Living in Bedford Stuyvesant
Moving to New York City is becoming increasingly difficult. The cost of living in Manhattan has skyrocketed. Living in the city has fallen out of the range of affordability for most people. Fortunately, there are other options available should you want to live in New York anyway.
Brooklyn is a short train ride away from the goings-on of Manhattan and has recently developed similar goings-on of its own. Various sub-neighborhoods of Brooklyn that were previously known for mostly high crime rates, have sprouted trendy cafes, restaurants, clubs and farmer's markets. These neighborhoods have begun to rebuild their infrastructure and have cultivated a pleasant environment for recent New York transplants. One such neighborhood is Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy).
There are several housing options available in Bed-Stuy. There are plenty of traditional, historic brownstones in the neighborhood (the types you see in movies filmed in New York). These are usually four-stories high with rooftop access, fire escapes and bay windows. It is fairly easy to find a roommate to share one of the floors within a reasonable price range.
"The Projects" have been frequent topics of rap songs by the likes of the Notorious BIG, Jay-Z and countless others. The Projects are termed as such because they are large government owned, subsidized housing options for low-income residents. This housing arrangement is splattered around the neighborhood, with one or two complexes on every block. Although they may not be a housing option for a recent transplant, they do play an important role in the atmosphere of the community.
Lastly, a great housing option for Bed-Stuy newcomers are the two hostels located on Bedford Avenue and Greene Avenue. Loftstel (a combination of the word "Loft" and "hostel") provides affordable nightly and monthly accommodations for students, recent transplants, international vacationers and summer visitors. The rates range from $25 to $30 per night, depending on which location you choose to book your stay. Discounted monthly rates are also available. These hostels are specifically designed for long term guests and include several kitchens, an in-house laundry facility and free towels and linens. Also, it is difficult to make new friends when moving to a new city and living in a hostel may be a good option to instantly expand your social circle.
The people of this neighborhood have very recently become more culturally and ethnically diverse. Whereas about a year ago, this neighborhood was almost 100% African-American, other ethnicities have begun to migrate here. In the last year or so, gentrification has hit Bed-Stuy the way it hit surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods, most famously Williamsburg. Although some tension still exists between the original and new residents of Bed-Stuy, people are generally friendly. Families hold weekly barbeques and block parties. This neighborhood constantly cultivates a community feel with public works projects like wallscapes (giant murals found on the sides of buildings) that have begun to replace gang-related graffiti.
The crime rate in Bed-Stuy has recently seen a notable drop due mostly to increased policing and focus on eliminating drug dealing issues. A long running motto of the neighborhood has been "Bed-Stuy, do or die". The NYC Police Department has made efforts to change the motto to "Bed-Stuy and proud". Although being cautious in any neighborhood at night is a good idea in general, Bed-Stuy is a little intimidating considering its violent history. There are muggings and drive-by shootings. Gun shots can be heard a couple of times per week. But this neighborhood is not the ghetto of earlier years. Violent and petty crimes have consistently decreased in recent years and visible efforts are being made to substantially increase safety.
Parks and Recreation
The main park of Bed-Stuy is Herbert Von King Park. Community development events are held at the park several times per week. Most recently, an event was held to commemorate fallen motorcycle riders. The park filled with motorcyclists, their families, barbeques and church members for a quick prayer and a rev of their engines for those they lost. The party lasted through the night with food, drinks, music and an occasional prayer. In the park you will find a baseball diamond, plenty of park benches, trees and greenery.
Nearby, the Kosciusko Pool is the place to be during the hot, humid summers of New York. There is no entry fee and the facility provides users with a locker (bring your own lock) to store their belongings while they enjoy the pool. The pool is sectioned off into two areas: one for recreational swimming and the other for lap swimming.
Only 15 minutes away on bike, you will find Prospect Park, Brooklyn's version of Central Park. What it lacks in size (about half of Central Park) it makes up for in activities. There is a lake complete with swans, hiking trails, bridges and a huge music festival from June to the end of August. On the weekends, an all organic farmer's market is set up at the main entrance of the park. Adjacent to the park you will find historic Brooklyn monuments like the Brooklyn Library, Brooklyn Museum and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens (which are free of charge on Tuesdays).
Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment
Bed-Stuy is quite lacking in the bars and pubs department. There are a couple of places around but they are very hard to find. Sputnik, located on Taafe Place, has a distinct soviet astronaut feel. It is both a loungy bar upstairs and club-type bar downstairs. There is usually no cover and drinks are cheaper than any bar or club in Manhattan. Music ranges widely from hip-hop to electronica and any mix of everything in between. It's a fun spot.
Then there is the Tip Top Bar & Grill. The bar part is your typical old drinkers kind of hangout. It smells of a time when smoking was legal inside. The ceiling is decked out with Christmas lights which give it a cheapy charm (and cheap it is, $3 beers all night). The "grill" part is non-existent. Presumably, the word grill is added on to the name for emphasis purposes only. A wide variety of bars and clubs are available on Bedford Avenue in nearby Williamsberg (about an $8-$10 cab ride). Of course if you have the time and money, there is always Manhattan.
Shopping and Eating
All Bed-Stuy shopping is dominated by the Fulton Street Mall, an outdoor mall where you can buy just about anything for dirt cheap. No designer names here (well maybe the names, but they rub off easily). This is a good place to stock up on the basics (socks, underwear) and if you like fast food, all the chains are here at your disposal.
There are two great local cafes where you can grab breakfast or lunch. Tiny Cup is on Nostrand Avenue and Clifton Street. It is fantastic. As the name suggests, it is very small but the food has a wonderful homemade flair with freshly baked pastries and delicious panini sandwiches (try the avocado, cucumber and brie panini). Colador, on Bedford near Lafayette, is another great little spot. It also serves general breakfast and lunch fare. Although it does not have fresh baked pastries, it does make up for it in decor and hospitality. Colorful paintings adorn its walls and the counter is stamped with real espresso bean designs. It has a little couch for relaxing with your order. This place is run by a friendly family, with mom in the kitchen. They have free wireless internet and if you get in good with the family, they don't mind you lounging around all day.
Bed-Stuy is primarily serviced by the G train, although various bus lines run to other trains nearby. The G train runs on a fairly regular schedule during the day. After 10:00 p.m., wait times for the G train increase exponentially to anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. When it does come, getting to Manhattan takes 30-45 minutes depending on where you plan to go in the city. If you have a bicycle, new paths have been created that take you to the Williamsberg and Brooklyn bridges; both take about 15 minutes.
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