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Interesting story and quotes by Spike Lee about gentrification — Brooklynian

Interesting story and quotes by Spike Lee about gentrification

Film director Spike Lee railed against gentrification in New York City in an expletive-filled speech.
Found this story on usa today's website.


  • he does not look happy.
  • Did his explanation include the admission that he's a jackass?  

    If not, it wasn't sincere.
  • Oh I see, by "explaining" he's means "reiterating".  Screw him.  What a shitbird.
  • Didn't he sell out and move to the UWS?
  • It wasn't selling out, it was an attempt at degentrification.
  • This guy isn't relevant.  Eff him.  He happily profited off of gentrification, selling/renting his properties for the highest amounts he could get.  Why didnt he rent at low prices, or give it to a charity in need?  
  • The thing I'm getting is, he bailed on Fort Greene instead of trying to make it better because obviously he didn't want to live there anymore and he needed to live with the "upper income" people which of course he now is.
  • edited February 2014
    Using "anti gentrifier logic", one has an obligation to leave their community if they become wealthier.

    Hence, anytime someone gets a higher paying job, they should immediately leave so they do not spend any of their money locally.    

    This way, they avoid imposing their new preferences on local merchants, and less fortunate locals continue to have the exact same goods and services (including those provided by the city) they have had in the past.

    Change is bad.     
  • Just an FYI, he didn't bail on Ft. Greene because he didn't want to live there anymore. He said he moved because he had several stalker types show up at his door, and had paparazi harassing his wife outside the home. He sold and moved to a secure building in Manhattan that has full-time security. His parents still live across the street from Ft. Greene park, and he still has several buildings he owns in the neighborhood.
  • edited February 2014
    Wonder if he's renting out his properties at affordable housing rates, or market rate.  He wouldnt take advantage of the high rents I'm sure.
  • edited March 2014
    Let's not forget one can gentrify a neighborhood while charging the exact same rents, and not engaging in any illegal discrimination.

    Just give preference to:
    people with better credit ratings, 
    people who go through a broker, 
    people who have large incomes, 
    people with no criminal justice histories
    people who have the means to put down first and last month's rent.

    Yea, I'm sure landlords are not going to do any of those things.     

    Why would a landlord not pursue practices that they believe are in their best interests? 

    This is the "power gap"
  • @Homeowner---I stand corrected but there are many landlords who own property in areas they don't live in. This is because they wouldn't live in those areas to begin with, especially the poorer ones, but they have no qualms about making money off those that do. And, I wonder if he was so concerned about "Brown Heights" (his term not mine) how many community meetings he was at. I'm tired of these people with lots of money claiming to be one of the downtrodden. Michael Moore comes to mind as well.
  • edited February 2014
    The Daily News discusses how well he has done on his Fort Greene and other properties.
    Spike Lee’s obscenity-filled tirade about the gentrification of inner-city neighborhoods — caught on tape and posted online in all its mother-effing glory — perfectly captured the bitterness, confusion and circular logic that sends most conversations about New York’s ever-changing neighborhoods down a blind alley.
  • Lee should thank people of any race for wanting to make neighborhoods better. His rant makes it seem as though the poor people who lived in these areas before gentrification wanted to stay poor and didn't want a safer place to live or better schools. It's an insult to anyone who lived there. And I figure it's not just white people moving in to these areas. It's now anyone who can afford to.
  • edited February 2014
    His rant makes it seem as though the poor people who lived in these areas before gentrification wanted to stay poor and didn't want a safer place to live or better schools. It's an insult to anyone who lived there. 
    I see it a little differently. While I agree that long-time residents of gentrifying neighborhoods did want them to be safer and they did want better schools, I can understand how frustrating it is to see these types of improvements take place at such a pace after new blood were to move in. I would imagine that it would make the long-term residents feel invisible and that what they wanted and were asking for didn't matter-and that's the true insult.

    If you were to remove the racial aspect from Spike's rant, that gets to the heart of what he was saying.
  • edited February 2014
    Actually, I think this comment from one of the Gawker commenters explains it very nicely:
    "I didn't mean to patronize, I genuinely respect and agree with many of the positions you take around here. I just wanted to avoid rehashing all the points I made on the original post since I gathered from your first comment that you had read at least some of those threads and didn't want to engage.

    But since you asked...

    Spike's argument, such as I understand it, is that basically because the area is of a particular culture/background means that others cannot come from the outside and assert themselves.

    Well yes and no...there are a few things wrong with this interpretation. First and foremost the word "cannot". White people seem to always take this word really personally, which again (to me and most Black folk) validates the underlying complaint.

    When Spike says "cannot" he means "should not because it's ethically wrong" and/or "cannot while also claiming to be non-racist". Yes, this is about White people asserting themselves in established Black cultural spaces and the reason it's different from most other histories of geographic/demographic shift that do NOT involve White people moving into minority spaces is because of the way White people assert themselves in every other aspect of American life.

    Most specifically, this is VERY different from the dynamic 60 years or so ago when Black people first began to settle in what were then predominantly White neighborhoods. The primary differences:
    Those neighborhoods were not the only places where White people got to experience being a demographic majority
    The Black people moving in did not have a cultural monopoly such that those neighborhoods were the only places White people got to affirm and express their culture without fear of censure and reprisal
    The Black people moving in did not have such a relatively advanced cultural infrastructure and economy (we won't get into how that disparity comes about in the first place) that they were able to rapidly cannibalize White-owned business and replace them with ones narrowly-tailored to their own interests
    The White people who moved out did so largely because they chose not to live near people for whom they had contempt, not because they could not afford to stay
    The Black people moving in were by and large deferential to their White neighbors and went to great lengths to assimilate to their neighborhoods' existing social norms and values (in part because it was absolutely a matter of personal safety)
    Speaking of which...nothing even close to THIS has happened to any White person attempting to move into Brooklyn, which makes the dramatic outrage in response to Spike's frustrated rant (mere words) look downright self-indulgent and foolish to the people like Spike's daddy and other longtime residents who stand to be bought out because THAT is the kind of shit they had to go through when they wanted to move to a new neighborhood. That is how White people went about saying "You cannot move here". Not even close to the same.

    All of those dynamics are in reverse here, making the issue a lot deeper than "the neighborhood is changing and I don't like it". But White people on the whole have very little understanding of these issues and very little willingness to understand these issues, because it would require them to either make different choices or acknowledge their own lack of ethics and moral character.

    So instead, as per usual, the reflexive response is to make it about them and their rights. "This is economically advantageous to me and who are you to tell me I can't have what I want?!! (P.S. - I haven't heard a word you've said about what matters to you and don't care.)"

    That same self-serving, covetous, socially-irresponsible attitude colonized Africa, justified the slave trade and native American genocide and as allowed the U.S. to assert a destabilizing influence in numerous countries abroad with little understanding of the damage we were doing until it was too late.

    But Spike Lee said motherfucker so he's a monster."
  • Here is a link to the actual transcript from the talk at Pratt that kicked off this whole thing.  It is interesting to read:

    I'd rather not rely on USA Today's summary..
  • I agree with you that when a population in an area has money things get done faster and usually better. And it's true that poorer areas usually get short shrift. But, the politicians both black and white answer to the almighty dollar and those that have it are able to buy the power. I don't think anyone here thinks Spike Lee is a monster but his point would have spoken volumes if he was a little more eloquent. Instead this will be remembered for a few mere words.
  • There seem to be more shenanigans as a result of his comments:
    There was a lot of discussion on Gothamist's post on Spike's comments. A number of them said that Spike was a hypocrite for moving out of Brooklyn. Some other posters countered that Spike moved because his wife did not want to remain in the home since their privacy was breached.

    Maybe his wife was right?
  • edited February 2014
    I doubt Spike's Lee's words will be remembered for very long. 

    And, I doubt the words will change the disparities that make gentrification unstoppable.   

  • edited March 2014
    This article resonates with me more, because it hints at the "power gap" I sloppily referenced above:

  • If you want to preserve a community as it is, buy all the property and do with it as you will.  Hurray for all the people that bought their own homes.  Nobody is forcing you to sell.  
    The "Brooklyn" experience is not exclusively Black.  There are plenty of neighborhoods that have been "discovered" and changed that didnt have a large Afro American community.  Gentrification is not a black and white thing - it is a green thing.  
    When I bought my building in Crown Heights I didnt think - "yippee I hope nothing ever changes here!"  I bought because it was affordable, and because it was close to transportation into the city and the housing stock was great.  But most importantly because it was a marginal community with what was perceived as high crime, I could get a better return on my investment as things improved. 
    Just as I was pushed out of Chelsea, the West Village, and Carroll Gardens, others are getting pushed out of Crown Heights.  The cycle continues. Thats life.
  • This is an interesting take on it, out today:

    As a middle-aged man now, of course I would much prefer to live in a clean, safe, orderly New York City.

    "Hence, that is the unanswerable question that something like gentrification forces us to ponder: Would we rather live in a crime-ridden (but cheap) city stuffed to the gills with eccentric characters and dangerous options? Or do we prefer to live in a rich, but mind-numbingly dull and sterile landscape of prosperity that breeds nothing but self-satisfaction, consumerism and boredom. I suspect, when one is brutally honest, most folks (including me now) would choose the latter."
  • Why does it have to be an either-or proposition? Why can there not be a middle-ground? That way, there are multiple winners.
  • edited March 2014
    We'd have to radically redistribute wealth, education, income and everything else that goes into creating power for that to happen.

    If we are going about that, we seem to be doing it very slowly.

    And, Brooklyn is said to be "over" already:
  • We could also just change the zoning laws so a lot more housing gets built, so housing doesn't get so expensive so fast here. People are only willing to pay so much because there's such a serious housing shortage. 

    That's how we find a middle ground— in Chicago, for example, a newish 2-bedroom condo in fashionable neighborhoods (including Chicago's equivalent of Williamsburg) can still be had for ~$250,000. Chicago certainly has other problems, and isn't nearly as large as NYC nor does it see as much international wealth, but it is a big, urban city with many neigborhoods with a similar physical form to Brooklyn, and it has avoided the endless upward price spiral seen in so many coastal cities— partially by being cold, partially by still having a bit higher crime and schools that sound worse than NYC's, but also by allowing a lot of new construction.

    I also don't romanticize urban decline so much because I come from Milwaukee, which is nowhere near the nadir of Detroit, but still has the all problems of job sprawl (jobs move to the suburbs where there's no transit, poor folks can't afford cars to get there since they don't have jobs, and... shit), big transit cuts, bad schools, low wages, and urban abandonment. There are a lot of neighborhoods where you can buy a turn of the century 2-family for $30,000, but you wouldn't want to live there if you had a choice. My parents bought such a house for $30,000 or so in the early '80s, gave up and moved to an inner-ring streetcar suburb in the late '80s, selling the house for the same price, and big, beautiful old houses in that area still don't sell for much more:
    These days, even NYC's 'bad' neighborhoods are so much better than they used to be. New York rapidly switched from problems of decline to problems of growth, which are much better problems to have, but need to be managed by allowing the growth to happen, rather than letting rich people downzone/historicize their neighborhoods so all the growth happens where poor people live.
  • I think "we" will only effectively zone for affordable housing when "we" are unable to fill entry level positions.

    At present, we have far more applicants than we do jobs. Low income (but employed....) folks are sharing apartments, rather than move away to places that might be affordable, but they fear they would result in them bein unemployed and knowing no one.

    Also, I dont see NYC being able to overcone REBNY's opposition to lowering the value of large swathes of land; They want to be able to use land in whatever manner brings the most profit.

    They were very successful under DeBlasio of getting areas up zoned on the basis that it would increase tax revenue, and lower municipal expenses.

    It was Urban Renewal, while using less fraught terms.
  • Urban renewal means the city condeming blocks-upon-blocks of viable structures to sell to developers to serve someone's social agenda. What's happening today is good ol' fashioned urban development, mostly with private owners of lots selling their lots to other private individuals, though still at a much smaller scale than would be likely with a pre-1961 zoning code.

    Nearly all of NYC as we know and love it was build effectively before there was a zoning code — had modern zoning codes existed, no one could have bought up a townhouse near Union Square, torn it down, and built a 10-story loft building on the site.
  • As per the zoning codes, much of the city is underbuilt.

    Only now are residents realizing just how tall and "big" (ie FAR) structures in their neighborhoods can be.

    The only real resource they have against increasing density is Landmarking.