From These Roots: A Dream Realized
Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corp. Celebrates Completion
of $20 Million Revitalization Project
Part One of Two
The greatest example of Bedford Stuyvesant’s phoenix rise can be seen in the renewal of Fulton Street. Today, new public plazas, public art, trees and plantings, public performance spaces and more have brought — what may have been considered — a desert to life, and a whole new set of possibilities to light. “It’s been a long time coming,” as one speaker said at a celebration of the neighborhood and the strip, “but a change has come.”
Tuesday, Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation (Restoration), the nation’s first community development corporation, celebrated the ribbon cutting of a $20 million neighborhood revitalization project along Fulton Street with local Council Member Al Vann and commissioners from various city agencies of the City of New York.
The comprehensive improvements, championed by Restoration and financed by a $20 million investment from the City of New York, include the renovation and redesign of Restoration Plaza, mile-long streetscape improvements, and the creation of new wi-fi accessible public plazas with public art. The revitalization also generated an additional more than $100 million in housing and commercial investment by the private sector to create close to 300 mixed-income housing units and over 40,000 square feet of commercial space on the major thoroughfare of Brooklyn within Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“Restoration has always been at the forefront of improving Bedford-Stuyvesant and providing opportunities for its residents,” said Colvin W. Grannum, CEO & President of Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation.
“This neighborhood revitalization project will not only provide Bed-Stuy residents with an opportunity to enjoy the neighborhood’s beauty and culture, but will also provide housing, business opportunities and shopping destinations for the people of our community and its visitors. This is a great example of how a community institution can work together with various public and private sector partners to bring about positive results that improve economic vitality, health and wellness, safety and access to cultural programming, while bringing the entire community together.”
The multi-year revitalization effort was completed together with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, the New York City Council, Brooklyn Community Board 3, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, and four city agencies: NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, NYC Department of Small Business Services, and NYC Department of Transportation.
“The scope and success of this revitalization project exemplifies our community’s commitment to showcasing our many assets so that long-term residents, newcomers and visitors can experience Bedford-Stuyvesant at its best,” said Council Member Al Vann. “The investments and improvements that were part of this project were designed to benefit all segments of our community, from the entrepreneur and the property owner to the low-income renter and the transit-rider. I am proud to have been part of the creation of these prominent improvements to the face and future of our neighborhood.”
The streetscape improvement started as a project of the Mayor’s Office of Comprehensive Neighborhood Economic Development, a partnership of the City’s economic development agencies with local stakeholders around a shared goal of building and revitalizing the residential and business communities of Bedford-Stuyvesant. The goal was to increase resident self-sufficiency and improve commercial markets to meet local retail needs through the enhancement of physical conditions along Fulton Street, spurring local economic activity.
The improvements created new green space, outdoor cultural and community event spaces, and expanded sidewalks with new benches, trees, plantings, bike racks and lighting to create public destinations and safer, more walkable, vibrant streets.
“The improved streetscape along Fulton Street, along with enhanced and new public plazas, will make the neighborhood safer and more useful for pedestrians and residents, attract diverse new businesses, and ultimately spur economic growth in this historic heart of the Bedford-Stuyvesant community,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball. “I want to thank the many partners whose collaboration has made the revitalization of this great neighborhood possible, including the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the City Council, and the City agencies involved in this project.”
The Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District (BID), which covers the area of the revitalization, was established during the project in 2009. Derived from the Nostrand-Fulton Merchants Association, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID served as the principal liaison between EDC, Restoration, Brooklyn Community Board 3, city agencies and other stakeholders for the Fulton Street Beautification Project. The BID, under the oversight of SBS, provides a number of services to ensure the viability of its commercial corridor, including public safety, cleanliness, marketing/promotion and retail attraction. It is also responsible for maintenance of many of the amenities installed as a result of the project.
“Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation’s support of the BID’s maturation has further exemplified its mission of creating vibrant, safe, and self-sustaining commercial corridors in central Brooklyn,” said Bed-Stuy Gateway BID Board President Joyce Turner, the owner of Cross Borough Realty. “This multi-million dollar streetscape beautification project further supports the dream of making the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID a safe and inviting commercial thoroughfare for all visitors to the area to enjoy.”
“The Bed-Stuy Gateway BID has worked hard to keep the neighborhood’s commercial corridors clean, safe, and attractive, and the new public plazas and streetscape improvements will continue to enhance the area and draw residents, visitors, and business to the neighborhood,” said Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services.
We also created the commercial corridor’s first public plaza – Marcy Plaza – with additional support from the NYC Department of Transportation and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs. It includes new benches, bike racks, trees and plantings, as well as a beautiful mosaic commemorating several Bedford-Stuyvesant area landmarks.
“The new Marcy Avenue Plaza reawakens a tired patch of asphalt to create a vibrant community destination for generations of Bed-Stuy residents to enjoy,” said Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. “With attractive, safe space to see your neighbors, to enjoy cultural events, to stop by a local business or just to take it all in, this project brings world-class public space to a close-knit neighborhood.”
“The plaza is further testament to what can be achieved for extensive public benefit when agencies like the BID, BSRC, NYC EDC, NYC Dept. Of Small Business Services, DOT, Community Board #3, elected officials, and other community development stakeholders come together with a common vision and purpose,” continued Turner.
The public art installation in Marcy Plaza called “Mathematical Star” by local artist Ellen Harvey was commissioned by DOT, EDC, and Restoration through the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs’ Percent for Art program. The 22-foot diameter circular mosaic is designed in a quilted pattern of diamonds called the Mathematical Star. The piece contains eighteen different “fabric” patterns, each based on a photograph of significant landmarks in the Bedford Stuyvesant community, each site selected by members of the Art, Parks, and Culture Committee of Community Board 3. Some of the architectural details on which the artwork is based include stained glass windows at the Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church and Concord Baptist Church, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration emblem, the Boys High School door, and exterior molding at the Alhambra and Renaissance Apartments, checker table tiles at Saratoga Park, and Akwaaba Mansion’s flag, among others.
“Said New York City Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate D. Levin. “This inspiring installation is a terrific example of what is possible when contemporary art, community participation and smart landscape architecture come together, enhancing Marcy Plaza the way Percent for Art projects do in so many public spaces across the City.”
The renewal helped produce an additional investment of $15 million from Citigroup to renovate the iconic Restoration Plaza to include a wall of fame paying tribute to the founders of Restoration and other distinguished figures and additional outdoor spaces. The wall of fame includes President Barack Obama, Shirley Chisholm, John Doar, Jacob K. Javits, Thomas R. Jones, Robert F. Kennedy, Elsie Richardson, Benno C. Schmidt, Sr., and Frank Thomas. The outdoor spaces provide performance venues for local artists and organizations, opportunities for outdoor film screenings, and health and wellness programs that include a farmers market and weekly exercise programs. The redesigned plaza won an award in the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s Brooklyn Builder Awards for open space in 2012.
The Fulton Street public revitalization effort has leveraged other private sector investment on the bustling commercial corridor. With financing from Goldman Sachs, BRP Development – an African-American-owned and New York City-based real estate firm – and Restoration have worked together to generate an additional $100 million in housing and commercial investment to create almost 300 mixed-income housing units and over 40,000 square feet of commercial space.
These additional investments, along with the revitalization, are expected to spur additional economic activity within Bedford-Stuyvesant by cultivating additional businesses for residents and visitors to patronize.
The ribbon-cutting was preceded by a breakfast where NYC Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar and Community Service Society Executive Director David Jones discussed how their pioneering fathers – civil rights attorney John Doar and Judge Thomas R. Jones – influenced them personally and professionally. Part II of From These Roots: The Dream Restored appears next week.
About Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation
Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation was established by Senators Robert F. Kennedy and Jacob K. Javits in 1967 as the nation’s first community development corporation. It partners with residents and businesses to improve the quality of life in central Brooklyn by fostering economic self-sufficiency, enhancing family stability and growth, promoting the arts and culture, and transforming the neighborhood into a safe, vibrant place to live, work and visit.