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Facebook commenter Jen Frank weighs in

Spike Lee wouldn’t mind if black people were the gentrifiers: Reader

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Our coverage of Spike Lee’s tirade against gentrification generated a heated debate on our website last week, but it also drew this reflective comment on our Facebook page. Read on for one reader’s reaction to Lee’s hot-button rant and don’t forget to like us on Facebook so that you do not miss one minute of the action.

When I was young, I spoke to a lady about over at the Prospect Park/Botanical Garden area and she kept going on and on about the torture she and her father endured being a part of the Irish flow into an Italian neighborhood.

I was like, “What?

She thought I was shocked because she was discriminated against. I was shocked because I couldn’t imagine that being an Italian/Irish neighborhood. Nearly everyone was black as long as I had been alive.

As I got older, I began to realize that’s the nature of Brooklyn.

As is the resentment.

My uncle used to pool money with others who couldn’t get jobs due to discrimination in order to fix up and then sell abandoned lots and buildings in East New York. There was a huge backlash and policies changed in order to keep the Negroes out, although it was improving the area from looking like a war zone. Perhaps they were the original hipsters.

It is frustrating that infrastructure and safety only seem to matter in some neighborhoods now that there are white residents. And, there is a Columbus Syndrome in some places, particularly in regards to music and the use of public places.

But the few valid points Spike made are buried in racist drivel.

I really don’t care that the new residents are overwhelmingly white (so long as that isn’t the case due to discrimination).

I’d be as frustrated with the changes and attitudes if they were due to “cool” blacks pricing out long-term residents, actively attacking the culture of the neighborhoods, etc.

But I wonder if people like Spike would bat an eye at such a thing.

To the contrary, I’d bet he would’ve dubbed such a thing the Brooklyn Renaissance and direct a movie about it.

If the hipsters didn’t change a thing about their neighborhoods, would they have been embraced then?

I have my doubts because a few years ago waves of Japanese people were moving into what are now white hipster hot-spots, and people had something to say then, although they changed nothing about their neighborhoods.

Jen Frank

Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

John Wasserman from Prospect Heights says:
Pardon my asking, but why does every Spike Lee film I've ever seen remind my of an after-school-special. Perhaps this fellow should spend less time being a racist "look at me" and more time honing his "skill" set?
Of course, I'm thanking you in advance for pardoning this interruption.
March 3, 2014, 3 pm
Janice D from Marine Park says:
Spike Lee speaks for many ethnicities against the pretentious trustafarians. Cliche? Yes! Truth? Absolutely! It is not a matter of changing neighborhoods, it is a matter of being pushed out of the city entirely, of the entire sphere and range of access you grew up with. Time for a push back, MF! Why were these artsy fartsy culls not accepted in their original communities?
March 3, 2014, 3:49 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
People getting priced out due to gentrification is not limited by any race. What they all have in common is having low income levels. However, it does annoy me when there are those that do use the race card for this. Also, those high up on the ladder can be of any race as well, and there is such a thing as rich minorities. The point that Spike Lee is trying to make is that hipsters and yuppies are starting to rapidly push out long time residents and merchants that have been in such neighborhoods for generations and long before anyone else wanted to set foot there. Again, it's all fun and game to think that those are getting priced out are just whinny cranks until gentrification comes to your neighborhood.
March 3, 2014, 4:30 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
The racial implications of Spike's rant were plainly obvious.
Prices go up and down, and if you rent, you are not gaurenteed an apartment for life. New York is a big city, try another neighborhood.
People aren't pushed out, no one is physically pressing them. If the contract they have signed to rent their home allows for market adjustments, well they just have to live with that.
The term gentrification is odd to me in neighborhoods that are full of mansions which were traditionally rich areas that just suffered some years of neglect. I understand it on the lower east side, former slums that have become luxurious.
My grandfather lived in Fort Greene (a long time ago), and the neighborhood is nothing like the way it was when he grew up. It's changed a lot of times. It will change again. you can't expect everything to live on as museum to 1980's new york.
March 4, 2014, 7:08 am
Phantom from Bay Ridge says:
To the close observer, just below the surface racism has permeated much of Spike Lee's work since day one.

See " Do the Right Thing ", with its sympathetic portrayal of the demolition of a white owned store and Tawana Brawley reference, and " Mo Better Blues " with its ugly Jewish stereotypes.

This has always been Spike Lee.

The recent " get off my lawn " tirade is only a new variant.
March 4, 2014, 9:21 am
b from gp says:
So much of this very localized issue has to do with the failing global economy and perpetually increasing global population. How much more bigger, faster, cheaper can we get?

Emphasis needs to be on improving our aged infrastructure and devalued community, not housing which just perpetuates an unstable growing population. Isn't it time to start thinking about sustainability?

March 4, 2014, 10:14 am
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
Spike is somewhat ambivalent if not boderline hostile with Asians but I'm betting if he sees Asian hipsters from the westcoast or American suburbia hanging with their white counterparts he sees them as another form of "white menace".
March 4, 2014, 12:04 pm
BunnynSunny from Clinton Hill says:
They were the gentrifiers. The middle class black families that moved into Clinton Hill in the 1980s and '90s gentrified it. Granpa Spike doesn't know whats he talking about. He needs a history lesson of the neighborhood he grew up next to.
March 4, 2014, 4:12 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I suggest some of you read that NY Times article on rent control as well as the comments about it. Some got priced out because of greedy landlords that want to raise the rents, and have intentionally made them live in bad conditions to get them out. There are some places where rents can't be raised such as Section 8 Housing, and if the landlord doesn't like it, they can always resign. In some cases such as Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, the owner of the place has either the choice to either raise the rents or have a tax break for keeping the rent control, but can't do both. Overall, the reason why rent control and regulations are still needed are to keep those with low incomes in their areas especially when most of them have almost nowhere to go when it's raised. Another thing is that before Rudy Giuliani became mayor, most were able to live close to where they work, but after he stopped so many rent regulations, they skyrocketed with so many long time residents had to move further away and make major commutes while the rich taking over their former homes and that advantage only. Let's not forget that gentrification can lead to a Disneyification of a neighborhood, which will make them look like something you can find anywhere rather than being unique, not to mention having overpriced stores and restaurants, and that's probably what Spike Lee is talking about.
March 4, 2014, 4:25 pm
Phantom from Bay Ridge says:
Why is a landlord " greedy " if he wants to raise the rent?

You don't try to earn as much as you can?
March 4, 2014, 5:30 pm
gimme from yours says:
me likes da black booty so if black booties be gentrifyin' I's be in booty heavin' fo sho
March 4, 2014, 10:28 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
I grew up out West. I am a WASP, technically, although not in the sense that NE Amercans understand it. My family landed on the coast and pushed West very early. Along the way, my family blended with Indians and later Italian and German immigrants who came via the West Coast. I am an American--it's the only thing I can honestly claim.

Spike Lee grew up in an American reality I confess I can't really relate to. I don't doubt its authenticity. After all, I don't claim he secretly grew up in Kenya. Nevertheless, his experience as an American has been profoundly different than mine.

That said, I do wonder why anyone can object to better city services that accrue from gentrification. If you can effect better schools for your children, better response times from the local precinct, and a better quality of life via your elected officials, then why is that a bad thing? If American society retains vestigial racial preferences in the aforesaid categories, then why decry advances that accrue to all? Me, I don't share the tribal affiliations that describe WASPs in this part of the world. They're alien to me. But in recognizing that such tribal affiliations are very much a part of the daily tableau for people here, why not ride the coattails they provide? Why not join nativist, old-time residents with newcomers who have the political juice (deserved or not) to produce positive changes?

Safe streets, low crime, and good schools help everyone.
March 5, 2014, 11:44 am

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