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Friday, June 27, 2014

Oops: Live from Bedford-Stuyvesant Spike Lee/Doing the Right Thing

(Updated Sat 6/28)


I got the date wrong. Hopefully I'm the only person who had to miss out on the block Party.

"What is brooklyn?” is a question I find myself asking a lot lately. I’m willing to bet, New York being New York, that question is sincerely asked on average three times a week around the world. And that’s sincerely, add the ironic existential asks and I’m sure the question of what Brooklyn is, and my god isn’t runs like a metronome. 

For me to be wondering that, born here, having been, across the span of now five decades (I promise I’m still carded and I still think I’m supposed to be) it’s as bizarre as if I awoke this morning, swung my feet off the bed and looked down wondering, “who’s legs are these?”

But that’s where I’m at and I’m not alone. The amount of spontaneous conversations I hear and take part in on a daily basis asking the same questions, wondering as well whether we born Brooklynites are still attached to a living breathing factually member, this borough of whether we’re all suffering the pain of a phantom limb are countless. 

There are many Brooklyns. In each era for decades now, there have been many, untouched by the goings on of Manhattan, fairly oblivious to other corners of this same borough. Five decades lived and I’ve never walked the streets of Bay Ridge. I know of people who work a job, raise a family, live a life and never set foot out of Sheepshead bay, or Brownsville, or Greenpoint. It’s not unsurprising in a place like Brooklyn that has a population three times larger than San Francisco and if counted without the other four boroughs would be the 4th largest populated city in the United States.

I just watched an old episode of what I happily recall President Obama calling a “iiberal fantasy”, TV’s “The West Wing”. In this episode a congressman, and leader of the Black Caucaus tried to make the point that his constituents, young Black men in Bedford-Stuyvesant were being under-represented. The same episode referenced Colombia as proxy for a conversation about the drug war, and in a different region of the world (as well as the plot) “friendly fire” as short hand for the complexities of war. Bedford-Stuyvesant was referenced several times, each timing meaning impoverished, disenfranchised, and Black. That blanket reference doesn’t work today, barely ten years later. And that should be cause for celebration, but the problem for many people, many native New Yorkers, many born Brooklynites, is what definitions do apply to Bed-Stuy, today.

It’s good that as opposed to poverty and disenfranchisement, there are small businesses and home owners, forging new bonds and reaping dividends in Bed-Stuy. Fantastic would be if more of those people were the residents of that community that helped keep two nostrils above water when the floods of drugs, crime, and systematic neglect rained down upon that part of Brooklyn.

I recently was invited to the home of a new business partner, he a professional was telling me about the Bed-Stuy brownstown he’d recently purchased. I remarked about how great he, not of Brooklyn, must be finding it all, and I rattled of some culinary and social points of interest. He had no idea where any of these places and the streets they belonged to were. “He doesn’t need to…” I thought to myself as he told me, sheepishly the story of the people who were foreclosed on, which made his purchase possible. To say the least, I felt conflicted. Part of me wanted to look down and ask where my legs were and why weren’t they moving.

This Saturday Sunday June 29th from noon to 6p, on Stuyvesant Avenue and Quincy, Spike Lee will be hosting a block party in honor of his seminal film “Do The Right Thing” The block is the actual and entire block the Oscar nominated film was shot on. 

If you truly know Brooklyn’s Brownstown belt and the skirmishes contained in, or your simply old enough, you know how much of the city’s ills then and sadly now Spike packed into that film with poignance and power. You then probably know of the scene in the film where a man white of skin walks his ten speed bike, and celtics basketball jersey up the block and into that character’s new brownstone. A lot of people relate that scene from twenty-five years ago to today, especially after Spike voiced the displeasure thousands of us feel at having neighborhoods we’ve lived in redressed around and without us, earlier this year at a Pratt Institute event. I recall watching the film and not understanding how that could ever happen, I was unfamiliar and undeserving of Bed-Stuy back then, I was a teenager. Spike knew what I wish more people knew today, Brooklyn is a place where people intended to live, that had fallen on hard times (for countless reasons) and it only took (and takes) a release of the yoke holding the neighborhood down, offered to those with means, to create a market and a marketing, that would invite people with means to come back.

Sadly, and what troubles me most is how difficult it is for a lot of us to be happy about Brooklyn's fortunes. If you would have told people in 1989 that Brooklyn would be undergoing the current renaissance we'd be partying in the streets. Surely people would have to presume the problems of drug wars, underfunded schools, over policing, banking discrimination, crime, would have been resolved. But they really weren't, despite the light Brooklyn basks in today, the instrument of change in most cases is a bulldozer. Pushing away, old structures and old cultures, pushing people off the reservation, tables held for the new. Crime hasn't be solved in Brooklyn of most anywhere in New York City as much as it's been made complicated by raising rents on the poor, people who are victims crime and relative to their population, occasionally suspects in crime. The Brooklyn Bulldozer Baby & Bathwater Bloomberg Policy is what happened. And after eight years of a hostile Mayorial administration, and the near two decades of urban decay preceding that, it didn't seem so bad at first, until you saw the baby's rolling down the street and off into cold night.

Yesterday I was randomly net-surfing (see I am old) and I came across a listing on Franklin in Bed-Stuy for an apartment. Fifteen years ago members of my family used to go to substance abuse treatment a few doors down. Not a nickel to rub between them, not a pot to do anything with at a all. 

The asking price for the apartment I saw online yesterday? 1.025 Million dollars. Seriously where am I?

Well like I said, Spike is having a block party on Saturday sunday and I don’t quite know what that means or where my legs will be, but I believe they’ll be doing the right thing. If you don’t have the house you gotta have hope.

"Where Brooklyn At? Where Brooklyn At?"

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Photo Wednesday 061814 The Return Edition!

Can it be I stayed away to long? Seems I lost some views while I was gone. Well this time let me tell you where I'm at.

(Btw if you know where that riff comes from, just look over your should honey, I loves ya!)

I've been working and meaning to junp back into this blog and I have been overwhelmed by where to start, which is alittle goofy since i started this blog already, six years ago.

It used to be that I could simply tell you what was taken from brooklyn added to brooklyn an who the players were an than wax philosophic about it all. But now there is so much happening in Brooklyn so often so fast. Stories I wanted to write my personal forecasts on have happened faster than you could post a listing. The sudden wave of airbnb suitcase trawlers going past my window in droves has been half replaced by joggers and streets are alive with the domino lineup of sandwich boards. At least thats what I'm seeing on the streets of Crown Heights.

So im back and im wading back in and hopefully i wont just be blathering but useful.

For now lets enjoy the start of summer sun.

Rent Guideline Meeing TONIGHT Bk Hts

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 from 5:00 - 8:00 P.M.
Public Hearing (Public Testimony)

Brooklyn Borough Hall
209 Joralemon Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

For more information check