“Keep Flatbush black” graffiti at Church Avenue station

White fight! Vandal wages one-person battle against Flatbush gentrification

Welcome to the neighborhood: An anonymous vandal really does not want any more affluent white people moving into Flatbush.
The Brooklyn Paper
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Anti-white-gentrification graffiti has greeted straphangers on the platform of a Flatbush subway station for the last six months.

The tags bearing messages such as “Fight white gentrification of FBush” and “Keep Flatbush black” have been scrawled across the pillars of the Church Avenue B and Q station as recently as last Thursday. The unknown vandal behind them — if more than one person is responsible, they have remarkably similar handwriting — has penned new messages each time Metropolitan Transportation Authority workers painted over the last batch, as they did last Friday. A neighborhood anti-gentrification activist said he doesn’t necessarily agree with the scrawls’ racial element, but that he understands what is driving it.

“I think it’s where people are at because we have a history of racism,” said Imani Henry, a 12-year neighborhood resident and organizer of the group Equality for Flatbush. “We live in a society that is already divided by race.”

Equality for Flatbush is undertaking a campaign called “Before it’s gone/Take it back,” which seeks to document life in gentrifying neighborhoods in New York and elsewhere through selfies posted online. The group is also developing resources for poor residents and agitating against the changes.

Flatbush, while still predominately black and working-class, became somewhat whiter but not much wealthier during the first dozen years of this millennium. The number of white people in the zip code around the Church Avenue station increased by 4,000 from 2000 to 2012 while the number of African Americans decreased by 10,000, so that white people now make up a 10th of the area’s population and black people constitute three quarters, according to census data.

The shift was far behind the 2000–2010 influx of white people to parts of Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick, where the white population more than doubled and came to make up nearly half of the total head count, making the areas comprise four of the 25 with the fastest growth in white population in the nation, according to an analysis.

Meanwhile, in Flatbush, the number of Latino residents increased by slightly more than 2,000 from 2000 to 2012, census data show. Local median income grew from $29,498 to $40,146 in the same period but fell further below Brooklyn’s median, which rose from $32,125 to $45,215, per the government numbers.

Henry said his group is trying to get neighbors to focus on fighting developers and landlords who are raising rents, not each other.

“I talk to white people who feel terrible about what’s been going on,” he said. “What we’re really trying to fight is corporate gentrifica­tion.”

Commuters on the platform earlier this summer were less impressed by the graffitist’s message, though they admit the neighborhood is changing.

One recent immigrant to Flatbush from Manhattan, a yoga-mat-toting white woman, said the angry tags are not representative of the reception she has gotten from long-time residents.

“I’m sure there’s probably been gentrification going on, but it’s not very obvious,” Danielle Blair said. “People have been pretty friendly to me.”

Another neighborhood newcomer, who arrived two years ago from Colombia, said he has noticed the influx of white folks continuing since the last census data was compiled.

“It used to be more rare to see white people in Flatbush,” he said.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

righteous brother says:
Your parents walked away from the neighborhood and now you can't have it back, the message might be characterized.
Sept. 22, 2014, 8:40 am
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
Want to stop white gentrification of Flatbush? Then stay in school, get your education. Instead of waiting on line for hours for the new iPhone or Jordans, save and/or invest. Help send the garbage that has been lowering property value to jail. Stop towing the party line and voting for candidates just because they are Democrats. When they know they have your vote they need not work for it.
Sept. 22, 2014, 1:20 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Literally nothing Common Cents suggested would stop or even slow gentrification.

Upzoning Park Slope would do the trick though.
Sept. 22, 2014, 2:29 pm
someboddy from everywhere says:
Im not really surprised at this, judging by the incident that happened a couple of weeks ago involving the white people that got scared out of their apartment. I think what they really mean is yuppy white people rather than working class whites. There is a big difference.
Sept. 22, 2014, 3:30 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
i said it once & ill say it again...they do NOT want you gentrifying hipsters & yups in their hood, point blank. You can walk around & not take it serious all you want but the proof is in the pudding. Me honestly, i prefer working class people of all backgrounds in the arwa over these iphone-carrying, black frame wearing fools anyday.
Sept. 22, 2014, 3:41 pm
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
Good to see my fan club trolls are still in effect.
Sept. 22, 2014, 4:35 pm
Stewart from Bed Stuy says:
That guy's only two answers are only ever more yuppie boxes or banning cars in the city...
Sept. 22, 2014, 5:43 pm
Jerry from East Flatbush says:
Some white people never left Flatbush and have always been a part of the neighborhood with no problem on anyone's part.
Sept. 22, 2014, 5:57 pm
jay from nyc says:
well jim they may not want it, but legally they have ZERO to say about it, and financially they have ZERO to say about it also. They only thing they can do is engage in racist hate crimes, which is what this "graffiti" actually is and soon enough they will be caught and put in jail and good riddance to them.
Sept. 22, 2014, 5:59 pm
somebpddy from everywhere says:
@jerry those whites dont count as the gentrifiers since they've been in flatbush through thick & thin. Its the non-working class, latte sippers & trendy heads that are on the receiving end of the backlash.
Sept. 22, 2014, 6:01 pm
jjm from c. hill says:
jay, ok they go to jail (on the taxpayer dime) for a few days for graffitti AND?? They just get out & be right back at it. Besides, if you walk around any gentrified part of Bk, you'll notice most of these newbies not being respectful to the neighborhood & people that were there for decades. They act like they own the joint with their noses turned up & wont even acknowledge you. Thats why alot of robberies & burglaries are happening in those areas.
Sept. 22, 2014, 6:08 pm
JD from Brooklyn says:
Flatbush has been predominantly non-white since only about the time the Dodgers left town (late 50s) -- less than one lifetime in its almost 350 yrs of history.

Flash forward 5 yrs from now, and Flatbush is L-O-N-G "over", as the next hot nabe (i.e., evolution is complete). Sorry -- no group gets a perpetual pass on its claim to a hood, unless they own (not rent).
Sept. 22, 2014, 6:09 pm
someboddy from everywhere says:
Look at ft greene/clinton hill. Everytime you check this site, its always front & center for thefts & break-ins because you had all of these naive out-of-towners that are affluent moving in over the years because they heard its a "hot" neighborhood. Little did they know that they were gonna be living side by side with regular folks who are barely making it.
Sept. 22, 2014, 6:23 pm
ekiM from Williamsburg says:
"It had been half a century since the death of César Vallejo, and there were celebrations. In Spain, Julio Vélez organized lectures, seminars, memorial publications, and an exhibition offering images of the poet, his land, his time, and his people.

But then Julio Vélez met José Manuel Castañón, and all homage seemed insignificant.

Jose Manuel Castañón had been a captain in the Spanish War. Fighting for Franco, he had lost a hand and won various medals.

One night, shortly after the war, the captain accidentally came upon a banned book. He took a look, he read one line, he read another, and he could no longer tear himself away. Captain Castañón, hero of the victorious army, sat up all night, captivated, reading and rereading César Vallejo, poet of the defeated. The next morning he resigned from the army and refused to take a single peseta more from the Franco government.

Later, they put him in jail, and he went into exile."

Eduardo Galeano, "The Function of the Reader 2"
Sept. 22, 2014, 7:52 pm
Martin Luther from Kings says:
But if a white neighborhood wants to keep their neighborhood white....
Sept. 22, 2014, 8:14 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
I grew up across from the building that was invaded -(did many a shift as doorman in hs in the 70s) Flatbush is being resclaimed
Sept. 22, 2014, 10:07 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
jd - you are so wrong() I guess you read some books) - Flatbush was solid middle class/ working class until the 70's when street crime drove most if not all out.
Sept. 22, 2014, 10:09 pm
Joe Black from Brooklyn says:
Ya gotta just love open-minded, liberal, and tolerant NYC!
Sept. 23, 2014, 12:19 am
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
So many trolls so little time and anonymous message boards usually bring out the most cowardly like the newest member of my troll fan club above...
Sept. 23, 2014, 4:18 am
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
Hey imposter, If you don't understand the simple concept of buying property at a low price then you're the dummy. If you're too blind to have seen how the rise in crime caused minority business and home owners to sell then you're either I denial or one of the leaches that prey on your own people. And if you don't see how these politicians did nothing because they get huge contributions from real estate companies, or how the city DAs allowed garbage to plea down violent crimes so they can end up back on the street, then you're probably a Democrat or you lost your voting rights when you went to jail.
Sept. 23, 2014, 4:27 am
Claire from Cobble Hill says:
White people wait in lines for days in order to get iPhone 6. Just depends on the audience. Common Cents? How about No Cents?
Sept. 23, 2014, 5 am
Jay from Nyc says:
No jjim you get convicted of a hate crime you go to jail for a long time, not a couple days. In addition the crime in the area is not because of regualar folks just barely making it, they are not commiting crimes, its criminals who are too stupid and lazy to say I would rather work hard at an honest job, they choose to be criminals, and the illegal drug tradeis drving the majority of those crimes.
Sept. 23, 2014, 6:06 am
Danny from East Flatbush says:
Whoever this is, wrote all over a for sale sign on my block recently. The message was anti-white. However, the funny thing is the land has been sold and is being developed as affordable housing for people who are at risk of being run out of the neighborhood. But if they had attended our block association meeting, they would have known that.
Sept. 23, 2014, 7:55 am
Here and Now from BK says:
People like Jjm are the ones who think they own the neighborhood even though they contribute nothing to it other than trash and low level drug dealings. They sit around all day in their man-capris, glaring with hostility at anyone who doesn't look and dress like them and then come here to whine when they don't get 'acknowledged.' Here's the thing: the newcomers to the block aren't generally snobs or think they own the place, but they do believe (correctly) that they have the same right to live here as anyone else, and it is completely reasonable for them to walk down the street minding their own business and ignoring the stink vibe from Jjm and other failure-to-launch layabouts.
Sept. 23, 2014, 8:25 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
It seems to me part of the New York dynamic is its incessant change. Every neighborhood and aspect of the city is a palimpsest, with new stories being written right on top of the old. Flatbush is no exception. It was a Dutch farming town called "Vlacke bos" ("Flat woodland"), whose center was the Old Dutch Reformed Church (still there). Before that, the area was inhabited by Algonquin tribes. So it has never stopped changing. People who want to live in a place that never changes should not live in New York. They should live someplace like Des Moines, IA, or Anchorage, AK.
Sept. 23, 2014, 8:46 am
John from Bay Ridge says:
Too often anti-gentrification is a code word for anti-white racism. The person scribbling these anti-white messages in Flatbush is simply explicitly stating what goes unsaid by most of the anti-gentrification crowd.

Gentrification does displace many lower income people, and the city government should do what it reasonably can to help smooth out that dislocation. But you cannot hold back the tides of economic change, only deflection is possible.

Black racism is just as unacceptable as white racism. Flatbush does not belong to any one race.
Sept. 23, 2014, 9:04 am
JD from Brooklyn says:
To Old Time Bklyn: My family moved out of Flatbush in 1958, and I heard nothing good about it (going steadily down hill, etc.) If you say it was solidly middle class through into the 70's -- I experienced zero evidence of that, anytime I visited. Yes, crime was higher everywhere in NYC, but Flatbush was worse than many other options. By 1972, pretty much everyone I knew there had moved out.

Either way -- Flatbush has bottomed out, and is rising via the same tide that is has hit Bushwick, East Williamsburg, etc. All the angry graffiti in the world isn't going to change that.
Sept. 23, 2014, 9:04 am
old time btooklyn from slope says:
JD - just curious what part of Flatbush you were from as it sounds more like bed stuy than Flatbush. Many I knew who moved to Flatbush were from bed suy or other areas nearby.

Flatbush is not being gentrified - it is being reclaimed.

Park slope was gentrified and it was not a racical thing but economic.
Sept. 23, 2014, 10:07 am
Bk from PLG says:
Diversity is good, displacement (of people & small businesses) is bad.
Sept. 23, 2014, 10:23 am
K B from Flatbush says:
Flatbush was about 75% white, north to Empire Blvd until about 1970. Blockbusting, school busing & rising crime drove most of these residents away.
Sept. 23, 2014, 1:20 pm
Who cares from Bklyn says:
I guess this is ok racism. If it were to read 'fight black gentrification,' or keep Flatbush white," it would be a hate crime. Why not report on the hidden hate message?
Sept. 24, 2014, 8:11 am
Frank from Mill Basin says:
The good ol'days of Dinkins are back under the current administration. Gentrifiers probably have no idea what I'm referring too.
Sept. 24, 2014, 12:05 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Gentrification isn't always about race, it's about income. Usually, it involves those of higher incomes coming into an area that has lower incomes. This happens to cause rents and property taxes to rise up at a fast rate and price out those that have been living there for decades and before it was known. Also, businesses and retail in gentrified neighborhoods are usually generic and can by found just about anywhere rather than being unique.
Sept. 24, 2014, 7:20 pm
Me from Bay Ridge says:
Why on earth are you so concerned about Brooklyn?
Sept. 25, 2014, 8:22 am
JJ McLaine from Sheepshead Bay says:

Racist , Obama stooges

Sept. 25, 2014, 2:26 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
"Why on earth are you so concerned about Brooklyn?"

Last time I checked, I didn't see something reading locals only, and gentrification can occur almost anywhere in the city, country, or even the world in that matter.
Sept. 25, 2014, 8:54 pm
Craig Apelbaum from SHEEPSHEAD-BAY says:
Neighborhoods change. It's a cycle. And integration is nice. It's a great thing.
The residents there can either stay and embrace the changes. Or they can leave.
Sheepshead Bay is an integrated neighborhood. And I like it. People this is not the 1950s with segregation anymore. It's integration times. This is 2014. Just remember one of God's commandments; Love thy neighbor.
Oct. 18, 2014, 10:03 pm
Ex resident from Flatbush says:
I grew up in Flatbush in the late 60's and early 70's. It was a nice neighborhood. Then the demographics changed. The new residents brought crime and drugs to the area and that caused huge changes.

Why should Flatbush be all black? It was never all white. I dont understand blacks not wanting whites back in the neighborhood.
Nov. 14, 2014, 6 pm
gimme from yours says:
As an old song goes FIGHT THE POWER!
Nov. 22, 2014, 1:53 pm
Grew Up In FlatBush Now In NYC from East Flatbush says:
I was born and raised in Flatbush. I watched how the neighborhood changed in the 80's young black men did destroyed the area. My best friend was shot and killed by a 15 year old Knuckle head, in December of 1998 on the corner of Flatbush and Church. This was Sr year of HS. He had a basketball scholarship for collage. I had my gold chain ripped from my neck when I was 12 years old. Kids would get jumped on the bus for Jansport Book bags, leather jackets, sneakers or for no reason at all sometimes. Crime was out of hand, to the point where black people started to move out the neighborhood too. Both of my parents are from Haiti, they purchased our family home for $13,000 in 1979. My father was a school teacher for the NYC Board Of Ed, and my mom ran the family businesses, a beauty Solon and a dry cleaning service. I went to private school because my father did not like the NYC school system he worked for. After collage I moved back to Brooklyn for 3 years then to NYC's lower Manhattan. I Took ownership of our family home in the year 2000, it had a value of $80,000 at the time. I also purchased the neighbors home in 2006 for $480,000. The Values of these 2 properties are now approaching the $2,000,000 dollar mark because developers are building 3 very large Luxury condo buildings right across the street. I was in the old neighborhood last night and decided to take a long walk around. I was shocked to see a GAP on the corner of flatbush and Tilden lol. A Jamaican business man opened a bar and grill down the street. The Kings theater looks amazing so far, the streets are so much safer, I'm seriously considering renting my Manhattan condo and moving back into my childhood home now. All of my fellow Caribbean neighbors who's homes are mostly payed off are welcoming this change. We are tired and fed-up with the riff raff we lived through for the past 30 years. We welcome all people who will add to this neighborhood, and in this case yes these people are white. All the black people who own property in East Flatbush and were productive members of the area are all going to reap the fruits from this change. I say bring it on.
Nov. 26, 2014, 10:11 am
John from South Jersey says:
People are seriously missing the point here. "KEEP FLATBUSH BLACK" is a perfectly reasonable reaction to the corruption that is being committed unto the black community. Here's something interesting, when building taxes and rent in an urban community go up due to white middle class demand, lower class blacks and Latinos ACTUALLY can't afford to live there anymore. Where do they go? God knows where but a recent migration to an even more populated ghetto is seeming to be the only solution for many people. Displacement is an issue, people are being kicked out on the streets because the housing market is profiting off a sudden interest by wealthy white people. What is wrong with the message conveyed here? People are simply standing up for their rights as human beings. This is pure corruption we are dealing with not in the hands of the general population of white people directly, but they are playing an important part in it.
Jan. 19, 2015, 2:45 am

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