PHOTO ESSAY: The Evolution of Bed-Stuy

Twenty years after the fires of 'Do the Right Thing', the block is still hot in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. By Adda Birnir.

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  • Hot Brownstones

    Hot Brownstones

    Do The Right Thing was shot on one block of Stuyvesant Ave. between Quincy and Lexington St. During the filming set designers painted the brownstones bright shades of red, orange, and yellow in order to reinforce the sense of blistering summer heat.

  • Bed-Stuy, Do or Die

    Bed-Stuy, Do or Die

    One of New York’s oldest black neighborhoods, in the past, Bedford-Stuyvesant was known for its poverty and high crime rates. For years the neighborhood was given the motto “Bed-Stuy, do or die.”

  • Adventures in Brooklyn

    Adventures in Brooklyn

    Nostrand Avenue is one of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares. Monique Williams, aka Queen, has lived here her entire life and explains that living in the neighborhood is always an adventure; “There is always something to do, someone hanging out outside.”

  • Still Fighting

    Still Fighting

    Mary Pickett Hardison and Garland Roberts, two long-time residents of Bed-Stuy, on the corner of Nostrand Ave. and Herkimer St. In the 1960’s Roberts worked for Robert F. Kennedy. He now advocates for local residents fighting the incursion of real estate developers.

  • Fresh Fruit

    Fresh Fruit

    A fruit cart along Nostrand Ave, part of the New York City government’s initiative to promote fresh fruit and vegetables in areas under-served by grocery stores.

  • Bed-Stuy Chic

    Bed-Stuy Chic

    V.I.M., “the best jeans and sneaker store in America” on Nostrand Ave. 

  • Sound of the City

    Sound of the City

    A crate of 45’s at Israel’s Record Shop, Fulton St. at Franklin Ave. The basement record store is filled with Soul, Funk, and African music records, wooden beads, and kitschy statuettes, all suffused with the thick aroma of burnt incense.

  • Summer Cool

    Summer Cool

    Kids buying ice cream on Decatur St.

  • Where Stars are Born

    Where Stars are Born

    Kids play basketball in Tompkins Park in the northeastern region of Bedford-Stuyvesant. Tompkins Park is located a handful of blocks south of the Marcy Houses, the public housing project that was famously the childhood home of Rapper Jay-Z.

  • The Look

    The Look

    Various hairstyles pictured in the window of a hair salon on Franklin Ave.

  • Inspiration


    A resident building on Franklin Ave. The billboard showcases an ad for Nike’s viral “Get Your Basketball On, Leroy Smith, the man who inspired Michael Jordan” campaign.

  • A Neighborhood Revived

    A Neighborhood Revived

    Rosemarie Baker, a third generation Bedford-Stuyvesant resident says, “During the 1970s the area became very impoverished and overtaken by drugs,” but now “it has a good heartbeat, the pulse is good.”

  • Past Preserved

    Past Preserved

    Bedford-Stuyvesant boasts a diverse array of architecture from large apartment buildings, brownstones, and historical stone mansions to public housing projects and clapboard houses like this white one on Quincy St.

  • Blue Bed-Stuy

    Blue Bed-Stuy

    Obama stickers, posters, and photographs can be seen in the windows of stores, private residences, and cars all over the neighborhood.

  • Burrow Magic

    Burrow Magic

    Aubrey Edwards, a Californian who has lived in the neighborhood for a little over a year, worked her shift as bartender at the Tip Top Bar on Franklin Ave. the night of the 2008 election. She describes the experience as “fascinating” and thinks that the area is a truly “magical place.”

  • Concrete Jungle in Bloom

    Concrete Jungle in Bloom

    One of hundreds of rosebushes that grow in the lush front gardens of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s brownstones. Homer Ricks, a Bedford-Stuyvesant resident since 1961, says that as recently as the 1990’s the neighborhood was “hell.” In the past ten years, however, the value of housing property has increased astronomically.

  • Closed for Business

    Closed for Business

    A boarded up storefront church on Stuyvesant Avenue. Despite the recent influx of wealthier residents and a rise in new real estate development, a sizeable quantity of abandoned houses and commercial properties remain.

  • A Wake Up Call

    A Wake Up Call

    John Santos, 27 years old, was born and raised here. His younger brother, Jarron, was an extra in Do The Right Thing. After serving five years in prison for armed assault, which Santos said was a wake up call, he is back in Brooklyn working hard to reconstruct his life.

  • Old Timers

    Old Timers

    Michael Bittle takes a walk up Throop Avenue with his daughter Majesha. Both were born and raised in the neighborhood.

  • Children at Play

    Children at Play

    A group of kids playing on Madison St. in the western part of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

  • Starring as Herself

    Starring as Herself

    Katrine Crocker was 11 when Spike Lee filmed Do The Right Thing around the corner from her childhood home. In order to get extras for the film producers approached neighborhood kids who were playing outside and asked them to come play on-set. Crocker and her sister were both extras in the film.

  • Immaculate in Bed-Stuy

    A black Virgin Mary statue outside of Our Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church on Throop Ave. and MacDonough St.

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  • Still a Colorful Town

    Still a Colorful Town

    A row of colorfully painted brownstones on Quincy St. around the corner from where Do The Right Thing was filmed.

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