In his column in the New York Daily News, Errol Louis, political reporter for Time Warner Cable’s 24-hour news channel NY1, calls out famous filmmaker Spike Lee for comments Lee made recently about gentrification ruining his childhood neighborhood.
Lee, who grew up in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene, went on an extended expletive-filled rant about the gentrification of New York and asked the audience at a Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, “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?”
Louis took exception to Lee’s rant saying Lee, himself, has contributed to and benefited from the changes.
It’s the sacred right of every New Yorker to bewail, blame and bemoan the arrival of the folks who arrive in the neighborhood five minutes after we do, but somebody has to call bull on Lee’s complaints about gentrification. This is a man who has made epic contributions to the phenomenon he finds so troubling.
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Start with Hatch House, Lee’s 9,000-square-foot palace on East 63rd Street — complete with internal courtyard — which he bought from artist Jasper Johns for $16 million in 2006 and recently put on the market with an asking price of $32 million. My friends in nearby Yorkville have been gnashing their teeth for years, complaining about how rents have risen to insane levels, thanks in part to owners buying and flipping high-end properties.
Louis also takes the “rising tide floats all boats” view of gentrification.
There’s nothing wrong with Lee’s real estate adventures: He, like every New Yorker, has the right to buy, hold or sell whatever property he can afford, and try to get rich in the process. But it’s not okay when the language of complaint sours into one of exclusion, or even menace. (“You can’t just come in the neighborhood”).
That attitude undergirds the city’s stubborn racially segregated housing patterns and ignores the reality that longtime black homeowners in neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant actually end up earning life-changing levels of wealth when gentrification drives up the value of their property.