And What of the Public Spaces in Bed-Stuy?

Public spaces, such as Fulton Plaza, need a major facelift. Bridge Street wants to address this, but is the community on board?

According to Kenneth Mbonu, director of economic development for Bridge Street Development Corporation, Malcolm X Boulevard should have the highest foot traffic in all of Bed-Stuy.

The reason the boulevard should have the highest foot traffic of anywhere else in the neighborhood is because the Utica subway stop off of the A/C train at Fulton Plaza-- the mouth of Malcolm X Boulevard-- is the second busiest in all of Brooklyn.

But foot traffic along Malcolm X Boulevard is not heavy nor is it buzzing. In fact, in between the 3- to 5- minute intervals during which the buses and subways inhale and exhale passengers, Fulton Plaza at the intersection at Malcolm X and Fulton Street appears desolate, run-down and... sort of creepy.

"People just come into the subway, leave out and leave the street as soon as possible," said Mbonu. "Because it's not inviting. It just looks so desolate and drab, you just want to get on your bus.

"And because there's nothing attractive or exciting to hold you there for any length of time, it has an impact on the commercial viability of the boulevard as a whole."

Mbonu feels that Fulton Plaza should be revamped with art installations; it should be a place where people, families meet; a destination for concerts and festivals, farmer's markets and other lively activities.

"It is an ideal location to create some sort of revitalization to make it a commercial destination," said Mbonu. "But nothing will happen with Malcolm X until that Plaza is addressed."

That is why on Thursday, October 11, Mbonu, along with Bridge Street Development Corporation, is holding a public forum to address the design and buildout of the public spaces such as Malcolm X Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

The forum is a part of the "Mapping the Road Ahead" series for local businesses and residents, and it will deal with not only the future of Fulton Plaza, but public spaces in general, including subway entrances, bus stops, private parks, signage, lighting and the look and feel of Bedford-Stuyvesant as a whole.

The public form will be held at Fashion Rock Hall, located at 372 Tompkins Avenue (at Putnam Ave), from 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., with a wine and hors d'oeuvres reception to follow at The Gallery Next Door, located 370 Tompkins Ave.

Guest speakers at the event include Architect Sylvester Yavana, president of SRY Design Associates; Architect and Urban Planner Meg Walker, vice president and director of design for Project for Public Spaces who will address the importance of fostering economic and social equity; and a group of graduate students of city planning from Pratt University who have been studying Fulton Plaza. They will share their findings on what it takes to make the corridor a viable part of Bed-Stuy's growth.

"It's important that as these changes begin to happen, that the community plays a role in how that works, going forward" said Mbonu.

"We have strong block associations, strong clergy, strong organizations that have stood the test of time. When Bed-Stuy was down, they stayed on. It's time to come together, sit down and outline how we would like these open spaces and streets to look.

"Because at the end of the day, Bed-Stuy should reflect its history, its people and their dedication to maintaining the assets of this environment. Change is coming, and we need to be able to have our footprint planted in the sands of time."

pat October 10, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Might be a great time to address Saratoga Square Park.
Melissa Danielle October 11, 2012 at 09:29 AM
I'm all for pedestrian spaces in Bed-Stuy, but I would prefer for the next one to not go down like the Marcy Plaza pedestrian space, where folks felt that Bed-Stuy artists were shut out from the RFP. There needs to be more buy-in for neighborhood projects like this.
pat October 11, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I believe we need to place GREAT art in Bed Stuy, whether it comes locally, or from another place. We have to look at the options and choices, if none of the ones from Bed Stuy fit the bill, then choose one from SOMEWHERE. I don't understand why we have to keep secluding ourselves and demanding we only use Bed Stuy art. What if the submissions are of poor quality by Bed Stuy artists. Will we still instal that piece because it is from Bed Stuy? Will we still represent ourselves poorly artistically simply because we can't get past the idea that sometimes Bed Stuy residents don't want to, or are able to present a work of art that is of quality. Will we turn down a great work of art, because it is from Bushwick, or Manhattan, or Japan? I have lived in cities smaller than the size of Bed Stuy and they have art installations on their streets from all over the world and they look great. Let's get off this high horse please that if it's not made in Bed Stuy it can't be used. We are only closing our doors and alienating good artists when we do this. Local does NOT always mean better.
Melissa Danielle October 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Pat, you consistently miss the point whenever a reference is made to first looking within before seeking without. When I say that we need to use our OWN RESOURCES, it is because EVERY SUBMISSION COMES FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE. This neighborhood has historically suffered from a lack of INCLUSION and buy-in. Outsiders - institutions, businesses, individuals - capitalizing on and pimping everything from economic development to poverty. It is problematic that Bed-Stuy has a talented artist stock that is consistently overlooked. It is problematic that a majority of the businesses in this neighborhood are owned by people who don't live here, which means the income generated circulates ONCE and LEAVES. It is problematic that housing development is not MWBE and doesn't hire local tradespeople. It's problematic that the services meant to help the low-income population here do not include empowerment and self-sufficiency so that they don't need to come back for those services. It's problematic that we don't support the independently owned businesses here, to promote community, keep the income generated circulating within the community and keep our Main St. businesses thriving. When you can step outside your door and see something and can say, the person who created that lives down the block, the owner of that restaurant goes to my church, etc, it instills a sense of pride. Residents, young and old, need to see themselves positively reflected in the business and social infrastructure.
pat October 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM
This was the artist that was chosen to place her work at Marcy Plaza. She is not from Bed Stuy, but has a tremendous record of works. That is what Bed Stuy needs, she has earned it and certainly was not just given to her because of where she lives. This is a partial resume. Ellen Harvey lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Born in the United Kingdom, Harvey received her BA from Harvard in 1989 and her JD from Yale in 1993. Harvey participated in the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York from 1998 to 1999 and was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial. Her work has been exhibited in numerous public institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; the Sculpture Center, Long Island City, NY; MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY; the Bass Museum, Miami, FL; the Turner Contemporary, Margate, England; the Queens Museum of Art, Queens, NY; Wave Hill, Bronx, NY; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA, the Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland; the Pennsylvania Academy, Philadelphia, PA; the Arnolifini, Bristol, U.K.: S.M.A.K., Gent, Belgium; the Gwangju Biennial, Gwangju, South Korea. She has completed public projects for both the New York and Chicago Transit Authorities, and is currently working on commissions for the Federal Art in Architecture program at the IRS Building, Andover, MA, Amelbergakerk, Bossuit, Belgium, Meadow Arts, UK, Art Production Fund at the Cosmopolitan, Las Vegas and Percent for Art at Marcy Plaza, Brooklyn, NY.
Melissa Danielle October 11, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Pat, Do I sound like I give a cuss about her credentials? The POINT HERE IS, is her work socially, culturally, and historically relevant TO THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE IN BED-STUY? Will the young black and brown people walking on her mosaic look at it and be inspired? Will they be able to look at it and say, she did this, I can do it this, too? If the young people are consistently seeing only the positive contributions of adults - teachers, artists, authority figures, etc that don't look like them, they will lack a sense of self and purpose that is already being reflected in the kinds of activities they choose to engage in.
pat October 11, 2012 at 04:22 PM
"When I say that we need to use our OWN RESOURCES, it is because EVERY SUBMISSION COMES FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE". Why not?, why are local artists not submitting? I don't shop locally because many businesses don't offer quality products. when they do I shop local, it's not that complicated. Why would a Black, or Brown person not have the capability to be inspired by a non local artist. Do you really think most Black people will not understand the art installation. You are short changing your people once again by assuming they cannot find inspiration in art created by someone that is not Black, or understand it. We live in a world where insulating ourselves is detrimental to all. We are a global society, get with the times. All humans can be inspired by great works of art, no matter who created it. You should give a cuss about her credentials, because it shows hard work and dedication and a great contributor to America, New York, Brooklyn and Bed Stuy, that is inspirational in itself. There are Asians, Hispanics, Jews, Russians, Italians, Iranians, Whites so on and so on living in Bed Stuy. What about what they find inspirational? Many people will probably not find a mathematical star inspirational, regardless of who they are and some will. I think your thoughts and many city leaders are out of touch and your decisions are not relevant to today's Bed Stuy.
Melissa Danielle October 11, 2012 at 04:35 PM
With regard to the Marcy Plaza project, the neighborhood artists/CB3 were not properly informed about the RFP. Projects like these have a tendency to be funded by the same types of people and their networks are often the first to be notified. They did not do their due diligence and reach out the the Bed-Stuy artist community about this Marcy Plaza project. And I speak from experience when I say that it might not occur to a person that they may be able to accomplish something if they never see another person doing it. Example #1 - several Bed-Stuy artists shared with me that young people who came to their Open Studios during Brooklyn Museum's GO Studio weekend confessed that they didn't realize their living space could be an art studio. They were under the impression that "real" artists created their work in "real" art studios. Example #2 - in my work, people are consistently surprised to see me - young and black, advocating for and demonstrating what I do, because they are used to see nonblack people in this field. If matters. This is not about insulating and I'm not suggesting or shortchanging anyone's capacity to understand or relate to something. What I'm saying is, we live in a society, locally and globally, that does not see nonwhite contributions as valuable or quality, as a whole. It's our responsibility as a community to support and nurture what is, or one day we'll look up and not recognize anything.
Melissa Danielle October 11, 2012 at 04:56 PM
And just as it can be inferred that I may be insulating or underestimating people, the same can be said of your comments, which suggest that Bed-Stuy isn't capable of producing or offering anything of quality or value to the community.
pat October 11, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Your first example has nothing to do with our discussion. Your second example is surprising considering the amount of Black artists and galleries in Brooklyn. If a person wants something they have to seek it in today's world. The hand me down days because I am a certain type, are over. Our country is more culturally diverse than ever. Let me ask you, if your best friend was a White woman, or man, resided in Bay Ridge and they won the installation award at Marcy Plaza, what would you say to him, or her? Danielle, Did you respond to the RFP? If not, do you scan regularly city sites, or other states, or countries for new ones being posted regularly? Do you network with non Blacks in the art community? Danielle, please travel outside of New York if you have not done so yet and look at your world more closely. Thank you for this discussion and I hope to see your art in Brooklyn and hopefully in other countries.
pat October 11, 2012 at 05:10 PM
"I don't shop locally because many businesses don't offer quality products. when they do I shop local, it's not that complicated." This is what I wrote. Where does it state that I believe Bed Stuy is not capable of producing quality products. I believe this is why there was a discussion about how much Fulton Ave. lacks good shopping qualities.
Joe Gonzalez October 11, 2012 at 05:22 PM
There are forces at work who want to take that corner and turn it into hi-rise luxury housing. People wake up; that venue is located steps from the subway and close to Atlantic Avenue. It was just learned that Bed-Stuy bizman Richard Flateau of Flateau Realty is scheming to take over that corner, evict the area merchants and erect a hi-rise luxury condo at the corner of Fulton Street and Malcolm X Blvd. People wake up and see Bed-Stuy has been sold out by its long time failed political leaders.
Bridge Street Development October 15, 2012 at 08:57 PM
As the organizer of the Mapping the Road Ahead event last week, we would like to thank everyone who joined us for the lively and informative discussion of the future of Bed-Stuy's public spaces. One of the main reasons we conceived of the event, which is the second in a series of three, is to solicit input from a wide variety of local stakeholders on issues that directly affect their everyday lives. Attendees at Mapping the Road actively shared their opinions and identified ideas about how public spaces in Bed-Stuy can be improved. Those ideas and opinions will, no doubt, influence how we tackle this and other important issues. Thank you again to everyone who participated in this important conversation.


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