From Do or Die to Do or Dine: How Bed Stuy Got Its Name

Bed Stuy’s MacDonough Street block party, circa late 1970s. Photo via New York Magazine


Brownstoner takes on Brooklyn history in Nabe Names, a series of briefs on the origins and surprising stories of neighborhood nomenclature.

From the Do or Die days captured in Spike Lee’s masterpieces Do the Right Thing and Crooklyn to the recently closed Do or Dine brunch bar, a snarky take on the same hard-living motto, Bedford Stuyvesant — Bed Stuy for short — has seen a great influx and exodus of communities in the last 100 years.

The nom Bedford Stuyvesant is a product of two neighboring, historic communities — Stuyvesant Heights, named for Peter Stuyvesant, New Amsterdam’s final governor, and Bedford, most likely named for the Duke of Bedford or the English county of Bedfordshire, but possibly a take on the Dutch Bestevaar, meaning “the place where old men meet.” The fusion of titles did not occur until the 1930s.

A neighborhood in transition, Bed Stuy has experienced several waves of gentrification in recent years, with many young, white families mixing into the historically black neighborhood. While its African American heritage once earned the area the nickname of “Brooklyn’s Little Harlem,” the recent influx of white residents makes the area increasingly more of a black-and-white cookie.

Bed Stuy Alive

Merriment at the annual Bed-Stuy Alive celebration.

Children sitting on a stoop on Bed Stuys Herkimer Street, circa 1900. Photo by Daniel Berry Austin via the Brooklyn Public Library

Children sitting on a stoop on Bed Stuy’s Herkimer Street, circa 1900. Photo by Daniel Berry Austin via the Brooklyn Public Library

Related Stories
Race, Change and Sweet Potato Pie: Understanding Bed Stuy One Resident at a Time
Black Pride, Kung Fu and Social Justice: The Life and Times of Bed Stuy’s Slave Theater
Past and Present: The Three Mile House on Fulton Street in Bedford Stuyvesant

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