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BrooklynBornThis blog started in my head when I listened in the 90's to friends who feared Brooklyn and newcomers who blogged about BK as if it barely existed before they arrived. Brooklyn as Tabula Rasa. My blog satisfies my need to hear and air feelings of B'klyn from the people whose life experience was born here. Also I hope to provide balance to some of the revisionist historical musings I've seen how Brooklyn and her residents used to be, we're still here. If we can all live as best possible while appreciating the past and neighbors we've inherited that would be great too.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Spike to the heart of Gentrification Agnst

Since everyone else is talking about fiery filmmaker and Brooklynite Spike Lee's expressive talk about gentrification during a Q&A at Pratt Institute (Alumni office I'm side-eyeing you for my lack of notice) I might as well post it too.

Besides simply saying gentrification is bad Spike addresses the issues of new people trampling the longstanding culture of existing residents, neighborhood renaming and my fave the "discovery" of places that already have people, culture and life.

A few highlights:

"Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers into South Bronx, Harlem…for the facilities to get better?"

"The motherfucking Christopher Columbus syndrome… you can't discover this we been here."

Spike also references the Michael Jackson Tribute party planned for Fort Greene park back in 2009, and how it was turned away, by new residents to the area, which I wrote about on this blog: http://umbrooklynborn.blogspot.com/2009/08/community-is-bigger-than-one-person.html

Here’s the full audio, including the man’s response and Lee’s rebuttal:

All that's essentially the raison d'ĂȘtre of this blog, nearly verbatim. Wonder if Spike's a reader?

The whole breakdown from NYMag:
The filmmaker, wearing a Knicks beanie, orange socks, blue Nikes, and "Defend Brooklyn" hoodie, was at Pratt Institute for a lecture in honor of African American History Month, surrounded by locals, when he was nearly asked a question about “the other side” of the gentrification debate. “Let me just kill you right now,” Lee interrupted, “because there was some bullshit article in the New York Times saying ‘the good of gentrification.’” (See: “Argument Over a Brownstone Neighborhood” andNew York’s “Is Gentrification All Bad?”)

“I don’t believe that,” said Lee. And for the next seven minutes he explained, with passion, humor, and a fair amount of f-words.
Here’s the thing: I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren’t around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something.
[Audience member: And I don’t dispute that … ]
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. And even more. Let me kill you some more.
[Audience member: Can I talk about something?]
Not yet.
Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. There were brothers playing motherfuckin’ African drums in Mount Morris Park for 40 years and now they can’t do it anymore because the new inhabitants said the drums are loud. My father’s a great jazz musician. He bought a house in nineteen-motherfuckin’-sixty-eight, and the motherfuckin’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass! It’s acoustic! We bought the motherfuckin’ house in nineteen-sixty-motherfuckin’-eight and now you call the cops? In 2013? Get the fuck outta here!
Nah. You can’t do that. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people.
You can’t just — here’s another thing: When Michael Jackson died they wanted to have a party for him in motherfuckin’ Fort Greene Park and all of a sudden the white people in Fort Greene said, “Wait a minute! We can’t have black people having a party for Michael Jackson to celebrate his life. Who’s coming to the neighborhood? They’re gonna leave lots of garbage.” Garbage? Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show. There’s 20,000 dogs running around. Whoa. So we had to move it to Prospect Park!
I mean, they just move in the neighborhood. You just can’t come in the neighborhood. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here? Get the fuck outta here. Can’t do that!
And then! [to audience member] Whoa whoa whoa. And then! So you’re talking about the people’s property change? But what about the people who are renting? They can’t afford it anymore! You can’t afford it. People want live in Fort Greene. People wanna live in Clinton Hill. The Lower East Side, they move to Williamsburg, they can’t even afford fuckin’, motherfuckin’ Williamsburg now because of motherfuckin’ hipsters. What do they call Bushwick now? What’s the word? [Audience: East Williamsburg]
That’s another thing: Motherfuckin’… These real estate motherfuckers are changing names! Stuyvestant Heights? 110th to 125th, there’s another name for Harlem. What is it? What? What is it? No, no, not Morningside Heights. There’s a new one. [Audience: SpaHa] What the fuck is that? How you changin’ names?
And we had the crystal ball, motherfuckin’ Do the Right Thing with John Savage’s character, when he rolled his bike over Buggin’ Out’s sneaker. I wrote that script in 1988. He was the first one. How you walking around Brooklyn with a Larry Bird jersey on? You can’t do that. Not in Bed Stuy.
So, look, you might say, “Well, there’s more police protection. The public schools are better.” Why are the public schools better? First of all, everybody can’t afford — even if you have money it’s still hard to get your kids into private school. Everybody wants to go to Saint Ann’s — you can’t get into Saint Ann’s. You can’t get into Friends. What’s the other one? In Brooklyn Heights. Packer. If you can’t get your child into there … It’s crazy. There’s a business now where people — you pay — people don’t even have kids yet and they’re taking this course about how to get your kid into private school. I’m not lying! If you can’t get your kid into private school and you’re white here, what’s the next best thing? All right, now we’re gonna go to public schools.
So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!
All right, go ahead. Let’s see you come back to that.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Photo Wednesday 020514 : Bridge to SnowWhere Edition

And the snow goes on...

This Photo for Wednesday obviously comes from this week's snow storms. Love this pic, I was on my way to an errand when I decided to hop off the subway and take the bridge. Stinging snow, obscured city, frames hands, icy camera. Good times! It got so dark the lights came on, it's actually about 12:35pm in this pic.

Click through and you'll see the other one I like of the mail-carrier living up to that mythic poem.

In addition to the new snow falling today, supposedly more snow's on the way this weekend. I blame the groundhog for being mad that the Mayor dropped him. Stay safe.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Photo Wed 012914: Lonely Soldier on Schermerhorn Edition

With scheduled construction of a hotel to the left of it (from this angle) and the largest tower in Brooklyn slated to go up to it's right, this lonely little building is at more than a few interesting intersections on Schermerhorn Street at Downtown's edge.

In Downtown Brooklyn, Schermerhorn Street is a heat sink, to borrow and adjust the term for a computer part who's principal purpose is to suck all the heat to one location. In computers this is useful because heat sinks sit on or next to fans and vents, that allow the heat to be dispersed. Lonely Livingston Avenue, sitting parallel between the active avenues of Fulton Street and Atlantic hadn't been as useful for decades.

In my life time of several decades it's been home to city offices, like the Board of Education (now moved to midtown in an effort to reign in their ranks) and state service offices like medicaid, unemployment and the bureau of child welfare. Other than that, the back side of a municipal parking garage, occasionally wafting with the fragrance of urine, a small sadly neglected city park, and a few other odds and ends were all I could tell you about Schermerhorn  until about ten years ago when the condo boom erupted in downtown Brooklyn. Since then there are a few tony developments. For example the "Be@Schermerhorn" is complete with an anchor retail tent in the style of a whole-foods-esque, which made me laugh because I remember when a hotdog and a person in need of medical attention was much of what you could reliably find on Schermerhorn, and those days weren't long gone when that particular condo and market went up. Which could account for some of the issues they had filling the vacancies before an angel swooped in and saved them.

I found myself downtown this week. "Found" being a disingenuous term for my guilty pilgrimage to Brooklyn's own ShakeShack, which besides staying delicious, stands as in this era as an appropriate if unofficial greeter to the western edge of Fulton Street and the Downtown Brooklyn shopping area.

Travel home by chilly bike (I'm a blogger remember) I came across many freshly vacant lots, (which I've learned from Brownstowner are owned by Steiner Development and slated to be discount hotels) some already deep in the throws of new residential construction. There wasn't much time for me to take in the flurry of new before I can across this lonely outpost.

I also found this sate-photo I've highlighted to be pretty hilarious as you can see where the lonely soldier stands in regard to the development.

This gritty little building shares the block with the mega development "The Hub" as reported on Gothamist (seen below) which as shown in this rendering will not only be a major real estate development but the new largest tower in Brooklyn (It'll be 52 stories) will push the borough's vertical profile further to the stratosphere.

That of course means it'll become a commercial destination. With BAM, "The Theater for a New Audience" on Rockwell as well as the high-rise residential tower 66 Rockwell all one block away it's guaranteed to be a hot spot. And that doesn't even include the Two-Trees mega BAM tower slated to go up across the northern nub of 3rd Avenue and Flatbush, which would add another cultural center, replacement library (there's debate about whether it's a replacement library or not) and residential tower. This area now has potential to be a consistently vibrant and enriching center in the way it hasnt been since the 50's when it was just around the corner from rows of Brooklyn's theater district. All of this development no doubt benefiting from tax exemptions, and the market cultivated by buildings like "Be" and the Barclay Center just (technically) three blocks away.

Personally I'm curious to know how all all this will embrace the African Street Fair that has been part of BAM's spring Dance Africa event for over a decade. Since the Two-Tree's project is aimed at the footprint of the street festival, it would make sense to me that some sort of connective supporting relationship be made.

Other than concern for Dance Africa and the annual street festival, I got no gripes about all this mind you. I don't want massive condos towering over and killing classic city and neighborhood sight-lines in Prospect or Crown Heights and the like, but this is Downtown, it's were massive projects should be. Hopefully since so many are residential the city has plans in the works to address the reality of the thousands new people who will be using nearly century old infrastructure in that area, and new school with all those some of the cash from all those new tax payers would be good too.

Vaguely I recall seeing a few residents on Schermerhorn and my guess (+mischieveous hope) is at some point in the down and out 70's or 80's a resident bought this building, thus ensuring a place in the glistening tomorrows to come. Of course it could be that some speculator came along at the right moment and there's nothing romantic about this building, but eh, in a life less ordinary, I'll vote for the romance.

So maybe it's good if there's a hold out relic from the past sticking up like a thumb against the new. Judging from the generic glass-rectangle-rific architectural design of many of these new projects it might be the easiest way for new comers to see what character looks like.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Photo Wednesday 012212 Edition : Snow Day

Yesterday's snow ensured another week of kids sledding, diy sidewalk navigation and our friends on facebook grousing about winter. Eh whaddaya gonna do? The fact that we've had about 7 total inches of snow the last two years has helped collectively toughen us to winter so we'll all just have to summon our inner Yukon explorer, or pretend to at least.

Today's photo for wednesday comes from the winter scape that is Bedford Avenue & Sterling Place and the majestic Studebaker Building.

Be safe out there.