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Spike Lee’s Comments On NYC Gentrification Spark Debate In Fort Greene

Director: White Newcomers To Neighborhoods Are Doing The Wrong Things
Spike Lee

Spike Lee attends the “After Earth” premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on May 29, 2013 in New York City. (Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

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FORT GREENE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Spike Lee had some harsh words for whites moving into predominantly black neighborhoods in New York City while speaking at a Black History Month lecture at Pratt Institute on Tuesday.

As 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported Wednesday, the director and Brooklyn native said that white newcomers to neighborhoods like Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant are doing the wrong things.

Lee told the audience that while he’s all for democracy, he doesn’t like that whites are trying to impose their standards and wealthy ideas on everyone and everything, D’Auria reported.

According to Lee, with white gentrification comes disruption. The entire rant was transcribed by New York magazine. Here’s an excerpt:

“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 (expletive) 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.”

Some Fort Greene residents who spoke to D’Auria on Wednesday agreed that high-priced restaurants and bars that cater to whites could breed resentment.

“I’m not an old-timer, I go to these places. But I could imagine if I was – you’d feel excluded,” said Drew. “If an area that had been tolerant of or open to a certain kind of culture and then it’s changing. That could cause a lot of conflict. I can see that happening here.”

Meanwhile, Whyel told D’Auria that he doesn’t have a problem with the changes. He said if because of the whites the neighborhood improves, that’s great. And of Spike Lee’s complaints, “If he needs something to complain about focus on some other stuff: shootings, drugs.”

Rafeal said he doesn’t agree or disagree with Lee’s comments, but that he has noticed more white people in the neighborhood and doesn’t have a problem with it. “To me, everything is still the same. You know what I’m saying? Nothing’s changed. (It’s a good neighborhood?) Yeah, for both, for everybody to live out here.”

Matt said he agrees with the filmmaker.

“When people move in and they pay a lot of money for something then they expect it to be as bland as they are,” he said.

He added he loves the diversity and wishes the blacks and whites in the neighborhood would interact even more.

Jackie said she’s noticed the new white neighbors and she’s OK with it.

“Still the same crime. Ain’t nothing gonna change just cause white people moved to the neighborhood,” she said.

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(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)