Bed-Stuy residents fear influx of bars will soon price them out of neighborhood

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BED-STUY, Brooklyn (PIX11) -- Vandra Thorburn says she remembers the vacant buildings and boarded windows that littered the neighborhood when she moved to Bed-Stuy years ago.

"I like to say that I was the face of gentrification in 1999."

For the latest wave of gentrifiers, she says the formerly vacant retail spaces now have work permits in the window, or they're already home to one of the many bars and restaurants in the neighborhood.

"There are some issues, but it's really great," said Thorburn.

Allison Stuart was one of the first in a wave of recent restauranteurs when she opened the Bedford Hill coffee shop about 4 and a half years ago.

"The first or second year we got here, [restaurants and bars] were popping up every so often. But, yeah, there's definitely been an increase...on hyperdrive," said Staurt.

And more could be on the way.

Last year the number of liquor licenses in Bed-Stuy increased 25% to almost 90 and 29 more applications have already been submitted.

While Stuart says she believes it's a good sign, it's cost her some of her customers.

"It's tough, I've lost a lot of really wonderful regulars because they got priced out of the neighborhood."

"When we look at neighboring districts, some of them have become inundated with a particular style of nightlife, particularly Williamsburg," said City Council Member Robert Cornegy who represents Bed-Stuy.

Cornegy says having restaurants and bars is better than vacant businesses, but Bed-Stuy isn't the type of neighborhood that needs a strip of bars.

"We could become a destination community, when really this is a bedroom community."

Which is why Cornegay says he wants to see responsible development here in Bed-Stuy with plenty of retail diversity.

"All of the things that contribute to the vitality of the community, which is what we want."

Wednesday, Cornegay held a roundtable with long-time Bed-Stuy property owners and responsible developers to figure out how to reach that balance moving forward.

"There's a pride of ownership that you see here, and a pride of history, that you don't see in other communities," said Developer Seth Weissman of CityShares.

Stephanie Faulkner has lived in Bed-Stuy her whole life and owns several properties.

"We're sending our children to school, away to college, when they come back they can't even afford to live here," said Faulkner. "So I'm trying to preserve what I have, for my children, my family, and my neighbors where I grew up all my life so that they'll have a place to come back too."

If Faulkner is successful, it means Stuart won't have to worry about one day being priced out of the neighborhood also.