New York

Old is for the ‘naked’ brownstone with the crooked lamp post we strolled past in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant (known as Bed-Stuy) in Brooklyn.

New York is one of those unique cities were neighborhoods are constantly transforming and changing. Back in the early 1900s Bed-Stuy housed predominately white, affluent families. With the Great Depression most of them abandoned their grand mansions and brownstones to live the suburban dream. Housing prices dropped and many low-income, black people moved in. In the 60s, 70s and 80s Bed-Stuy was considered a failed neighborhood with high criminal activity and high unemployment. I heard it was infamously known as “do or die, Bed-Stuy”.

No wonder why many people, including my own parents, perceived Brooklyn as a dangerous place because there were “many black people living there”.

But Bed-Stuy did not fail because of its black residents, it failed because it was planned to fail. I learned from the documentary ‘My Brooklyn‘ that city planning officials neglected this neighborhood after the white people left, leaving it with little or no public institutions (schools, health care, police). Put in that light, it was pure discrimination in terms of public policy and resource allocation towards blacks.

Fortunately Bed-Stuy survived the ordeal and most of the old buildings are still intact, making it one of the most picturesque and historical strolls in Brooklyn. Unfortunately, gentrification has already started. New developments are dotted around, hipster cafes are seen, which all means that housing prices will rise and push out the current tenants. With more white and affluent people moving in, the public institutions will one again improve, and the cycle continues…

The ‘naked’ brownstone is waiting for its rebirth.


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