What would you do if you won the lotto? Me….I would by a fly-ass brownstone in the Stuy! It would strictly a Cosby life for this urban planner / photographer and all around do-gooder’.
The sad thing is… I actually need to win the lotto to be able to afford a brownstone in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn these days. Seriously. I looked at a shell of a brownstone, completely burnt out, no roof, a couple of floors collapsed, but a beautiful intact front facade…guess how much they wanted for the spot? $800,000… yea… that’s a 8 with 5 zeros. And you need to put at least $600,000 in to get up to livable condition. It’s moments like this when I wish I could have documented my expression or you could see what was going on in my mind as the real estate agent with a serious face was saying that this was a great deal. Oh….and they preferred an all cash deal. Things have definitely changed in the Stuy’ and it doesn’t look like it use to look. Different people are walking around… probably not knowing really where they are.
This is the home of rappers Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z. Where street corners were ruled by stick-up kids and the brownstones occupied by working class families. Mr. White and Mr. Carter speak fondly jn lyrics about the days of pulling heists, slinging rock and the trials and tribulations of urban youth growing up in a place where opportunity was a foreign word or many. There was a grit and hardness to the neighborhood that fittingly matched its moniker – Do or Die in Bedstuy. And it wasn’t always this way. This is a historically African American neighborhood born from the great southern migration. Black families were proud to call the Stuy home. There were long periods of good before the bad came. The late 60s and early 70s brought crime and riots as economic and social inequities were felt in almost every urban core neighborhood. And for a period riots and civil unrest lead to burning neighborhoods across the country. Followed by the crack epidemic in the 80s that devastated the black community, I bet you can understand how this neighborhood was neglected. And I completely skipped over redlining and bank disinvestment in the 70s, but that is the story of just about every predominately minority neighborhood in this country. Real estate values depressed, schools failing and services cut…..neighborhoods forgotten….until they are not.
Like Columbus, some people “discover” “new” neighborhoods and make them home. They drive up the real estate values, open stores that are more for them then the current inhabitants. And probably hand out a few smallpox laden blankets in the process waiting for the neighborhood to “turn”. I’m definitely more than bitter about neighborhood change. I was sad that my block in Harlem changed over the years that I lived there and familiar faces were gone. And now when I’m at the age were I’m trying to put down roots, I’m a little miffed that these familiar neighborhoods are changing. That what was for years undesirable to some is the new frontier now.
So, it’s time to play the lotto. I hear Mega Millions is at $400 million today. Gonna drop my dollar on a Bedstudy Dream.