Wine Country … in Bed-Stuy?

Photo by: Seitu Oronde
Partygoers celebrate the Toast of Brooklyn.

The Toast of Brooklyn celebrated the history and potential of the neighborhood, where some hope a $20 million revitalization project will spur an economic revival.

By: Darren Sands

This month's Toast of Brooklyn, the food-and-wine focused celebration of Bed-Stuy's culture and history, marked the culmination of the $20 million revitalization project that transformed Restoration Plaza and the adjacent Marcy Plaza—which now has green space, benches, public art and Wi-Fi.

The hope is the revitalization spurs something of an economic revolution in the area; indications are that may have already taken effect: Officials say that the city's investment brought in nearly $100 million in private funding that will bring 300 mixed-income housing units to the area. The project was seven years in the making.

Officials hope the beautification project attracts new businesses, and makes the area safer for people who call the strip of Fulton St. home. A public art installation—”Mathematical Star” by local artist Ellen Harvey—was funded through the Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art Program.

Held earlier this month at Bed Stuy's newly-renovated Restoration Plaza, Toast of Brooklyn organizers told just about anyone who'd listen about their aim to transform the plaza—renovated as part of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC—into “beautiful wine country.”

But business and community leaders from the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., Bridge Street Development Corp., Bed-Stuy Gateway Business Improvement District (BID) and Brooklyn Community Board 3, it seems, would settle for an improved local economy.

According to the Furman Center's State of New York City's Housing and Neighborhood, a third of board 3's residents lived below the poverty level in 2012, and the neighborhood posted an unemployment rate of 19 percent.