to be in compliance with the waiver by reaching out to the community and obtaining a liquor license.  As other promoters are lining up for the same types of alcohol provisions, there is a concern that there is no standing policy.  Most who gathered in favor of the community were clear that they were not against alcohol being served at events, but rather at the manner in which this particular case was being decided.

“A policy needs to be established,” said Andrea Scarborough, Addesleigh Park Civic Association.  “Follow the law that is in place”.

Policy aside, those in attendance not in favor of granting the waiver felt that the addition of alcohol burdened an event already plagued with issues.

“Who knows what affect alcohol adds,” said Scarborough.

Concerns surrounding the event included loud noise that begins early in the day with sound checks and is followed by a concert which lasts well into the late hours.  A myriad of parking issues arise as concert goers use and block driveways, park multiple cars at dead ends and double-park throughout the neighboring community causing residents to be trapped in their homes less they lose a parking space.  Other issues were the garbage left behind and a parade of unlicensed merchants who congregate along Merrick Blvd.

There was concern that SQPA was acting independently of the community.  “SQPA being run like a private club.  We don’t know what is going on.  We see a sign, buses or vans.  We deserve better than this.  This is a first class community,” said Archie Spigner, former Council Member, to applause, about not learning of upcoming events until he sees signs in the community.

The community also wondered, why now?

“Prior to this year, there have been no efforts to serve alcohol.  What changed that?  They make a fortune off this community.  Why is it different this year to sell alcohol,” asked Elmer Blackburne.

Many who gathered felt that there was a clandestine effort by elected officials to push alcohol at events, with Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman’s name dropped frequently an agent in that effort.  Their evidence of such included the speed and secrecy of the initiative coming to pass, especially in light of an approved liquor license.  Some even asked why Council Member Ruben Wills’ office, who supported the authorization, had a representative at the meeting as his District does not include Roy Wilkins Park.

The community proposed a town hall, post event, to talk with promoters about issues and concerns surrounding the event.  Community Board 12, which is remaining neutral on the subject, was willing to host such the event.

“Before you weigh in on something as important as this, wait, hear from the community,” said Scarborough.

Lewandowski suggested a larger conversation including a stakeholder group would be beneficial when moving forward on events in Roy Wilkins Park.

By the end of the meeting, most felt the decision would support the promoter and the event would move forward with alcohol.  The next day, the Park Department’s press office confirmed the decision to approve the ‘Groovin’ event with alcohol.

The City, with SQPA, has authorized the sampling of wine in the designated VIP areas only, for this weekend’s event. Please note that the event promoter has approval from Parks, but also requires a permit from the State Liquor Authority.

The Parks department gave no rationale for their decision, despite being asked. The NYS Liquor Authority did not grant the promoter’s request.  The concert took place without alcohol.

This meeting took place on Thursday, June 22 at Roy Wilkins Park.  Groovin the Park took place on Sunday, June 25 at Roy Wilkins Park.



What don’t you get Leroy about this statement:


Obviously from the look of Jamaica & SE Queens from the illegal garbage dumping and illegal truck driving on residential streets to the take over of Merrick Blvd by thug auto body shops placing their junked and unlicensed vehicles on sidewalks and streets to illegal conversions and every other quality of life issue in the community, you  have no idea what the statement even means.

IT MEANS do shit for your community as opposed to deflecting by constantly bringing up Trump, but when you have no game plan, this is what political hacks do, DEFLECT and are not held accountable to the constituents they serve. Just like KATZ THE HACK shaking her finger at the cable company Spectrum (

I see not one thing in the below ask for money bullshit about what you are doing LOCALLY. Trump is not an elected official of Jamaica or SE QUEENS, you and your hacks are and here are just a few things that come to mind and should be on your to do  list. RESIST THE BULLSHIT FROM THE QUEENS DEMOCRATS who have sold out their public servant office for GREED.


Dear Joe:

We need your help!

I invite you to join us as we meet with leaders of the Democratic Party to discuss organizing to resist the Trump agenda. We must work together to truly make our country great again.

To push back against hurtful policies that are coming out of Washington, a donation of $10, $20 or $25 can make a big difference. We must continue to work with our partners on the city, state and federal level to protect all New Yorkers. I hope that we can continue to count on your support.

We will convene this Saturday at 11:00 am at the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center to discuss how we can elect congressional and state legislative candidates who will work for all people and how you can get involved in the resistance! I hope to see you there.

Yours in service,



Some most interesting reading. And I am sure some Jamaica residents will look at various aspects of this.


From The Bridge:

Exclusive Book Excerpt

The Blossoming of Bed-Stuy: Is Gentrification Racist?

A Brooklyn author explores a neighborhood’s transformation and finds that many of the assumptions about it don’t quite fit

Gathering on the stoop on Decatur Street between Tompkins and Throop in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Photo by Mattia Insolera/LUZ/Redux)

Of all the changes I’ve witnessed in Brooklyn since I settled in the borough over 30 years ago, none has been more surprising than the blossoming reputation of Bedford-Stuyvesant. For decades after 1950, in the minds of outsiders, and many residents as well, Bed-Stuy’s nickname “Do or Die” captured the spirit of the place. It was a neighborhood of hopeless black poverty, mean streets, meaner housing projects, and a homicide rate that had reporters reaching for war metaphors. Now, according to the media’s coverage of style, real estate, and food, Bed-Stuy is the next Park Slope and Williamsburg. It is becoming the latest destination for young professional and creative-class whites on their ceaseless prowl for appealing housing, lively walkable streets, and express subway lines to Manhattan. Inevitably, good coffee, Danny Meyer–inspired restaurants (one, with the winking name Do or Dine, was known for its foie-gras doughnuts before it closed in 2015 and reopened as a bar called Do or Dive), and prenatal yoga classes have followed close behind.

Brooklyn Navy Yard

Hymowitz, author of “The New Brooklyn,” will talk about the borough’s renaissance at a public event tomorrow, June 29, at the Brooklyn Historical Society. Click on the book jacket above to reserve tickets

In some circles, changes wrought in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and other black communities like Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C., or Oakland, Calif., are routinely described as ethnic or racial cleansing, or, more bluntly, “white people stealing shit.” In a famous 2014 rant, the filmmaker Spike Lee railed against the white newcomers in the once-black Brooklyn neighborhood of Fort Greene, accusing them of being part of a “motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus syndrome.”

But a closer look at Bedford-Stuyvesant reveals the usual drama of white oppressor meets black victim/professional meets working stiff/yuppie meets homeboy to be a cartoon picture of a much more interesting story of economic, social, and racial transformation. No one would deny that the blighted black area has seen both an influx of white professionals and creative types as well as the sort of designer cafes and restaurants that keep them well lubricated and content. Talk to locals and look closely at the census and crime data, though, and you’ll find that gentrification’s familiar tensions around class and inequality are also intra-racial, reflecting the rise of a dynamic new black class, on the one hand, and the persistence of a ghetto underclass, on the other.

Blacks Come to Central Brooklyn

To understand the disputed territory that is Bed-Stuy, one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in Brooklyn, the first thing to appreciate is its location. Bedford-Stuyvesant sits near the middle of the borough, abutting Williamsburg to the north, Clinton Hill and Fort Greene to the west, Crown Heights to the south, and Bushwick to the east. Those once-poor and working-class neighborhoods are now in flux as professionals, artists, managers, and nonprofit employees (most of them white) are not only priced out of Manhattan but of the proto-yuppie neighborhoods of Park Slope and Cobble Hill and hipster meccas like Williamsburg as well. Bed-Stuy was bound to succumb to the educated-class invasion, if for no other reason than it is near these other rising areas and, not to be forgotten, it has excellent subway connections to Manhattan.

The area’s biggest draw, however, is its legendary brownstones. Nineteenth-century architecture is to Bed-Stuy what oil is to Saudi Arabia. In that era, a growing German and Dutch upper middle class, wanting to escape the grimy tenement districts of Manhattan, began to build homes in the once-rural village of Bedford. Bed-Stuy’s “starchitect” of the time, Montrose Morris, built the first apartment building in Brooklyn, the Alhambra, at the southern end of the area in 1889. It was a risky venture, since the aspiring middle class tended to equate apartments with poverty-filled tenements. But Morris’s extravagant Romanesque and Queen Anne pile—think nine-room apartments with maids’ quarters and a croquet court in the building’s garden—was far from that.


A handsome row of houses on Decatur Street in Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, established in 1975 (Photo by Smallbones/Wikipemedia Commons)

Morris was part of a building spree that resulted in block upon block of single-family homes with a riot of intricate masonry that still delights: Romanesque arches, bays, Byzantine columns, Queen Anne-style pediments and gables, terra-cotta tiles, carved mahogany doors, castle turrets, stone swirls, cupids, flowers, and grotesqueries of animals and human faces. Metalworkers added wrought-iron fences and gates. Churches and community groups were plentiful. Add newly planted shade trees, and you had the infrastructure and civic energy for urban living at its best.

Bedford and nearby Stuyvesant Heights were not to remain so fine for very long. Between the two world wars, the original German upper-middle-class homeowners—manufacturers, merchants, and brokers—took off for the suburbs, to be replaced by working-class Jews, Italians, Irish, and others. The area’s brownstones were already showing their age, and so was the area’s reputation.

By comparison with other northern cities, the shift in Brooklyn’s racial geography was late in coming. The great migration northward after the Civil War had already given Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Manhattan’s Harlem a substantial black population by 1920. Brooklyn’s black population grew more slowly. Until the 1930s, blacks made up less than 1.4% of the borough’s population. There was no official Jim Crow in Brooklyn, but discrimination shadowed the newcomers through their daily lives. Segregation was commonplace in hospitals and schools; movie theaters refused to sell orchestra seats to black customers.



Bed-Stuy’s racial identity shifted more notably during the Depression. In 1936, the A subway line was completed, giving Harlemites easy access to their brethren in Kings County. They liked what they saw in that small settlement in Bedford. The houses around Bedford and Stuyvesant Heights were superior and the neighborhood far less packed than their home district in northern Manhattan. The Harlem and Jim Crow refugees may have seen in the area’s brownstones a luxury that they could never afford in Manhattan. The established white residents, on the other hand, saw obsolete, fraying structures no longer suitable for their modernizing lifestyle. The more restless of them headed off to newer housing developments in Flatbush.

The Depression brought about another change—a federal program that would eventually help drag Bedford-Stuyvesant and other minority communities around the country into desperate straits. In the early 1930s, the Roosevelt administration, attempting to head off mass foreclosures and bank failures, created the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), whose main purpose was to subsidize imperiled mortgage holders. To gain more information about the problem, they surveyed 239 cities across the country and created “residential survey maps.” The surveys rated neighborhoods based on a number of characteristics: the age and type of housing and residents’ occupations and incomes, as well as the number of foreign-born residents and blacks. Most momentously, it created maps ranking neighborhoods from A, for desirable areas, to D, for risky ones. It’s not clear how widely disseminated the maps were—they came to public attention only in the 1970s, when they were uncovered by historian Kenneth Jackson. But their color coding—A areas were colored green, B and C in blue and yellow, and D in red—gave birth to the term “redlining.”

A Spike Lee block party in Bed-Stuy in 2015 (Photo by Ethel Wolvovitz/Alamy)

The long-term consequences of redlining and the exploitative lending practices following in its wake for aspiring black homeowners like those of Bedford-Stuyvesant—and their descendants—would turn out to be calamitous. However, if race was the guiding principle behind the HOLC’s rankings, it’s hard to see it in the 1937 Brooklyn map. Much of Brooklyn was redlined, including parts of Park Slope, which at the time was more than 90% white. Redlined Bed-Stuy itself was about 12% black in 1930, about the time when the maps were first being researched. It’s possible that the HOLC was alarmed by that 12%, but it’s also the case that lenders and officials at the time didn’t care for the white ethnic groups in the neighborhood either. The agency shared widespread contemporary assumptions about the limited material value of older, urban, and ethnic neighborhoods as well as racial suspicion—especially, as was the case during the Depression, when people didn’t have the funds to renovate outdated plumbing and crumbling stonework. Investors aren’t looking for ways to lose money, after all.

Indeed, over the next decades, many brownstones already scarred by the Depression went into deep decline. Struggling residents, white and black, stripped gracious parlors and decoratively plastered bedrooms to create rooms for boarders, as windows rotted and stone washed away. By the 1940s, frequently panicked into selling at a discount by “blockbusting” real estate agents, the remaining Jews and Italians packed up and left for Long Island and other points in Brooklyn and Queens. By 1950, Bed-Stuy was already 50% black. Ten years later, it was 74%.

The Ghetto and the Black Middle Class

By the mid 1960s, with Bedford now merged with next door’s Stuyvesant Heights, the community was bulging at its seams. Some 450,000 residents, the size of the population of a medium-size American city, were crammed into less than three square miles. It was the most populous neighborhood in Brooklyn and had one of the largest concentrations of African Americans in the U.S., second only to South Chicago. As in Chicago, the city government turned its back: garbage pickup was listless, at best; and the schools were dilapidated and disorderly.

The large majority of Bed-Stuy residents at the time were high school dropouts. During World War II, the Brooklyn Navy Yard had provided jobs; Local 968 of the longshoremen’s union had a membership of 1,000 African-American men (though union solidarity did not prevent blacks from being last hired, first fired). After the Navy Yard was decommissioned in 1966, those jobs were gone and Bed-Stuy’s social decline accelerated. Already 36% of children were born to unmarried mothers, a number that would continue its relentless rise into the 21st century. Rates of venereal disease and infant mortality were among the highest in the nation. Juvenile delinquency, gangs, and heroin added to the misery. Merchants on the once-vibrant Fulton Street closed their doors; holdups and muggings were chasing away customers and making employees fear for their lives.


A confrontation between African Americans and police with nightsticks at Fulton Street and Nostrand Avenue during the Bedford–Stuyvesant riot of 1964 (Photo by Stanley Wolfson/Library of Congress)

By the 1960s, the blight of Bed-Stuy brought the neighborhood a national reputation as a poverty-and-crime-stricken black ghetto. In July 1964, Harlem was torn by riots after a white police officer shot and killed a 15-year-old black youth, James Powell. Two days later, the flames spread to Bed-Stuy, where an estimated 4,000 rioters ransacked hundreds of local stores and pelted police and fire fighters with bottles and bricks. Those days of chaos, which would flare up sporadically in “long, hot summers” through much of the 1960s, led New York’s newly elected senator Robert F. Kennedy to take a walking tour of the area. In 1966, journalist Jack Newfield, who accompanied the senator, described their excursion as “filled with the surreal imagery of a bad LSD trip.” Kennedy gathered a group of high-powered businessmen and Bed-Stuy community leaders to create the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., the first community-development corporation in the country.

Black poverty, crime, drugs, underclass misery: that’s the picture that most outsiders have had of Bed-Stuy since the 1960s—until very recently. But there was always another Bedford-Stuyvesant whose considerable strengths had the potential to serve as the foundation for an eventual revival. Even as whites and banks began to flee in the middle decades of the 20th century, the neighborhood had a tight-knit, neighborly working-class spirit that lingers in the local ancestral memory and remains a source of local pride. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, black teachers, mail carriers, firefighters, and nurses lived on those fraying blocks. Many of them, through a mixture of luck, hard work, and penny-pinching were able to buy and live in those precious brownstones. Some would hand down their houses to their children and grandchildren, who continue to live there today. Compared with other poor communities like Harlem, where renting was the norm, Bed-Stuy had relatively high levels of homeownership. Even in the 1960s, after decades of neighborhood downward mobility and damage caused by an abundance of negligent absentee landlords, nearly 23% percent of area buildings were owner-occupied, according to a study by the nearby Pratt Institute; another 10% percent had owners living nearby.


Sen. Robert F. Kennedy discusses school with Ricky Taggart on Gates Avenue in 1966 (Photo by Dick DeMarisco/World Telegram & Sun/Library of Congress)

The combination of those enticing brownstones, human-scale streets, and neighborly residents nourished a civic orientation that carried at least some of Bed-Stuy through miserable times. The neighborhood’s Southern blacks had brought with them not just hopes of a better life but the habits of friendly, slow-moving, small-town living. Bed-Stuy residents still boast about blocks where folks always say “good morning” to passersby and warm evenings where residents sit on the stoops of their homes, passing the time and watching children playing on the sidewalks. Churchgoing black homeowners remained a resilient, family-oriented group. A former resident, 86-year-old Ulric Haynes Jr., is old enough to remember the block when it was half white. His observations of Bed-Stuy evoke an alternate universe compared with the ’hood of popular imagination: “All the black kids on the block went to college. And I do mean all, though I can’t say that for the white kids. On the part of the black families on that block, there was a conscious effort to improve one’s self. I would attribute our feeling to a kind of immigrant zeal. We all knew, even those who came from the American South, that we had to work hard—not just to make a living but to make a place for ourselves in American society. And the white kids in the neighborhood didn’t have that feeling, that zealousness.”

“We were very much a group of strivers,” he concludes. Haynes is understating, at least in his own case: his career as a diplomat, lawyer and educator included a term as U.S. ambassador to Algeria.

Throughout the decades that Haynes and his peers were growing up, Bed-Stuy was alive with civic activity: there were homeowners’ associations, African American–run banks, block associations, food co-ops, and house tours. After years of lobbying, local strivers gained landmark status for the Stuyvesant Heights historic district in 1971. The Bedford-Stuyvesant Neighborhood Council lobbied for better sanitation, bus, and subway service.

Bed-Stuy’s African American population built the neighborhood into the cultural center of black Brooklyn, which, by the 1950s, had expanded into Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Brownsville, parts of Bushwick, and Williamsburg. That culture may not have had the national reputation of the Harlem Renaissance, but it was nonetheless a source of solidarity, pleasure, and commerce that still shapes the local population’s sense of itself. By the 1940s, Bed-Stuy had dozens of restaurants and movie theaters, including the 2,500-seat Brevoort, one of the largest in New York City, which made a specialty of black-directed films starring black actors. According to historian Clarence Taylor, though whites owned many of the local establishments, black-owned businesses were commonplace. In the 1950s, jazz greats Freddie Hubbard and John Coltrane played at local clubs; Dinah Washington and Carmen McRae performed there as well.

Even during the dark, crack-filled days of the 1980s, black performers sparked feelings of local pride. By setting some of their most memorable work on the blocks of Bed-Stuy, Spike Lee and Chris Rock helped the area to usurp Harlem as the center of black energy and style in the American consciousness. By the 1990s, Bed-Stuy had become hip-hop’s Nashville, the birthplace and inspiration of Lil’ Kim, Notorious B.I.G., and the rapper-impresario Jay-Z, who was born Shawn Carter, the bard of the gun-tormented Marcy housing projects, equally well known for his roles as Beyonce’s husband and entrepreneur.

The New Bed-Stuy

Given this history, it’s not hard to see why some locals would glower at the white or biracial couples pushing wooden-toy bedecked strollers, or bike riding, or parent-dependent musicians and art students moving into their territory. There’s no question about it: the newcomers have helped make $2,000-a-month one-bedroom apartments and $2 million houses the new normal in the once cut-rate neighborhood. Wittingly or not, they’ve been party to the departure of low-income locals from apartments that they called home during a time when the rest of the world wanted nothing to do with either them or their neighborhood. A lot of poor renters have been reduced to scouting the ads in the far less richly endowed Brooklyn neighborhoods of East New York and Brownsville. Bed-Stuy saw a 633% increase in the white population between 2000 and 2010; according to the New York Times, that’s the biggest increase of any racial or ethnic group in any New York City neighborhood. As of 2010, the share of black Bed-Stuy residents had shrunk from 82% in 2000 to about 65%.

Still, Bed-Stuy’s fortunes do not fit a simple story of gentrification’s white colonialism. For one thing, Bed-Stuy was becoming less black in part because of a rising number of Hispanics; their portion of the population increased by 17% in the decades between 1990 and 2010. For another, there were so few whites in 2000, that while the white influx was huge, percentage-wise, they still added up to only 15% of the Bed-Stuy population in 2010. Moreover, the large majority of those whites are clustered in two census tracts in the northwest corner of the neighborhood, abutting Williamsburg. Walk along those streets, and you’ll jostle neither white hipsters nor briefcase-toting lawyers but bewigged women in long skirts pushing double strollers to kosher food establishments past new apartment buildings with staggered balconies where Jews can build their Sukkoth huts. More than yuppies, the Hasidim are the white newcomers—though “newcomers” seems inaccurate, given the Jewish presence in the 1920s and 1930s.

A mural of the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who grew up in the neighborhood (Brian Harkin/The New York Times/Redux)

Also muddying the stereotypical gentrification story are the numerous signs of black success. Older, longtime black homeowners who held on through the worst times are now cashing in. Many of them are moving to greener pastures. In 2006, Claire Hussain, a half-Bangladeshi, half-Irish woman and her Irish husband purchased a three-story brownstone on Madison Street between Tompkins and Throop from a couple in their mid 60s who had lived in the house for 35 years. After vetting Claire and her husband to be sure that they were going to be suitably respectful of their beloved house, the owners bought a large new home with a pool in Georgia, where their daughter and her family lived. Clare is now vice president—and the only non-black member—of her block association. She and her husband have made friends with many upwardly mobile couples with young children on nearby blocks. “They are almost all black or mixed-race,” she says. Most have moved from other parts of the country, but more than a few are returning sons and daughters who grew up in the ’hood.

In fact, black college-educated professional men and women, or “buppies,” as they are sometimes called, are the underappreciated engine behind Bed-Stuy’s gentrification. In researching his book There Goes the ’Hood, Lance Freeman found a similar trend in both Harlem and Clinton Hill. “By the 1990s,” Freeman writes, “Fort Greene/Clinton Hill was a mecca for black creative types and entrepreneurs” who dismissed the suburban aspirations of previous upwardly mobile groups. They are now drawn to what Freeman calls the “neo-soul” aesthetic and culture of Bed-Stuy. Between 1990 and 2000, the percentage of households earning over $50,000 a year went from 12% percent to 28%, while the number of households earning over $100,000 went from 947 to 3,293 (a 350% increase). The number of owner-occupied buildings soared 633% in the same ten years. Yet, unlike the large white increase in the following decade, the racial composition of the neighborhood hardly changed.

This new black gentry—and their white counterparts, for that matter—often take their business to one of several pockets of gentrified commerce in the area, much of it black-owned and black-run. Bed-Stuy suffered badly from the subprime-mortgage crisis; the area had among the highest rates of foreclosure in the city. Still, even during the recession, new cafes, bakeries, and lounges were opening, especially along a commercial corridor taking shape along Classon Avenue and the four-block stretch of Lewis Avenue between Halsey and Decatur. Walking south along Lewis Avenue, at Halsey, you come across Saraghina, a brunch and pizza café and a perfect example of gentrification, Bed-Stuy-style. Though owned by two Italians, Saraghina couldn’t be further in spirit from Sal’s, the classic Brooklyn family-run pizza joint in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, with its pictures of Joe DiMaggio and Frank Sinatra on the walls. Instead, Saraghina seems to have been imported straight from Portlandia. One weekday morning around 11, I got to the meandering white painted space, with retro icebox doors, vintage glass bottles, and long picnic-style tables, to find three black women in their 20s and 30s and another older, mixed-race couple sipping coffee as they worked on their laptops and checked their phones. One of the three freelancing women was a yoga teacher who grew up in Ohio; another, a media producer recently moved from Michigan; and the third, a food consultant in the area who runs a wholesale distribution coop of food and groceries with 50 or 60 members.

Neighbors mingle along Jefferson Avenue between Marcy and Tompkins (Photo by Mattia Insolera/LUZ/Redux)

The food consultant, Melissa Danielle, is a sharply observant, third-generation Bed-Stuy resident whose maternal great-grandparents arrived in the thriving black Weeksville community in the 1920s. She herself grew up in her mother’s nearby brownstone. She remembers first noticing signs of gentrifica- tion in the late 1990s in Fort Greene, where she went to high school, and a bit later in Bed-Stuy, when a new population of twenty- and thirtysomething black men and women moved back to the area from college or time spent abroad. “You want to re-create the experience you had in college,” she explained. “You socialized in bars and cafes; you want something like that where you live.” Contra the conventional wisdom, “It was black folks who opened up the first $3 coffee shops—and black people who com- plained about it.”

Anthony Williams, co-owner of the Therapy Wine Bar, one block down from Saraghina, tells a very similar story. A Bed-Stuy native, Williams opened up the bar after he and his partner noticed that in order to sit for a while and sip a good pinot noir, they had to venture far outside the neighborhood. They found a space—one that hadn’t been rented since 1985—and started renovating it in the upscale style that they had seen during their meanderings. Therapy has stylish, small glass globes hanging over its long, polished bar and, on the exposed brick wall opposite, framed album covers of jazz and hip-hop artists. Black music—jazz, soul, and rap—was a big part of the plan for the bar. (Sometimes they play the albums of Santigold, a local hip-hop star, brownstone owner—and 1997 Wesleyan graduate.) Williams says that his clientele comprises upwardly mobile blacks, mostly college-educated, many from the Midwest and some Bed-Stuy returnees. He has been surprised by the number of tourists stopping in for a drink. They may be staying at the nearby Akwaaba Mansion (a bed-and-breakfast opened in 1997 by an editor at Essence who is now owner of four other B&Bs between D.C. and the Jersey shore) or boutique hotel The Brooklyn, which opened in 2015 on Atlantic Avenue.

On the next block of Lewis, Peaches, fast growing into a neighborhood franchise, is a perfect distillation of black and white strains of gentrification. Peaches is jointly owned by Craig Samuels, a black man, born and bred in Bed-Stuy, who trained at the haute Philadelphia restaurant Le Bec-Fin; and Ben Grossman, white and from the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. The food reflects the hybrid nature of their establishment no less than the owners: on the one hand, Brooklyn foodie-style lists of sustainable sources on the menu; on the other, Southern favorites like grits and jambalaya. Other black-owned Lewis Avenue establishments include Brooklyn Beso, serving a combination of Southern and Latin American fare; and Emeline’s, a diner named after the Bed-Stuy native owner’s grandmother, who grew up in Weeksville. There are many others: Rustik Tavern, Bed-Vyne Brew, Bedford Hall, Essence BarVodou Bar, and the Black Swan, in a former auto-repair shop, all owned by young black entrepreneurs, many of them children of Bed-Stuy. One 2014 survey found 33 new retail establishments.

Food vendors at a street festival on Atlantic Avenue (Photo by New York City/Alamy)

For all the lively commerce of Lewis Avenue and the encouraging signs of black upward mobility, tensions do mar the changing Bed-Stuy. White gentrifiers sometimes raise hackles when they tell longtime residents that the neighborhood is “coming back” or when they frown at the locals’ “stoop culture.” As in Park Slope, stoops—and noise levels—remain a cultural flashpoint between newly arrived whites and locals. Given that gentrifiers are almost always in their 20s and 30s, there are generational tensions as well. Danielle says that a lot of old-timers are wary of giving liquor licenses to restaurants or upscale bars. “Why does a restaurant need a bar?,” they ask with annoyance. “They still think of bars as hangouts for drug dealers and down-and-out winos,” she says.

The Persisting Ghetto

But the biggest problem facing the area is not class and racial tension; it’s the fact that many parts of Bed-Stuy still merit the term “ghetto,” with all the problems that term implies. The numbers make alarm about gentrification seem beside the point. Over 30% of the population is below the poverty line; that represents a decline from 35% in 2000, but it’s still very high by regional standards. An April 2012 report from the Citizens’ Committee for Children put the percentage of poor children in the area at a catastrophic 47%. Bed-Stuy families with children under 18 had a median income of about $28,000 in 2010, compared with a citywide average of about $61,000. There is an obesity rate of 63%, seven percentage points higher than the city as a whole; reported levels of child abuse are twice as high as other parts of NYC. In 2012, unemployment was nearly 17%, also well above the rest of Brooklyn and the city as a whole. Fair-trade coffee shops and designer pizza joints are not going to do much to change that.

Nor are gentrifiers likely to be able to help the educational prospects of the area’s children. Fewer than 18% of third-graders passed the Common Core reading test; that’s about 12 percentage points worse than for the whole of Brooklyn. An earlier report described the area’s middle schools as “in a crisis state.” The community landmark Boys and Girls High is among the bottom 5% of schools in the state in terms of achievement.

The most important threat to the neighborhood’s well-being is crime. Articles on Bed-Stuy nearly always tout the large percentage drop in crime. They’re right to do so. The numbers are astounding. Murders in the 79th Precinct went down by 67% between 2010 and 2016. But the truth is, improved or not, Bed-Stuy crime rates remain among the worst in the city. On chat boards, commenters draw elaborate maps for people thinking of moving to the area, detailing the best routes to shopping areas and subways, as well as lists of no-go zones. Don’t settle too far from the subway stop, they advise. You’re safe about two blocks north, but don’t go west. Not after ten at night. And so on. Bijoun Jordan, an African American high-school teacher who grew up in Georgia, and his wife, a publicist, were enjoying the Bed-Stuy vibe: “I would go to random concerts on Fulton. We lived above Peaches Hot House [owned by the people at Peaches on Lewis Avenue], and I would go there to grade papers or have a drink.” But when the couple was awakened by shots one night in 2014, shortly after their daughter was born, they wasted no time. After studying crime statistics in nearby neighborhoods, they decided to move to Kensington, a quiet neighborhood south of Prospect Park. “We were paying the rent of an upper-echelon neighborhood,” he says resignedly, “but had none of the security.”

In a landmark study, William Julius Wilson argued that the civil-rights movement of the 1960s had one tragic unintended consequence for urban blacks. It gave the middle class the ability to exit black ghettos, leaving behind, as the book’s title puts it, the truly disadvantaged. In Wilson’s telling, the middle-class departure concentrated the ills of poverty into a single, hopeless geographical space. The black middle class had created pockets of relative stability and normalcy within the sorrowful ghetto. Not only did teachers and accountants patronize local businesses, Wilson wrote in a 2012 afterword of his book; they “reinforced societal values and norms” and gave the poor a chance to “envision the possibility of some upward mobility.” Now a black middle class is returning to some of the very neighborhoods that their parents either escaped or aspired to escape.


Author Hymowitz has lived in Brooklyn since 1982 (Photo by Harvey Wang)

But the ability of the black educated class to inspire the down-and-out of today’s Bed-Stuy partly rests on a notion of racial solidarity that may not hold up in the 21st century. In Black on the Block, her book on black gentrification in the North Kenwood-Oakland area of Chicago, sociologist Mary Pattillo McCoy describes the “divergent class interests” that confound widespread assumptions of a unitary “black community.” For the prodigal black gentrifiers as well as the young educated who grew up there, living in the whitening ’hood inevitably leads to spells of existential vertigo. “Walking by the Marcy projects with a bag full of Trader Joe’s groceries,” as one Bed-Stuy blogger describes her life, has a way of exploding popular ideals of a single “black identity.” The dilemma is not entirely new; other upwardly mobile groups—immigrant Jews, Italians, and Irish—have struggled with a similarly split self. In their case, class identity has ultimately submerged race identity.

That dynamic may well play out differently among blacks. But though complaints about perceived racism in the workplace and suspicion about white motivations remain fairly common, black gentrifiers tend to be a cosmopolitan group. They are generally at ease when a white English professor or nonprofit administrator moves into the apartment upstairs. The same cannot be said about either Bed-Stuy’s old-timers who came of age during the days of black power or the younger activists. “You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here?” said Spike Lee in his 2014 diatribe. “Get the fuck outta here … How you walking around Brooklyn with a Larry Bird jersey on? You can’t do that. Not in Bed-Stuy.” If you think about it, Lee’s comments are troublingly reminiscent of the way Irish and Jewish Bed-Stuy residents might have sounded in the 1930s.

Lee’s bunker mentality isn’t likely to triumph over the forces of economic and social change bringing about gentrification. For at least four decades, white was the dominant color of Bed-Stuy; black has been the primary color only a bit longer than that. Now, once again, things are changing. “You’ve got the most unexpected, diverse people moving into the neighborhood now,” Morgan Munsey, a Bed-Stuy native and real estate agent, told the New York Times. “I’m getting a lot of Europeans, and actually lots of Germans.” Those were the very people, Munsey muses, who built Bed-Stuy in the 19th century. “But you still have your old-timers and African-American families who’ve been here for generations.”

From the book The New Brooklyn: What It Takes to Bring a City Back, by Kay S. Hymowitz. The author is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She is the author of three earlier books and has resided in Brooklyn since 1982.

Copyright ©2017 by Kay S. Hymowitz. Used by permission of Rowman & Littlefield,