Brooklyn Week: With Crime Rates Down, Bedford-Stuyvesant Is Transforming
In Bedford-Stuyvesant, murders are down by nearly 54 percent, robberies are down almost 73 percent and all crimes overall have dropped by double digits. And that has new residents, businesses and tourists popping up. NY1's Jeanine Ramirez filed the following report.
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A bed and breakfast called the Akwaaba Mansion opened in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1995. Akwaaba means "welcome" in a dialect spoken in Ghana.
But in 1997, the city said the business was not welcome on this residential block, saying it violated zoning laws. The place was closed down.
Owner Monique Greenwood reached out to the community for support and fought back. Now, she recalls that unstable time.
"It was pretty touch and go there for a minute," she said. "We did get shut down for a short period of time by the buildings department because really the city had no specific codes as it related to bed and breakfasts. It's still tricky but we are able to operate legally."
Greenwood, who uses the home as her primary residence, is allowed to stay open as long as there are no more than four guest rooms booked at one time. Attracting those guests in the early years was another challenge.
"People were under the stigma of 'Bed Stuy, Do or Die,'" she said. "They thought it was violent and we constantly fielded every other question from guests calling to stay with us, saying 'Is the neighborhood safe? Is the neighborhood safe?'"
Since the Akwaaba Mansion's opening, New York City Police Department statistics show crime has dropped by double digits. And community and business leaders began to promote the area as a cultural destination.
Over the years, campaigns were launched to change the "Do or Die" slogan into something more positive. "Bed Stuy And I'm Proud of It" was one attempt. The new slogans didn't catch on but the neighborhood did, attracting new residents and businesses.
"It's affordable and it's the housing stock and it's just a wonderful neighborhood," said resident Dennis George.
"I grew up in a small town in South Dakota and in Brooklyn, I feel like i'm in small town again," said resident Tom Schwans.
It's that small-town feel that's made Akwaaba so successful. Greenwood has now opened five more bed-and-breakfast businesses across the country. She said they're also in historic neighborhoods bursting with potential.