Last night, Spike Lee delivered an impassioned, scathing critique of gentrification and how its changed Brooklyn, and New York City as a whole, for the worse.
At the end of a lecture at Pratt Institute for Black History Month, Lee was asked a question about "the other side of the gentrification debate." Joe Coscarelli from New York Magazine recorded Lee's response.
"Let me just kill you right now because there was some bullshit article in the New York Times saying 'the good of gentrification,'" Lee said, before launching into a seven minute rant. Some highlights, from Daily Intelligencer:
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.
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.
Lee also discussed the role of real estate agents ("These real estate motherfuckers are changing names!...What the fuck is that? How you changin' names?"), Do the Right Thing's prescience ("we had the crystal ball"), and schools and police ("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?")
You can listen to the whole thing here.
[Image via AP]