New York 10th District
African-Americans began settling in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in the 1930s, with the opening of the subway line that was celebrated in Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the A Train.” After World War II, the pace accelerated, as crime and crowding in Harlem—as well as a large influx of African-Americans from the South—drove black New Yorkers to the aging but solid brownstones of “Bed-Stuy.” When job growth slowed, Bed-Stuy faced more than its share of poverty and crime. But after a 1966 visit by New York’s two senators, Democrat Robert F. Kennedy and Republican Jacob Javits, Bed-Stuy won a Model Cities designation, which brought federal development funds and the establishment of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, the first such community-development organization in the United States. Even as the black community expanded across Brooklyn, Bed-Stuy became almost as powerful a symbol of black New York as Harlem. As a New York University film student in 1983, Brooklyn native Spike Lee made Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, about a tonsorial parlor fronting for the numbers racket. Five years later, he shot Do the Right Thing on Stuyvesant Avenue between Lexington Avenue and Quincy Street, a film that succinctly captured the racial tensions then brewing in the old neighborhood. From a different perspective, pop singer Billy Joel, who is white, sang in the 1980s, “I’ve been stranded in the combat zone. I walked through Bed-Stuy alone.” The neighborhood also gave birth to rappers Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G., both of whom had a major impact on the hip-hop scene of the 1990s. By the new century, Bed-Stuy was in better shape than many other areas of Brooklyn. The neighborhood’s stately, Hopperesque architecture largely avoided the wrecking ball, and community vigilance kept the streets maintained. The revitalized residential area has developed a Caribbean flavor that, combined with modest prices for handsome brownstones and new shops and galleries, has led to a noticeable wave of gentrification.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 10th Congressional District of New York takes the shape of a sideways “V” as it zigzags across Brooklyn. It takes in several neighborhoods near, but not on, the East River, including part of affluent Brooklyn Heights; downtown Brooklyn, with Borough Hall and the $670 million courthouse complex; Fort Greene, a rising arts area; and part of Williamsburg (shared with the 12th District), inhabited by large Hasidic families and a recent influx of European investors buying up new condos. From there, it runs southeasterly through Bed-Stuy, Clinton Hill and East New York until it hits the Queens border, where it turns to the southwest to take in three communities along Jamaica Bay: Spring Creek, the huge middle-income apartment complex of Starrett City, and Canarsie, the site of Jonathan Rieder’s classic sociological study of Jewish and Italian flight from increasingly black neighborhoods. In the 1990s, Canarsie again experienced significant demographic change, as the neighborhood’s black population grew from 10% to 60%, mainly due to an influx of Caribbean immigrants who prize the backyards and single-family homes. The 10th also includes Remsen Village, Flatlands and part of East Flatbush. In East New York, gutted blocks have been torn down and in many cases rebuilt, even though crime has hardly disappeared. The district is 61% African-American—the highest of any New York district—and it is 17% Hispanic. Politically, it is one of the most Democratic districts in the nation. Voter turnout in the 2008 presidential primary, with the first black major-party presidential nominee, was up 17% over 2004, and Democrat Barack Obama won this district with 91% of the vote.