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NEWS | January 30, 2023

All Things Considered Interview with Blondel Pinnock

Listen as WNYC sits down with Restoration President & CEO Blondel Pinnock to discuss Innovation Campus during their All Things Considered segment.


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Sean: It’s on Fulton Street between new York and Brooklyn avenues. It’s a space that holds free fitness and cooking classes for residents it hosts a lot of public meetings. It has a grocery store that anchors one end of it occasionally applause also transforms into a wedding venue restoration Plaza is also home to the Billie holiday theater it was opened in 19, 72 it’s since become home for black art and culture. Joining us now to talk about the project is Blondel Pinnock, President and CEO of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. Welcome to all things considered.

Blondel: “Thank you, Sean. I appreciate it.”

Sean: “For folks who maybe are not familiar with restoration Plaza. Can you talk about what it’s like there and how the community interacts in that space. 

Blondel: Sure. Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation was the nation’s public-private community economic development Corporation and was founded in 1967 through a partnership with Robert Kennedy, Jacob Javits and with grassroots, community organizers. And the purpose was to help stabilize and grow a community that was going through a crisis at the time.

Sean: Can you talk about whether or how Restoration Plaza has upheld his promised to work with the community.

Blondel: Since its founding, Bed Stuy Restoration sits in the seat of social Justice in racial equity and by doing that, we have provided programs looking at things through an economic lens. Our focus has been on skills training initiatives for local Brooklynites for them to thrive in high-growth sectors. We’ve been consulting with residents looking to build their credit and to navigate the housing market and manage their finances and we are able to supports local businesses by helping to grow minority and women-owned small businesses through our technical support with our business center. And we are the seat of a community-based arts, culture, and educational institution through the Billie Holiday Theater. Restoration Plaza itself, I feel, is the town hall, is the center, of Bed Stuy and it is a place where people can come together. This project, it’s estimated to take close to a decade to complete. It’s a big investment as well.

Sean: You know, that part of Brooklyn has been rapidly gentrifying for a while now. A lot of change has been going on in that neighborhood over the past many years have you heard any skepticism within the community or outside of it, for that matter and what would you say to those who are wary of the renovation.

Blondel: I will have to say that I have not heard any skepticism of the project yet I think for many Brooklynites, particularly residents of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights who know and use restoration Plaza, they understand the condition of the buildings and the condition of the Plaza and I believe that they are already willing and able to be part of the construction. It is about to start but I think the other thing that Restoration did a few years ago is they did some visioning sessions with the architect Sir David Adjaye on the project, and people were able to provide their opinions and people were able to to tell the architect about Restoration. You know what they wanted to see.

Sean: You know you mentioned the architect Sir David Adjaye, the British architects who’s working on this and he’s behind a lot of things including the national museum of African-American history and culture in DC. Can you talk a little bit about what his vision is for restoration Plaza back in 2019 when they had the visioning sessions

Blondel: I know that Sir David came and he walked the block. He looked at our current facility, and I think through his visioning, understanding, and knowing that the top 4 priorities that the community expressed was: increasing the visibility of of our arts program; expanding jobs in educational opportunities; improving the open space that existed on the Plaza; and bringing in mission-aligned retail. I think he took all of these into consideration and brought to bear his vision of the project, which are these 3 exceptional towers that will include a tower that will be focused on technology and innovation, then there will be a tower that will house all of our cultural and arts program that will be in the center of the Plaza, and then there will be another tower that will be focus on our businesses and entrepreneurism and programs that we have which focus on workforce development.

Sean: Who are the existing tenants of restoration Plaza and where they’re going to go in the construction is happening? I’m thinking especially about that food town that’s there and grocery stores are so important to a neighborhood. 

Blondel: We have some mom and pop businesses that have been there for many years and many people know there’s the Applebee’s that is there.

Sean: sure, Yeah.

Blondel: And  there’s a Post office there and we also have a lot of nonprofit tenants and partners that are there as well as well as our city Councilman‘s office and our state Assembly woman. we are now coming up with a plan for what relocation will look like, for many of those businesses and many of our tenants. Good news is we have another building that we own and manage on New York Avenue where we feel that we’d be able to move some of our tenants but there will also be plans to ensure that we’re relocating many of the businesses to not be as disruptive as we can to the neighborhood and particularly what when it comes to the supermarket. We know that Bed Stuy is a food desert and because of that, we plan on phasing in the construction of this project. So we’re talking about all of us at a time when both mayor Eric Adams and governor Kathy Hochul, who have said that they have a huge interest in converting a lot of many of these empty office spaces we have.

Sean: Now into Affordable housing. The city plans of the renovation show that restoration Plaza will more than double its commercial office space again. That’s according to recent reporting from the city. So given all these dynamics are happening right now, why do you think it’s important create more office space in that area instead of, say, Affordable housing?

Blondel: You look at this face on the space has always been utilized for cultural, commercial office space and retail space. And so we are maintaining that because we feel that we have to provide direct financial inclusion services and programs that will help stabilize the community. Now I will say that the type of businesses that were looking for in the type of collaborations and partner should we’re not necessarily looking for people to just come and get office space for the sake of having office space are coming to open up a store for the sake of opening up a store. We are talking to businesses about true partnerships and collaborations within that space. We’re talking two schools of higher education. But that would be part of that space we’re talking two programs that exist that will help to educate our youth that will also help to bring training and resources to our elderly so we’re looking at everything on a very comprehensive level not just office space for the sake of all the space 

Sean: Blondel Pinnock is the President and CEO of the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation bundle we really thank you so much for coming on. You’re quite welcome. I enjoy this and thank you for giving me an opportunity to talk about the work that we’re doing in Brooklyn moral things considered coming your way.