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Guide to the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation oral histories 2008.030

Brooklyn Historical Society
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Brooklyn 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by Brett Dion and Maria Santiago

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on May 22, 2017
Finding aid written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Container List

Keller, Thomas, 2008 February 9

Biographical / Historical

The New York-area real estate developer Thomas B. Keller, born in 1931 in Toledo, Ohio, left home at age fourteen to join the United States Army. Upon release from the Army in 1948, Keller moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he began working for the city government on a home improvement project. Hired by Restoration in 1967, the year of its incorporation, Keller quickly advanced to hold the vice presidency of Restoration's for-profit subsidiary corporation, and assumed responsibility for the construction of Restoration's 300,000-square-foot corporate headquarters -- which comprised the Restoration offices along with a Pathmark Supermarket, the Billie Holiday Theatre, and 800 units of affordable housing. In his fifty-year career, Keller gained prominence as a respected general contractor, construction manager, and real estate development consultant notable for breaking racial barriers in the New York City construction industry. After leaving Restoration, Keller founded the Brisa Builders Corporation. He died in 2015.

Scope and Contents

In this interview, Thomas Keller speaks with his colleague and friend, Wendell Rice. Keller recounts his early start with Restoration, which he joined in the year of its incorporation. Keller describes the thirty-year evolution of the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, which was heavily influenced by Restoration's social, cultural, and economic interventions. Keller lists people he considers indispensable leaders in the founding and direction of Restoration and the Bedford-Stuyvesant community as a whole. At the interview's end, Keller envisions his hopes for the neighborhood's future, including increased home ownership, well-worn pathways to higher education -- including college and vocational training -- and support for young entrepreneurs. Interview conducted by Wendell Rice.

Conditions Governing Access and Use

Access to the interview is available onsite at the Brooklyn Historical Society's Othmer Library and online on the Oral History Portal. Use of the oral histories other than for private study, scholarship, or research requires permission from BHS by contacting

Subject Names

  • Keller, Thomas B.
  • Thomas, Franklin A.

Subject Organizations

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. Center for Art and Culture
  • Billie Holiday Theatre

Subject Topics

  • Community development corporations -- New York (State) -- New York
  • Economic development -- New York (State) -- Kings County
  • Housing -- New York (State) -- Kings County

Subject Places

  • Bedford-Stuyvesant (New York, N.Y.)
  • Brooklyn (New York, N.Y.)