Bedford-Stuyvesant—better known as Bed-Stuy—has been an anchor in New York City’s Black community for nearly a century. It’s one of the most distinguished-looking neighborhoods in Brooklyn, with historic brownstones (making up one of the largest collections of Victorian architecture in the country) arrayed along tree-lined blocks. Current conditions aside, Bed-Stuy’s charming shops, art galleries, restaurants and bars typically draw crowds, and should again once NYC returns to normalcy.
The area’s history reflects the City’s immigration patterns. In the 1800s, Stuyvesant Heights and Bedford were independent villages mostly made up of Irish, German and Scottish settlers. In the 1920s and ’30s, during the Great Migration, an influx of Black families changed the villages’ demographics; the towns merged, cultivating a diverse community of descendants from across the African diaspora whose cultural imprint is still prevalent in the area today.
Read on for how and where to enjoy the neighborhood’s small-town vibe. But before you set out, confirm hours of operation with featured businesses. And remember that masks, hand-washing and social distancing are crucial for safe exploration.
1. Visit—and buy local from—a community garden
The Hattie Carthan Community Garden (363–365 Clifton Pl.), home to a kid-friendly garden and bountiful farmers’ market, provides easy access to locally grown food for Bed-Stuy residents. The garden is open on Saturdays through November 2020 from 9am to 3pm; on Sundays from 1pm to 6pm, it runs a market nearby at 49 Van Buren St. In addition to fragrant herbs and fresh produce, the green space offers an Urban Agriculture Youth program, artisans’ market and a lengthy list of ways to get involved and give back, like animal husbandry, harvesting and community outreach.
2. Check out the historic brownstones
Roughly bounded by Jefferson Avenue to the north, Fulton Street to the south, Malcolm X Boulevard to the east, and Tompkins Avenue to the west, Bed-Stuy’s historic district is home to some of the most beautiful brownstones in Brooklyn. You don’t have to be an architecture aficionado to admire the artfully detailed construction of these homes, built between 1870 and 1900. Classical architectural elements, such as bay windows, hand-carved friezes and ornamental stone stoops, add to their allure. Be sure to stroll down MacDonough Street; the lush block overflows with picturesque greenery. Look out too for candy-colored exteriors on Madison Street and regal rooflines along Jefferson Avenue.
3. Browse art
Richard Beavers Gallery (408 Marcus Garvey Blvd.) is devoted to fostering dialogue among emerging and mid-career artists who explore social and political issues at the forefront of the Black community. You’ll find provocative pieces by Leroy Campbell, who fuses family, history and culture throughout his colorful compositions, and abstract paintings and drawings by Zwelethu Machepha, a South African artist whose work focuses on celebrating the stories of everyday people.
4. Shop at community fixtures
BLK MKT Vintage (465 Marcus Garvey Blvd.), a nostalgic brick-and-mortar store located on the corner of Marcus Garvey Boulevard and Decatur Street, carries an assortment of items—think along the lines of vintage Angela Davis campaign posters and Rio Negro Frutas crates—that honor the Black experience globally. Whether looking for retro electronics and antique furniture or classic novels and out-of-print magazines, you’re bound to walk away with something special. BLK MKT Vintage is currently closed for in-store shopping; make sure to check the website to shop online (beginning September 1) and for details on when the store will reopen.
If you’re in search of apparel with deep community roots, Moshood Creations (1360 Fulton St.) is a must. The brand’s tribal marking shows up on T-shirts, hoodies, outerwear and face coverings. Pass through to shop or chat with Nigerian owner-designer Moshood Afariogun, who’s been in business in Brooklyn for more than 25 years.
5. Eat outdoors
Known for its warm, laid-back aesthetic, Golda (504 Franklin Ave.)is a cozy eatery offering up creative pastries—get there early before they sell out—and a delicious Cali meets Middle Eastern menu. Start with the pomegranate frisée salad and follow with the fried chicken sandwich or marinated squash and lemon potato plate.
Peaches HotHouse (415 Tompkins Ave.) does down-home Southern cooking well. There’s a limited menu of starters and main dishes now; opt for fried chicken, shrimp or catfish (sandwich versions are also available) and pair it with sides such as grits and spicy grilled broccoli. Their spacious outdoor seating is popular for brunch, so arrive early to beat the crowds.
6. Drink and dance, once it’s safe again
There’s plenty of nightlife in the neighborhood, though due to current health and safety restrictions, most venues are currently closed unless they are also doing outdoor dining. We hope all the following recommended places will resume operations as soon as they can: Brownstone Jazz (107 Macon St.), an intimate jam session hosted at Sankofa Aban B&B; C’mon Everybody (325 Franklin Ave.), an eclectic bar-lounge-gallery and live-arts space that recalls the art-nightlife mashup of 1970s New York City culture; Tilly’s Bklyn (1223 Bedford Ave.), for their Caribbean tunes and delectable bites—both available now at their sidewalk café; and Lunàtico (486 Halsey St.), where a diverse playlist draws a global audience.
7. Spend the night in style
Situated in Stuyvesant Heights Historic District, Akwaaba Mansion (347 MacDonough St.), is one of five upscale family-owned bed-and-breakfasts from husband-and-wife duo Glenn Pogue and Monique Greenwood. The Brooklyn location recently introduced a glamping garden, a sweet outpost for socially distant stays. Other highlights include meticulously styled suites, a personal concierge and authentic Southern breakfast served daily. Read about Akwaaba’s new health and safety protocols.
With its 34 spacious guest rooms and suites, meanwhile, The Brooklyn (1199 Atlantic Ave.) is an ideal pick for visitors looking for a more traditional stay. It’s conveniently located—Barclays Center, BAM and Prospect Park are minutes away—and the hotel features a modern, stylish design. Find about the hotel’s health and safety procedures.