As a filmmaker, Spike Lee’s legacy is undeniable. He has inspired countless filmmakers (myself included) to tell their stories on the big screen. Lately, however, he is equally known for his rants against everything from the Oscars to Tyler Perry, and now, the gentrification of his beloved Brooklyn.
I get it. Having seen gentrification happen right before my eyes in Harlem, it is difficult for long time residents to deal with the changes. New York is the most expensive city to live in America. I don’t have to look much further than my own bank account to know this truth. Neighborhoods like Harlem and those in Brooklyn have long been primary residence for many people of color because of their relative affordability compared to the rest of Manhattan.
But with gentrification, there comes higher rents, property prices, higher prices for the increased services, etc. And to Mr. Lee’s point it is pushing residents further away from the city or out of New York completely. I don’t disagree with any of his points – he is telling the truth. I do, however, disagree with his approach.
Quite frankly, I have enjoyed many of the added benefits that gentrification has caused in Harlem. When I first moved here fourteen years ago I had to leave Harlem on the weekends for quality groceries, restaurants, stores, etc. Now, like many other Harlemites, I rarely leave Harlem on the weekends for anything. Everything I need is within walking distance. And, if I do leave, it’s no longer a strategic nightmare trying to get a taxi home. I like that progress.
The question is though how do you have progress and still keep the neighborhood affordable. I don’t know if that’s possible. Market conditions determine the price of all things. If there are enough people to pay for something at a certain price point (whether it be real estate or a coffee) then, the market will charge that price. If there aren’t, then the market will adjust the price to sell.
I voted for Mayor De Blasio on this sole issue of making New York livable and affordable for more people. I was sold on his “Tale of Two Cities” campaign. I am not as confident as I was when he took office, but it’s still early and we shall see. But, I am also not sure how Mr. Lee’s (who actually now lives on the Upper East Side) efforts are helpful to the problem either. Maybe just by virtue of him speaking it will get people doing. Or, maybe he should save the rants and help do something about the rent.
What are your thoughts on gentrification of urban areas? Does Spike have a point? SOUND OFF!
(Via New York Magazine)