Central Brooklyn has long attracted newcomers and middle-income New Yorkers who are drawn to its stately brownstones, tree-lined streets, and strong cultural roots in the Black community.
Many families have lived in Central Brooklyn over several generations, and today it is home to the nation’s largest concentration of people of African descent. Our site visit on April 23rd took us through the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, considered to be one of the most identifiable and historic Black enclaves in the country, known for its rich culture and tight-knit residential districts. While the neighborhood has experienced spikes in poverty and crime over the past half-century, Bedford-Stuyvesant continues to be home to a large Black working and middle class.
The Neighborhood is Undergoing Rapid Change
Though the overall poverty rate in Central Brooklyn is dismal, rental and housing ownership costs have increased significantly, leading to extreme racial and income shifts among the population.
Starting in the early 2000s, however, the community began to face the residual effect of gentrification forces in the adjacent Fort Greene and Clinton Hill neighborhoods. According to the 2010 Census, the number of white residents in Bedford-Stuyvesant grew from 2.4 percent to 15 percent, while the number of Black residents decreased from 75 percent to 60 percent. In addition, the gentrification pressures in Williamsburg and Greenpoint pushed the number of Latinos in Bedford-Stuyvesant up to 20 percent. The dislocation of longtime residents is expected to continue as speculators predict that increasing housing prices, the construction of new luxury developments, and changing racial and income demographics will increase over the next decade.
Black Women’s Blueprint
Founded in 2008, BWB is a Black feminist organization that uses civil and human rights approaches to develop a culture in which women of African descent are fully empowered and where socially constructed barriers to opportunity are erased. BWB primarily serves Black women who are survivors of sexual assault. It engages in participatory research, historical documentation, and policy advocacy, and also organizes women to address the challenges they face within their local communities and more broadly. BWB works to address the intersection of class, racial, and gender oppression that contributes to economic insecurity for women and girls. The organization’s programs and campaigns emphasize a collective-action model in which program strategies are developed by women who have been directly impacted by rape and sexual assault.
Bridge Street Development Corporation
Bridge Street Development Corporation (BSDC) was founded in 1995 by members of the oldest continuing African-American congregation in Brooklyn: the Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church. BSDC’s mission is to build partnerships with businesses, government, and other community stakeholders to provide civic and economic opportunities to the residents of central Brooklyn. In 1989, the New York Foundation provided start-up support to Bridge Street African Wesleyan Methodist Episcopal Church to create a community center. This effort eventually led to the formation of BSDC. BSDC creates and preserves housing for low- and moderate-income residents and works with local business and property owners to create and strengthen merchant associations. Bridge Street PopUP Project, connects micro-entrepreneurs to owners of vacant storefront spaces with temporary short-term leases.
Brooklyn Movement Center
In 2010, leaders of several Central Brooklyn community-organizing efforts began meeting to create a framework for working in concert with one another. Out of these conversations emerged an idea for the Brooklyn Movement Center, a multi-issue, direct-action, community-organizing effort based in Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In early 2012, BMC hired three staff members and opened an office. Since then, BMC has reached out to community residents to identify and engage them in addressing local issues and built an interactive Web site that highlights its local education reform, food justice, and anti–street harassment work. A grant from the New York Foundation provides general support for BMC’s administrative and program activities.
Who We Met
Lead Organizer, Brooklyn Movement Center
Previously, Ms. Pierre was the community liaison for Central and West Harlem at the Manhattan Borough President’s Office and was a youth organizer with the Children’s Defense Fund and Prospect Park Alliance.
Executive Director, Brooklyn Movement Center
Mr. Winston Griffith was on the faculty of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and the field organizer for the MOVE NY campaign. A Central Brooklyn native, he is the former executive director and senior fellow for economic justice at the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, and the former co-director of the Neighborhood Economic Development Advocacy Project (a current grantee with a new name, New Economy Project). Mr. Winston Griffith co-founded the Central Brooklyn Partnership and Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union (a former grantee). He currently serves on the boards of the Brooklyn Cooperative Federal Credit Union, Center for an Urban Future, the Center for Working Families, Little Sun People and Free Speech TV.
Advisory Board, Black Women’s Blueprint
Ms. Johnson is a member of the advisory board at Black Women’s Blueprint.
Executive Director, Black Women’s Blueprint
Ms. Tanis has more than 20 years of experience with local and international women’s human rights advocacy. She has provided psychotherapy and family therapy, and has advocated on behalf of Haitian refugees and immigrants living with HIV/AIDS. She has also worked with women in the New York City shelter system who were victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Ms. Tanis was also a co-founder of Dwa Fanm (a former grantee), a domestic violence and sexual assault prevention and intervention organization for Haitian women and girls.
Executive Director, Bridge Street Development Corporation
Prior to joining BSDC, Mr. Dorcely served as Director of Nonprofit Philanthropy and Leadership at the Washington DC–based Independent Sector, and has held positions with the Rhode Island Foundation, the Association of Black Foundation Executives, and Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.
Community Outreach Coordinator, Bridge Street Development Corporation
Mr. Whitehorn is responsible for implementing BSDC’s outreach efforts across all its program areas. Before BSDC, Mr. Whitehorn worked at architecture firms in New York City and Miami, Florida. Mr. Whitehorn has attended the Center for Neighborhood Leadership (also a current grantee), a program that helps participants further develop community organizing tools and skills.