Within the neighborhood of Bedford Stuyvesant, the Bed-Stuy Gateway BID expands across Fulton Street from Classon Avenue to Troy Avenue. It is New York City’s 64th BID and is home to hundreds of businesses.
Five years ago, the Bedford-Stuyvesant Gateway Business Improvement District had just been signed into law. With that goal accomplished, Joel Dabu, the man who helped organize the campaign to establish the BID through his role as Director of Commercial Revitalization at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, decided that it was time to pursue other avenues.
After taking time to study in Germany and Abu Dhabi, Dabu now works in Detroit as a mall developer. Dabu has recently returned to Bed-Stuy to visit Restoration. In an impromptu interview, Joel Dabu remarks on how far the Bed-Stuy BID has come within the last five years.
Can you describe your background and your history with Restoration?
JD: I graduated as a master of urban planning in 2004 and I started at Restoration at Thanksgiving of 2004. I was responsible for commercial revitalization at Restoration and for starting up revitalization activities on Fulton Street and Nostrand Ave and meeting all the business owners and helping to get them organized so that we can have a more attractive, more bustling business district. I was here until 2009 and then I moved to Germany and then to Abu Dhabi and then to Michigan. Now I live in Detroit and I work for a mall developer.
What inspired you to work on the BID and begin that project?
JD: I love cities, and my interest is in improving neighborhoods, and at the time, it was so plain to see Bed-stuy as beautiful on the brownstone blocks, but Fulton Street was not that attractive and had vacancy. So it was a great opportunity early in my career to work with something that potentially would have a really great impact, and it did. You can see the results now with Michael [Lambert] and the work that he’s doing now. It’s gratifying to see it continue and evolve and respond to a new Brooklyn.
How often do you come back to Brooklyn?
JD: Not enough. The last time I was here was a year and a half, maybe two years ago.
And have you seen any changes since then?
JD: Yes, I’ve seen Barclays Center rise and open up. I’ve seen a change in the makeup of this neighborhood. I think it’s definitely more mixed. The marker of that is who you see coming out of the train on the subway or going on the train of the subway station. I don’t think that is necessarily bad. I think the dream is now to have an integrated community anywhere you are.
How close do you think this BID or neighborhood is to achieving your dream of where you want to see it?
JD: I think the neighborhood is always changing and evolving. The work is never done, but you can see more interesting businesses and more diverse businesses. It’s not just the same kind of business. If you can see more of the offerings you want in the neighborhood shops and not have to leave and get everything you need somewhere else, I think that’s the ultimate dream. But I think [Bed-Stuy] is getting there. It looks much more attractive now than it did in 2004.
Now that you live in Detroit, how do you view it in comparison to New York?
JD: Years ago, you couldn’t get people to come to Brooklyn and now it’s obvious you want to go to Brooklyn to visit or see things that are interesting. When you see such transformation, I think that gives hope for places like Detroit, where I live now. Detroit has very different problems but it’s also got the same possibility, and people are going there because it’s cheap. Brooklyn is not really an exact model, but it’s kind of an inspiration.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
JD: I think what people like about Bed-Stuy is that the people in the neighborhood are very active. They’re very vigilant about keeping a community feel. If you can continue that despite the changes in the neighborhood, I think that the BID and Restoration will succeed in keeping the culture. I think what’s here is a good marker for what the neighborhood is, was, and what it could stand for in the future.
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