According to nyc.gov, Bedford-Stuyvesant measures 2.782 square miles and has a population of 154,332: 64% black, 20% Hispanic, 11% white, 5% other. Occupying north central Brooklyn with Crown Heights to the south, Clinton Hill to the west, Williamsburg to the north and Bushwick to the east, Bed-Stuy is a small fraction of its parent Brooklyn borough which totals 71 square miles and 2,629,150 residents. Its housing stock, dominated by an estimated 6,000 3-4 story townhouses that date mostly from the late 19th century, is increasingly attracting more and more homebuyers who feel priced out of the other residential markets as well as U.S. and foreign investors looking for steady return and appreciation.
The area’s roots can be traced to the 17th century when Dutch colonists settled. Streets were not paved until after the Civil War. A building boom followed in the 1870s transforming the area from rural to urban dwellings. Known as Bedford initially, the district added the hyphenated Bedford-Stuyvesant during the 1930s. A comprehensive history of the neighborhood by NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission can be found in their District Designation Report from April 2013. The Report concludes, “If Harlem was perceived as the center of New York’s black cultural life with the rise of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s and 1930s, Bedford-Stuyvesant offered an alternative: a residential community within the ‘borough of homes and churches’ with block after block of attractive row houses and small apartment buildings.” African- and Caribbean-Americans began moving to Bed-Stuy from Harlem in the 1930s, establishing the second-largest black community in New York. During the Depression and for some years after, many of the houses were subdivided and worse, neglected. Today the populace comprises a community of dedicated churchgoers amid strong block associations and active community centers.
A small number of Bed-Stuy’s oldest wood-frame houses remain, interspersed among the more prevalent brick and stone structures. Handsome mostly Victorian-era rowhouses cluster on tree-lined streets offering a blend of single-family homes and flats buildings of four-story 2-family walk-ups. On block after block, architectural styles display a variety of influences including Italianate, neo-Grec, Romanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival, Queen Anne and Gothic. Many homes have high stoops and bay windows boasting exquisite original craftsmanship such as elaborate wood carvings around mirrors, doors, and fireplaces, ornately patterned wood floors, intricate iron railings and grillwork, mahogany pocket doors, period shutters, high ceilings and stained glass. Many of the homes have been in the same family for a generation.
Housing values in the area have been rising quickly. MTkalla Keaton, an expert in Bed-Stuy sales and my Compass partner, notes, “This coveted Brooklyn neighborhood with the largest stock of brownstones combining urban grit with a southern soul has shown the most dramatic price appreciation over the last five years of any Brooklyn neighborhood. As the latest neighborhood to break the million-dollar threshold, Bed-Stuy saw a townhouse sell last March for $100,000 over the $3.2 asking price. But it was an outlier,” he explains, “as it underwent a reported million-dollar meticulous renovation. But you get the idea.” Price per square foot is of course affected by condition and proximity to the train and ranges widely from $500 per square foot for well-maintained homes to $750 per square foot on the very high end.
Neighborhood gentrification is catching up. New restaurants and services, as well as gyms and garden centers, have revitalized commercial strips. Peaches on Lewis Avenue, once the go-to neighborhood restaurant staple, now has welcome competition from newcomers like Saraghina on Halsey Street (excellent Neapolitan pizza) and Butch & Coco which opened on Howard Avenue this summer. Shops like Sincerely, Tommy on Tompkins Avenue, created and operated by designer Kai Avent-deLeon, bring much appreciated eclectic boutique options.
When mTkalla and I listed a 3 story, 2 family property for $1.35M in late August, the first open house attracted a crowd of diverse buyers, many confessing their frustration at having lost in competitive bidding on other properties. The townhouse drew multiple bids, and an offer over the asking price was accepted in less than a week. There’s just not enough well-priced inventory to meet demand.
Bedford-Stuyvesant is changing, supported by a tightly knitted community. With concerns for safety largely in the past, and as the district redefines itself, today’s residents are focusing more on current issues of improving schools, developing parks and expanding services. Its proximity to Manhattan and relative affordability have contributed to a housing uptick. As an influx of young professionals and artists moves to the neighborhood, opportunities for new shopping options and services are created. Bed-Stuy is ripe with great expectations for renters, buyers, sellers, investors and entrepreneurs alike. The area’s best days are ahead.