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Commentary By Kay S. Hymowitz

The Blossoming of Bed-Stuy: Is Gentrification Racist?

Cities New York City

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

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.

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....

Read the entire piece here at The Bridge (Brooklyn)


Kay S. Hymowitz is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. She is the author of the book, The New Brooklyn.

This piece originally appeared in The Bridge