The brownstone-lined streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant hold rich history — with an uncertain future as the neighborhood transforms day by day.
One central Brooklyn block, MacDonough Street, lands the cover of this week’s New York magazine, telling the stories of neighbors both new and old.
Tracing the history of the corridor from Patchen Avenue to Malcolm X Boulevard, the deep dive goes door-to-door to take a look at what it means to be a resident on MacDonough, with everything from block parties to million-dollar home sales.
The cover shows the neighborhood’s transformation through its mix of neighbors, and a total of 62 former and current residents share the histories of their homes.
Many remember a time when the street was infested with rodents and now-renovated brownstones were abandoned buildings.
Our new cover story: 1 Block, 135 Years, a historical journey through life on one stretch of Bed-Stuy’s MacDonough Street, a block that, like Brooklyn itself, has seen massive change. Meet two current residents: SHARON AND RONN KOONTZ, 45 and 50, own their two-bedroom home, and share it with their 4-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. Sharon bought the house in 2002 for $276,000: "I met someone who introduced me to Ms. Rita. Ms. Rita wanted to sell her house to someone who wasn’t going to turn around and resell it. She lived on the top floor and rented out the bottom two floors. It was a rooming house; she'd take one room and subdivide it into three. She required me to come visit her a couple of times, which I did. She would tell me that people would knock on her door with suitcases of money. And she would tell me, 'I really don’t care how much money they have. I want the house to go to someone who I like.' Her only wish was that I help her move back to Barbados, which I did. When I first moved on the block, a couple of the older ladies would say, 'I’m going to teach you how to make a sweet-potato pie!' They sure did teach me. And I do make it now, even though they’re not watching anymore." The couple—an IT program manager and property manager—have listed their home on Airbnb, and according to Ronn, the booking is "just constant." We will be sharing different perspectives from residents who live on this block in Bed-Stuy all day. Stay tuned for more stories from MacDonough Street.
There’s Brother Spears, who grew up on the block after his parents bought their house for $35,000 in 1978.
Recent home sales on MacDonough reached up to $1.56 million, according to the magazine.
Tenants and owners reminisced of the days when stoop culture was prevalent, with everyone keeping an eye out for each other.
Several talked of the fears of a changing community.
“Now this block’s very different. Everybody stays to themselves,” Spears told the magazine.
“Before we had more unity. It was more everybody communicating with one another, helping each other out. It’s not like that no more.”
Others, like Brooke Vermillion, part of the new wave of homeowners, say they were drawn to the neighborhood for the small-town feel it still embodies.
Our new cover story: 1 Block, 135 Years, a historical journey through life on one stretch of Bed-Stuy’s MacDonough Street, a block that, like Brooklyn itself, has seen massive change. Meet a current resident: WINSLOW CORBETT, a 35-year-old actress and tenant since 2001, paid "less than $1,000" for a one-bedroom: "I found this listing for an upstairs apartment online in the Village Voice. I was the only white girl on this block for years. By 2011, the tide had really shifted—I didn’t stand out anymore at all. I had nicknames. 'What’s up, snowflake?' More recently, in 2006, an African-American woman in a minivan said to me: 'Go back to your own neighborhood.' And I was like, 'I’ve lived here since …' But whatever. I get it. I was robbed in the street, and I know that if I had been black, I wouldn’t have had the same treatment from the police. They had me look at mug shots, and then they took me to canvas the neighborhood in the back of their car. They had these enormous floodlights, and they were literally shining the light in guys' faces, going, 'Is this him? Is this him?' I remember feeling really embarrassed." We will be sharing different perspectives from residents who live on this block in Bed-Stuy all day. Stay tuned for more stories from MacDonough Street.
From ghost stories and skelly tutorials to tales of predatory lending and changing demographics, residents share their fondest memories of MacDonough and hopes for the future.
“There’s nothing I would change about the block,” one homeowner said. “Nothing.”