After a New York Magazine article titled “Is Gentrification All Bad” released in February, 2014, Spike Lee spoke about the negative ramifications of gentrification in New York City.
Speaking at Pratt Institute for a lecture in honor of African American History Month, Lee was asked a question about “the other side” of gentrification. Wearing a Knicks beanie, orange socks, and a “Defend Brooklyn” hoodie, the famous filmmaker referenced the New York Magazine article and referred to it as “bullshit.”
Lee noted that he is all for democracy and people being free to move where they want, but questioned why facilities and police presence were only improved and increased once white people moved into previously rough neighborhoods.
“Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart,” says Lee in his expletive-filled rant. He also mentions the culture of areas that has existed and been laid down for centuries, and how new people will move in and think they can just disrupt that. Lee cites an example of how his father bought a home in 1968, and people moved in in 2013 and called the cops on him just for playing his acoustic guitar.
There is a severe problem with people moving into places and thinking they have free reign to change things at their whim, and when the cost of living rises out of nowhere and kicks people out of their neighborhoods, where are they supposed to go?
On the other side, facilities being maintained and neighborhoods becoming safer is certainly not a bad thing. Public schools improving and people selling their houses for a large sum of money are also both big benefits. It is often not realistic to keep neighborhoods racially and economically diverse, while also improving them with financing. As the original New York Magazine post says, “When you’re trying to make a poor neighborhood into a nicer place to live, the prospect of turning it into a racially and economically mixed area with thriving stores is not a threat but a fantasy. As the cost of basic city life keeps rising, it’s more important than ever to reclaim a form of urban improvement from its malignant offshoots.”
Spike Lee grew up in Fort Greene, and this is an area in New York that gentrification has affected immensely.