Will Espresso Save Bed-Stuy?

Gentrified areas have better coffee shops. It’s a fact. It’s the most basic metric of gentrification. As the gentry arrive, they bring with them their caffeine fix. A fix unsatisfied by the lukewarm dirt water served at most bodegas. But its not just about the coffee. Starbucks proved that. Its is about the atmosphere. The communal meeting point where people can gather in a relaxed atmosphere to talk, removed of the flies and stray cats of the typical slummy deli. Much like the agoras of ancient Greece, civilization thrives when community members have a place to meet and interact.

And Bed-Stuy, my current living location, could learn a few things from Starbucks and the Greeks. The infrastructure and layout of Bed-Stuy is no different from other parts of the city. Apartment blocks, storefronts, parks, “walk-up” brownstones with the quintessential New York fire escape, it is all there. So what is missing,  Why is the area still not one which people flock to when looking for apartments?  Why the fuck can I not get a decent coffee? This is the basis for exploration and investigation. Can neighborhood perception, pride, and responsibility be transformed through quality espresso?

Yes. Espresso. Coffee even. Coffee is the problem and the answer.

Background of Bed-Stuy

Reputations typically stem from patterns, and Bed-Stuy is no different. This Brooklyn area, which has spawned more than its fair share of famous rappers, has an unofficial motto of “Bed-Stuy, Do or Die”. Not the most welcoming place, and one which the NYPD designates as an “Impact Zone”, meaning its requires a significantly increased police presence to keep the peace.

But what if the answer is easier than that. What the real answer is no more time put in by the boys in blue, but more time put in by the residents, in cafes. Again, coffee IS that answer.

Coffee shops provide a feeling of safety. A feeling which resonates in the surrounding area. Its well documented that a higher density of coffee shops is found in areas with a higher scores in the “feelings of safety” in the US Census.

So, espresso is really the key. If you have secure gathering place, where people want to congregate and relax you are creating a more socially oriented community. The ability naturally facilitate social interaction is what makes up the urban fabric. This although most of America seems to have forgotten is what makes a community. The ability to interact with your fellow citizens. Discuss news, talk about the presidential debate, who cares what is being discussed, the value here is on exchange. With exchange ideas interchanged and contributes to the health of the city. Social interaction and exchange is a leading competitive advantage for the city.

Community Residents vs. Community Members

What Bed-Stuy needs is more community members, not merely people who reside there. The most widely recognized catalyst for this transition has historically been…coffee. Coffee creates the trickle down effect every community needs. If a community cares enough to demand a decent cup, that is a community that cares enough to make real changes.

As Malcolm Gladwell famously outlined in his book “Outliers” it is a broken window theory. If you let small details slip, such as allowing graffiti to go unchecked, then the whole community will slowly devolve into more serious crime and disrepair. A similar route is true on the other end. A community focused enough on small details, especially coffee, will bring with it larger issues, eventually lowering crime rates, lowering drop-out rates, and reducing the number of sexually transmitted diseases. In the end, this leaves all participants with a higher value community, one which people would love to call home.

If people really care about their situation, they can take steps to improve it. It is not easy, but effort over time shares. Will every single member of a community contribute to it, no.  But some will. Change Agents as they are sometimes called, whatever label you give them, they increase and maintain the value of the community.

So how can we change Bed-Stuy (and all under-serviced areas?) Action. Bitching about the espresso. Demanding a higher quality of not only coffee, but life.

Gentrification means to renovate or improve. Not kick someone out of the neighborhood. Lets not make gentrification a term that is synonymous as being evil. Its improving an area or a community for a better life.

Gentrification happens when an neighborhood falls into neglect. Eventually a developer or city planner will make improvements, and then people later bitch about the neighborhood being “gentrified”, well if you take care of your place, your stoop, your street, you will live in a better place and rather than being against it, you can become part of it.

And enjoy some great coffee in the process.

Outdoor Pop-Up Espresso Party: October 13, 2012. Patchen Ave & Sumpter St.

High quality Italian Espresso will be for sale. The event is also open for anyone interested in talking about past stories or new ideas on making Bed-Stuy a more liveable community. Event starts at 11:oo am.

Closest subway station is the UTICA on the A,C, & E line.

Proceeds from the event will be used to plant new flower beds around the trees on Patchen Street.


45 thoughts on “Will Espresso Save Bed-Stuy?

  1. I already know of at least one great cafe in this area – Daily Press, on Franklin Ave. Outpost nearby is apparently a ‘safe’ place too. Great event, but just wanted to point out it’s already started to happen…

  2. are you fucking serious? making bedstuy a more liveable community? we did it for many many years before you moved here you out of state herb. fuck off.

  3. If you’re going to lift all the content in your massively inaccurate blog post you should at least cite it.

  4. You can’t be fucking serious. Take your Expresso and walk back home you granola loving tight jeans wearing beanie fucks. Y’all don’t even know

      • It does. The article is a pretentious illogical piece of crap. Gentrification will increase the cost of living. What kind of ridiculous stupid fucking hipster argument is “bitch about the espresso?” Get the fuck outta here.

  5. let’s make it a better community by kicking out all the dark dirty people right? i mean, the only reason the neighborhood isn’t better is that they’re too lazy and ill-motivated to lift themselves out.

    please go away. go back to whatever back-water state you came from.

  6. “What Bed-Stuy needs is more community members, not merely people who reside there.”

    Really? What do you know about the people of the neighborhood to go around laying ignorant and condescending shit like that? Serious question.

    You want to “fix” it by talking about fucking coffee. Not nothing else. Not the cops, not racism, not inequality, not even education. But coffee. You are only fucking over the people that already live there. Learn you what gentrification is and stop bandying it about all like a fucking magic cure all. Get the fuck outta here man.

  7. What’s going to happen when a huge tribe of GIANT NEGROES come and take your money while you drink your disgusting coffee, you miserable, stupid little cretin?

  8. For an article that meant to be positive and bring people together these comments and attitudes is what keeps it from happening. I think both natives and newcomers could learn a lot from each other if they actually just talked to one another once in a while, without being so defensive.

    • This person used nothing but negative words to describe the people and everything in and around bedstuy, all the while painting the blessing power of gentrification via coffee as the panacea that we haven’t yet realized. Read that dribble again. You’d get heated too if someone walked into your home and started talking shit about your curtains.

  9. I hate to break it to you, but that ‘lukewarm dirt water’ at the bodegas isn’t all that different from the pretty organic coffee you buy in a fancy post-consumer paper cup at a 300% price markup. The difference is that now there are pretentious elitist pricks like you that like to think that hipster circle jerks at trendy coffee shops (and singling out native residents) will make a neighborhood ‘safer’.

  10. I am saddened that the author of this post seems to be clueless about his own privilege. To proclaim that coffee can save the neighborhood requires a healthy amount of cultural arrogance and elitism.

    It’s unfortunate enough that gentrification is happening, but to state that people in the neighborhood are merely “residents” vs. “members” is extremely arrogant. You might as well claim the land with an American Apparel/Stumptown/PBR flag, then set up “missions” to convert the “natives” into “members.”

    I’m a coffee geek. I’ve paid $10 for a cup of Clover-brewed Cup of Excellence coffee back in Portland. It takes privilege to do that. The target demographic of this operation isn’t Bed-Stuy. The target demographic are folks who can afford it, and gentrifiers make up the bulk of this growing market. Full disclosure: I am a gentrifier myself, but like those being displaced, I moved to my current neighborhood (Crown Heights) because it was affordable.

    BTW, Malcolm Gladwell did not “famously” outline the broken windows theory. Anyone who knows anything about crime and sociology knows this theory came out during the 1980s and that Giuliani’s operationalization of the broken windows theory laid the groundwork for NYC to become a more desirable and expensive place to live.

  11. Yes, inattention to graffiti and lack of overpriced coffee is what caused BedStuy’s problems over the last few decades. Well I’m glad someone just moved in to take up the white man’s burden. (sigh*)

  12. I can’t express how much you’ve pissed me off here, you little purblind worm. You can’t get a decent cup of coffee because the thick miasma of self-satisfaction wafting around your head is impairing your ability to see Tiny Cup, Colador, Common Grounds, and probably several others within a six block radius of whatever street you disdainfully deign to “reside” on while being laughably ignorant of the fact that you are already living in a “liveable community.” And believe me, Bed-stuy is more than liveable; it is engaged, it is alive, it is full of caring people already doing through thoughtfulness what you think you can accomplish with hubris. I thought about asking everyone from this thread who lives in Bed-stuy to burn your pop-up shop to the ground but instead, I’m going to ask everyone to check out this cafe between Peaches and Common Grounds, on Tompkins Ave. It just opened and I didn’t see a sign so I can’t tell you what it’s called. My boyfriend and I walked in while it was still being set up because we were attracted by the fabulous antique furniture and general jazzy, funky aura. The owner is a tall, affable black guy you could talk to all day. He put down his copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince and his cigar to come speak to us. He had Miles Davis on in the background. He built light shades for the bulbs hanging over the small, coxy tables by cutting holes through coffee cans. He is going to be hosting readings on the weekends. Go to this man’s readings. Go there on Sat, Oct. 13. 11AM. Order a high quality Italian Espresso.

  13. Goddamnit. Fuck everything about this.

    “Gentrification means to renovate or improve. Not kick someone out of the neighborhood. Lets not make gentrification a term that is synonymous as being evil. Its improving an area or a community for a better life.

    Gentrification happens when an neighborhood falls into neglect. Eventually a developer or city planner will make improvements, and then people later bitch about the neighborhood being “gentrified”, well if you take care of your place, your stoop, your street, you will live in a better place and rather than being against it, you can become part of it.”

    Come talk to me when you’ve read a single word about redlining, Robert Moses, the design of the projects, cutting fire department services to the South Bronx in the 70s, the mortgage disclosure and community reinvestment acts, and Restrictive Covenants that racially segregated the northeast until 1968.

    You think that urban decay happens by accident? You think investments aren’t systematically withheld and given to neighborhoods, based on race and class? Get the fuck out of the hood, you privileged ignorant scum.

    • It ended in 1968, whats your excuse for today? A multi million dollar grant was given to the community to improve Fulton and Patchen and nothing transpired. Its not the people nor the color. But the area can be improved (ie trees with planter and flowers) there is no harm or systematic about this. Its about taking care of the city without excuses. There will always be excuses, but life will be better if we all get over them.

      • I don’t know about the grant on Fulton and Patchen, but I do know that a grant was awarded to another avenue with a lot of closed down storefronts in the Stuy. The large church group (which owns a lot of buildings there) that was responsible for administering the money, squirreled it away, and never used it for the betterment of the neighborhood. When a few denizens of the neighborhood who worked hard to procure the grant, realized what was happening and tried to contact the church to see what happened to the money and why it wasn’t being used to better the avenue, they were silenced by threats. After I heard this story (by one of those who was silenced, and sworn to secrecy), I realized that there is serious and very entrenched corruption that keeps areas like these down. The smaller triumphs, like the lovely cafes and nursery and gardens that DO exist (blogger! do your research, please!) are a testament to success in the face of terrible adversity.

  14. Good post, check out Manny’s restaurant on Putnam right off of Halsey. Don’t worry about the negative comments. I would rather have a person have a confused look at Bed Stuy and attempt to make something out of a community than giant Black people hurting others, as the other commenter posted.

    • Saving may be too strong of a word, but there are some things that are wrong, or rather could be improved. The streets are not as clean because of littering, and if you look at Patchen and Sumpter there is an vacant lot with a condemned building behind it. The front doors are completely knocked off and there is tons of trash left outside. This is the responsibility of the owner, and the community to tell them that this not acceptable. So yes abandoned lots and condemned neglected buildings is a start of what is “wrong”.

      • “This is the responsibility of the owner, and the community to tell them that this not acceptable. So yes abandoned lots and condemned neglected buildings is a start of what is “wrong”.”

        Actually it is the responsibility of *the city* to inform the owner of the abandoned building and properties of the start of conditions of what is “wrong”, what violates city code because *the city* has the authority to enforce compliance, not the community. What I am getting from some of the posters is that the community may have tried to get these matters addressed before but due to the bureaucracy of the appropriate city agencies, these matters are not being addressed in a timely manner, if at all. If that is the case, the reason why some are getting angry is because of the dismissive tone of statements in the blog post like “If people really care about their situation, they can take steps to improve it.” is because some have *already* tried but with mixed results at best.

  15. Please, please, please educate yourself more about the neighborhood you live in. No, Bed-Stuy is not Park Slope of Williamsburg and does not have organic bodegas and boutique cafe’s at every corner but that is OK. There is a very vibrant community that is rich in history and working hard to preserve and restore Bed-Stuy to its former glory but they are doing it with events and actions that will truly impact and pique the interests of those that already live here. Community gardens, block parties, concerts, educational programs, family friendly restaurants, art galleries, restoring historic buildings. Great coffee shops already exist in this neighborhood, they are just a bit more spread out. This is a residential neighborhood. Residents travel a few blocks to get what they need so that they can live next to other people in their community. Bed-Stuy is growing and changing. Much of the crime has left the neighborhood, Lewis Avenue is becoming the commercial center it used to be. My advice to the author is to make friends with some of the older folks that live on your block. They will show you whats up. And if you want to be a community member not just a resident, walk around your community and say hi to people, don’t hide behind awful stereotypes and hearsay about the people that surround you. I live in Bed-Stuy, like good espresso, and I love living in a community so I bought an espresso maker and introduced myself to my neighbors.

  16. I encourage all the neighborhood folks who have feelings about this post to attend the event tomorrow and let the organizers know just how much they appreciate this uplifting community service.

  17. This is the most awful thing I’ve seen all day. I’m disgusted by the overall tone and message you’re sharing. It’s a shame.I hope the author is there this Saturday and ready to have a real conversation about what needs to happen on Patchen Ave. Something much bigger than flowerbeds, trees and coffee.

  18. Insulting the neighborhood and the people who live in it is always a great way to attract customers. If you had done true research you would have seen that there are plenty of places to have good coffee and great atmosphere.

    Did you even know that there are blocks in Bed-Stuy that have been runners up or actual winners of the “Greenest Block in Brooklyn” for the last 10+ years? Your attitude will never let your business move from pop up to brick and mortar.

    Your blog post has gone viral in the neighborhood blogosphere- the very people who would likely patronize your shop and the basic sentement is boycot this idiot.

  19. The level of entitlement, privilege and prejudice emanating from this post is mind boggling. I will be sure to inform my neighbors (all of whom probably “need” your “dark” cure about as much as I need a spinal tap) about the ethos underlying your business model. This is a truly gross way to start my Saturday morning.

    • The only reason White Folks and Bougie Blacks have flocked to Bed/Sty is because they are priced out of Manhattan, Ft. Green, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Boreum Hill, Carroll Gardens. Let not get it twisted this is not was not there first, second, or third choice for that matter. So get your weight up and your bank account and move to a neighborhood that has all the amenities that you desire. This is New York we have plenty of nice neigborhood with lots of $10 coffee shops. You just moved to the wrong one.

  20. you got to be joking, right?

    first off; saraghina makes great coffee, and there are other good coffee slingers in the nabe.
    community? do you live on flushing ave, across from the chasidims ugly buildings??? i have found nothing but community here. kids run up and down the block and call you mr or maam. people say hello to us all the time, but not in ft greene, clinton hill, crown heights…etc
    lastly, the blight, which began in the ’70’s, was at its height in the ’80’s and has been pushed out of the neighborhood by the 90’s. walk around the brownstones and tell me there is blight.

  21. Pingback: On the off-chance this isn’t satire | On Paper Cuts

  22. I also noticed the lack of vegetarian friendly establishments in the area. A push for healthy, meatless options will encourage a surge in a more physically self aware community. COMMUNITY. That is the key word here and I applaud this post for offering solutions that really hit at the heart of the matter and for not glossing over the surface and making the same tire arguments that keep our poor and their neighborhoods in decline. Maybe coffee could have saved Detroit, or maybe the cries for a better brew would have been ignored, but I am willing to bet the former would have at the very least done no harm. Let’s make Bed-Stuy beautiful again, one bean at a time.

    • Coffee could have saved Detroit? It’s “saving” Detroit right now. I talked to one of the filmmakers of Detropia a few weeks ago and she said $5 coffee and pastries are alive and well in a city where a quarter of the population is unemployed.

      Here’s the gist of the problem that you and this new coffee proprietor seem to have. You want upscale food. I love going to Whole Foods, Perelandra or any natural foods stores myself. However, when you come in with the attitude that it’s going to “save” a community, you’re asserting a privileged position that alienates the community you are trying to supposedly want to “save.”

      Would you be receptive to a bunch of religious fundamentalists trying to shove their religion down your throat? Hell no! Just be honest and own up to the fact that you want these amenities to make life more comfortable for you and the folks that can afford your lifestyle. In essence, you basically want to save the neighborhood for the “members” who come from the same vanilla background as you.

      • Your comparison of religious fundamentalists to activists who want to promote change, via local business initiatives and healthy lifestyle CHOICES is not only poorly thought out, but also comically disingenuous. I suspect that you find the novelty of living in an underprivileged neighborhood as “hip” and that any attempt to improve that neighborhood is racist or merely lacks compassion.

        Here is the gist of the problem with your little tirade: the folks that can afford “my” lifestyle are going to buy up these plots anyways and convert them into the Whole Foods, Perelandas (subsequently, I have never heard of this place), and all of the other establishments that you seem so terrified of replacing decrepit shanties. So, in the end, your argument holds no water and is merely empty bitching about corporate hand-jobs that will inevitably occur.

        And yes, I would like a more comfortable life. I am not a masochist.

  23. Wow. I’m a white gentrifier myself, and yes, I moved here partially because its a neighborhood I can afford. But I also moved here because I love Bed-Stuy BECAUSE it has a wonderful community already here. I live on Bainbridge east of Malcolm X, not the quickly gentrifying areas closer to the G train, and the neighborhood is wonderful: kids play pickup games of football on the street, neighbors know each others names and say hello to everyone, people come together in community gardens and stoops and neighborhood BBQ’s. There are old guys who hang outside all day and drink and do you know what? I love them. They’re great. We need more starbucks? Hell no. Does the neighborhood need an economic boost? Of course — there are far too many unemployed, too many undeserved schools, too many empty storefronts and empty houses. But they don’t need an espresso bar to swoop in and “save” them. Because THAT kind of “rising tide” downs the people who don’t have the privilege needed to survive the real-estate boom and higher rent that comes with it. Hell, I feel guilty about buying a house on this block, since I don’t want to be the tipping point that makes this block seem “safe” to people like the author.

    What the neighborhood needs is local, community founded businesses that employ and serve the LOCAL needs and desires, not the needs and desires of outsiders and trust-fund tourists. And you know what? That’s already in full swing, and has been for years. Have you been to any of the restaurants in the Peaches empire? Fantastic BBQ, soul-food, and drinks. Other people have mentioned them, but there are half a dozen “good” coffee shops that have been here for YEARS. Had you left your little “espresso bitch party” and walked up Patchen, you would have found a new store-front from the people who own Dough in Clinton Hill, serving AMAZING pastries and coffee, and at cheaper prices than their other stores since they want to be a place for the community. Have you been to the free outdoor movies that they show at Awkaaba? And the place mentioned by Di above, that just opened on Thompkins north of Putnam, is owned by Brian, one of the greatest community men you’ll ever meet. I used to rent just around the corner from his store, and dropped in every few days as he worked on it for years. You won’t find a place with more atmosphere or community than his place.

    I’m not going to join in the curse fest you’ve unleashed, but I share all their sentiments. Moving into a neighborhood and forcing it to conform to your desires without even bothering to look around and see what’s in front of your face is insulting at best. You aren’t saving anyone, because no one needs to be saved. This neighborhood has been saving itself for years, and you’re missing out if you aren’t joining in — the community is already here. Please stop giving us other newcomers a bad name.

  24. Oh, and to the moron who jumped in to complain about the lack of vegetarian options, you have to be kidding me. Again, look around you. Go into any rastifarian place, and you will find an amazing plethora of vegetarian options you’ll NEVER find in most other “less affluent” neighborhoods. No, not at Crown Chicken, but there is a VERY a strong vegetarian/vegan tradition in the Caribbean. Walk into almost any Jamaican place, or any of the many health-food/vegetarian places that line Fulton. Again, look around. LIVE in the neighborhood, don’t just sleep here.

  25. Wow an article written demanding we helpless natives be greatful for this extension of colonialism was obviously written by an outsider feeling the need to justify their neo colonialism. As a native i find this really condescending and fucked up. Ecpnomic cleansing and ethnic cleansing achieve your same whitebread goals and is indestinguiahable to us natives. We need your whitebread monoculture like we need a bullet in the heart.

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