The historic Brooklyn neighborhood of brownstones, cultural diversity, restoration, and renewal. Anchoring New York City’s Black community for just shy of a century.
Featured lessonA Legacy of Combating Urban Poverty
In 1964, with the cooperation of fellow senator Jacob Javits and Mayor John Lindsay, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy set into motion the Special Impact Program, an amendment to the Economic Opportunity Act of the same year. A study of the problems facing Bedford-Stuyvesant, the city’s largest non-white community, was launched in 1967, and RFK subsequently announced an action plan that would involve leaders of the business community and serve as a national model. Under his leadership and with the help of activists, the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation was formed—the first community development corporation in the United States.
Deputy Police Commissioner Franklin A. Thomas was elected Restoration’s first president. Initial funding poured in from the Taconic Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Edgar Stern Family Fund, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, and the Ford Foundation. One year later, Restoration purchased Sheffield Farms, an abandoned milk bottling plant on Fulton Street, to serve as corporate headquarters. In 1962, renovations to what is now known as Restoration Plaza were completed. Today, in addition to the headquarters, it is home to the historic Billie Holiday Theatre, scores of local businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, a post office, banks, grocers, and a satellite campus of Mercy College.
Here are just a few of the many accomplishments:
Housing. Restoration has constructed or renovated 2,300 units of affordable housing, repaired the facades of 150 homes, and provided $60 million in mortgage financing to nearly 1,500 homeowners. Restoration remains committed to creating new housing infrastructure in Bed-Stuy so that people of all income levels can access quality housing.
Economic Development. Restoration has been an agent for business growth and opportunities, especially along the main corridors of Fulton Street and Nostrand Avenue. To date, it has attracted over $600 million in public and private investment and created hundreds of jobs for local residents. And Restoration Plaza welcomes more than 1.5 million visits per year for arts, engagement, services, and commerce.
Financial Empowerment and Youth Services. The Economic Solutions Center facilitates economic self-sufficiency while providing opportunities for upward mobility. There’s job placement, financial counseling, and asset building programs. Restoration also offers high school students test-prep classes, counseling, help with college applications and financial aid forms, placement in internships, summer jobs, and more.
Health and Fitness. Bedford-Stuyvesant residents face some of the highest rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes in NYC. Restoration is leading efforts to promote access to healthy food and physical activity. There’s a farmers’ market, a Farm to Early Care initiative that helps bring locally grown food to young children, free exercise programs, and 2015’s hugely successful introduction of Citi Bike to central Brooklyn.
Environmental Awareness. Restoration’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) provides energy conservation services in the New York metro area. Its goal: to reduce costs and improve safety and health standards for low-income residents with things such as new windows, upgraded heating systems, and access to energy-efficient appliances.
Arts and Culture. Restoration’s Youth Arts Academy (YAA) is Bedford-Stuyvesant’s comprehensive arts education institution. Each year, instruction in dance, music, and theatre is offered to over 400 students. The Skylight Gallery exhibits work of local and national artists, and the Billie Holiday Theatre is a beacon for art rooted in racial justice.
Small Business Services. Strengthening the economic base through new businesses and entrepreneurship is vital to Restoration’s agenda. The Brooklyn Business Center supports this by providing coaching on business planning, sales and marketing, access to capital, and how best to secure free or low-cost professional and legal services.
Since 1967, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation has brought economic, cultural, and educational improvements to the families of central Brooklyn. RFK’s original vision of a flourishing community—of respect and equality and inclusion—continues to inform Restoration’s relentless pursuits.
“The program for the development of Bedford-Stuyvesant will combine the best of community action with the best of the private enterprise system. Neither by itself is enough, but in their combination lies our hope for the future.”
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