Along the southern part of Bed-Stuy runs Fulton Street, a major artery of the neighborhood, still corroded with a buildup of stigma from years past.
Rioting, poverty and racial tension once ravaged Fulton Street in the 60s. And later, in the 80s, "do-or-die" calcified Bed-Stuy's reputation as a tough neighborhood with a tough name.
The first move to change Bed-Stuy's circumstances began fifty years ago, when Senators Robert Kennedy and Jacob Javits created Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. Today, Restoration has paved the way for Bed-Stuy’s newest business development venture, the Gateway Business Improvement District (BID).
The Bed-Stuy BID is the newest of 64 BIDS throughout the city. Restoration manages the BID on behalf of the board.
“An effective BID is central to commercial revitalization in Bedford-Stuyvesant,” said Colvin Grannum, president and chief executive officer of Restoration Corporation.
“BID is hyper local. For us, that means Fulton Street,” said Michael Rafferty, executive director of Gateway BID. “We use money given by local constituents and the city and spend it on what is deemed priority, based on the BID program.
BID is based on a set of 5 programs: Sanitation, public safety & environmental control, business attraction, retention and marketing.
Sanitation is a big issue, as Fulton street used to look like a landfill, with 15, 000 people getting on and off the subway each day. Surrounded by a McDonald’s, bodegas and 99 cents stores, the street was a crowded and dirty eyesore. Now, the BID has its own sanitation crew working to keep streets cleaner.
Currently, BID is responsible for the opening of 415 businesses and the development of 380 properties around Bed-Stuy. Some businesses on the Fulton strip are very successful, while others struggle to stay open. Currently, there are many stores with a higher supply than demand. BID is working now to level this imbalance.
BID tracks the income, trends and rental rates of Bed-Stuy residents. It also collects data on what people want and are spending money on outside of the neighborhood.
“Our data is a platform for picking what type of business will do well where, we want everyone to thrive," said Rafferty. “There will always be leakage of money outside of Bed-Stuy, but I want to see people coming here and spending money at home instead of spending it in Manhattan or other parts of the city.”
It's about figuring out how to make the consumers happy, keeping them safe, while also fitting the supply and demand, said Grannum.
"The goals are to create greater retail diversity to Nostrand Avenue and Fulton Street, attract more customers to businesses within the BID and foster financially healthy, local businesses," he said.
Rafferty said he would like to see Fulton get a Planet Fitness, a larger pharmacy, bookstores and apparel shops, like Old Navy and Brooklyn Industries.
"When you think of 5th avenue, you think clothes; other strips, food. We're looking to have a healthy balance of the two," said Rafferty.
Soon, BID will be saying goodbye to Michael Rafferty, who is leaving the city to pursue other things.
“Mr.Rafferty has seen to it that Gateway’s success now attracts top talent from across the region," said Gordon Bell, executive vice president of Strategy and Business Development for the Restoration Corporation. "We anticipate positive change. We expect to tackle new challenges and seize new opportunities in the future.”
“We've had failures and successes. People think change will be immediate, but it takes time,” said Rafferty. "My version of our success would be when everyone feels compelled to come here to stroll around and impulse buy, just because they want to."