Change in Brooklyn

Monday, May 04, 2009

Actress and activist Rosie Perez and writer and filmmaker Nelson George discuss the importance of mom and pop shops, stoops, civic gathering places, and neighborhood character in a changing city.

Help produce WNYC’s neighborhood preservation event this Thursday; join the Public Insight Network and suggest topics and questions.

Greene Space ticket info here.

Nelson George at the Brooklyn Historical Society on May 13th, to discuss his book City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success (Viking, 2009).


Nelson George and Rosie Perez

Comments [101]


Ugh, one of my least favorite conversations in NYC. The city has been in a state of constant change since it's founding, and yet everyone seems to feel as though they (or their "community" or ethnic group) owns a particular neighborhood. Whether it's labeled as gentrification or spacial deconcentration, it's change - people moving in and out. I lived in the LES years ago, and also personally bemoaned the changes that happened there. But eventually realized that I was just one part of the ever changing fabric of that neighborhood. And eventually moved to Washington Heights - which was in the 80s the crack capital of the world. Please don't tell me that living in the 'hood at that time was safer because it gave you street smarts. That's stupid. I've got Orthodox neighbors in my building who have lived there for 40 years - they've seen it all. I know a Greek descendant who grew up in my nieghborhood when it was Greek - and then they all moved to Queens... There's still a huge Eastern European flavor, young Orthodox families moving back in, one of the largest Dominican populations outside the DR, and the steady stream (historically) of opera singers, Broadway actors, musicians, etc. (who favored the A-trains direct line to their performance spaces). Who should be nostalgic? I don't go to the Starbucks on 181 myself, which is not just frequented by white middle-class yuppies - the customers I see thru their large plate-glass windows reflects the community at large...

May. 06 2009 10:26 AM
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY

Although this audio is meant for Brooklyn, it can also mean the same for anywhere else. The proble is that some are blind to developers in thinking that we need the latest everything just to compete with them. The truth is about towns and cities is that it's not the quantity of the skyscrapers that defines it, it's the quality of life it has to offer. There are many architecture buffs who use Dubai and Shanghai as examples because they are constantly building the latest skyscrapers almost frequently and feel that other cities will be left behind if they don't build some that elsewhere. The truth is about those cities is that land there is cheap making it easy to build them there. Just because another city has it, doesn't mean that it should be here. All this new developement just changes vibrant multi culture comminuties into nothing more than a homogeneous, WASP neighborhood filled with mostly yuppies that care little about those around them. The effects leads to higher rents that forces long time residnets and workers to be priced out and only to be replaced by more of them and even chains and corporations in their places. Of course the fight against gentrification isn't something new, because it goes back the 1990's and some even in the 1980's when minorities were fighting it to keep their homes that they felt that they worked so hard for.

May. 05 2009 04:37 PM
banjiboi from Brooklyn


Please take a walk over to Zabar's Cafe (Surely, you MUST know where it's located) and purchase a slice of their perfectly fresh, dreamy Les Tre Leches cake. Then kindly choke on a crushed almond, one of the many yummy ingredients of said cake, I might add!

Yours truly,

May. 05 2009 12:12 PM
James B from NYC

I remember hunting beaver & quail & scooping oysters from the pure great river before that Englishman workin for the Dutch Hendryck Hudson showed up & it's been downhill ever since! Change...yuck! It's ok 4 those Obamites...but 4 the rest of us - give us stasis!

May. 05 2009 02:25 AM
Willie Mays from Polo Grounds

Bill (#67) god damn it's obvious you ain't from the city.

CLASSON Ave, not Clauson.

I left last year. Broke my heart, but West Coast living is cheaper and saner - for the time being. Someone let me know when the yuppies are gone and it's time to squat in the empty condos

May. 04 2009 11:43 PM
RCT from NYC

I'm late on this one -- I missed the show this morning due to work commitments -- but I think that I attended that Catholic school in Cobble Hill that is now condo-ed. I grew up in Carroll Gardens and my elementary school was Sacred Heart & St. Stephens, on Hicks Street.

My old neighborhood remains largely Italian-American, but the old culture is gone. Although I left Carroll Gardens many years ago, I stop by to "visit" my old brownstone whenever I visit the graves of my parents, who are buried in Greenwood Cemetery. The brownstone has not been gentrified; even the old vestibule, where I warmed my hands after playing in the snow, remains the same.

The lifestyle, however, is gone. I remember pushcarts selling veggies on the streetcorner and processions of children walking through the streets on every religious holiday. Everyone was Italian, and everyone's relatives lived in the neighborhood. The annual feast --Saint Rosalie -- stretched for over half a mile down Henry Street, with nightly opera singing on a special platform built near the church. I could hear the singing from my bedroom, over two blocks away. On election nights, the boys (not girls) would pull out wood that they'd hidden in nearby cellars and make a huge fire under the lampost, from which an effigy (Republican; there were no Democrats in our neighborhood) had been hung. The fire department put on the fire two or three times, but each time more wood would be dragged out and a new fire begun. The new world tradition had become an "old world" practice, at least in Carroll Gardens.

On summer nights, my father would buy home-made lemon ice and Italian cookies on Court Street, and we'd all sit out on the "stoops" until late in the evening, when we kids would be taken in to bed.

Change happens, but the old culture of my Brooklyn childhood has not merely changed; it's lost forever.

May. 04 2009 11:10 PM

[89} Diversification's been happening in Bensonhurst since the late 1980s. West indian, Asian, Russian and Mexican populations have long since taken root.

A point missing from much of the discussion is that housing prices and rents in many gentrified communities have doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and and sometimes quintupled within the past twenty years. This has led to at least a couple of notable developments. One is that people in need of housing who would like to stay in their communities will likely find that choice to be unaffordable.

This is a trend that's exaggerated in NYC, especially be -cause of the very wide income disparity here. Throughout the bubble period there's been growing inequality affecting many aspects of life. Of course change happens, but there are winners and losers. For example, young longtime residents of gentrified communities can find themselves "on the outs" just because they come of age in a so-called "changing" community.

Perez and George express nostalgia for a time before real estate sharks became interested in the "outer boroughs."

May. 04 2009 03:29 PM
J from Sunset Park, Brooklyn

#90 wrote: "This is probably the same conversation the Irish and Italians had when African-Americans and Puerto Ricans moved in, only if we heard it in the 1950's through today's lens we'd be shocked by how racist it probably sounded. It sounds just about as racist today."

The big difference here is that back then it was one more established immigrant wave being "racist" against a new poorer wave. Today's gentrification isn't about poor white people from distant shores settling into Ft. Greene and Bed Stuy for the affordability. No, it's about, shockingly, development and real estate. I for one am a white girl who got priced out of her old mixed-race-now-almost-completely-white 'hood...

Take the race issue out of the equation: it's about class, not race. Poor people of any color cannot find much room in a neighborhood once it gets spit-polished and shiny...

May. 04 2009 12:36 PM
Fala from Brooklyn

I am not sure I have a "right" to say anything about this subject, being a transplant and all. I grew up in a small town in upstate New York that is now covered in (empty) McMansions and golf courses (quite the opposite of what my life was like growing up), there are chain stores everywhere and it is sad when I go home to visit my family.

I moved to Greenpoint because I wanted to live in a quiet neighborhood in Brooklyn, I didn't want to live in Williamsburg, Park Slope, etc (not that I could afford to even if I wanted to...)

I shop, and eat, at the places that have been in the neighborhood long before I arrived, I abhor the new condos being built everywhere especially the one on Green St. - that are empty. I don't want to destroy the neighborhood that I've moved into because I don't see anything wrong with the neighborhood, I don't want to move out everyone that's been here longer than I've been alive.

Sooner or later, I'm going to be priced out of my apartment and will have to move somewhere else because that's how it goes...

May. 04 2009 12:12 PM
steve from Englewood, NJ

Lauren --

Would you ever call the "new" Asbury Park "Child Friendly?" Your town website even states children under 12 have free admittance to the beach -- if accompanied by a parent. I don't think the New AP boardwalk is interested in attracting local kids (to be fair, what "reborn" area anywhere is?). There was a skateboarding park in the south end of the boardwalk (the old carousel building) but I believe that is long gone.

May. 04 2009 12:09 PM

I am shocked that Brian would provide a platform for these racists. If you had on white guests and talk about all the changes in Bay Ridge in the past 15-20 years and people would be appalled!

May. 04 2009 11:54 AM
Ian from Manhattan

This is probably the same conversation the Irish and Italians had when African-Americans and Puerto Ricans moved in, only if we heard it in the 1950's through today's lens we'd be shocked by how racist it probably sounded. It sounds just about as racist today.

May. 04 2009 11:48 AM
the truth from bkny

Hmmm is gentrification taking place in BENSONHURST? Any new brown faces there?

May. 04 2009 11:47 AM
Matt in Fort Greene

I don't think it's entirely fair to saddle neighborhood newcomers with all the things you don't like about gentrification.

My girlfriend and I moved to the Fort Greene/Clinton Hill border about a year ago, and we love it here specifically because it's a real, honest neighborhood without a "scene" attached. It's not Williamsburg, it's certainly not Park Slope, and that's great. We love that there's families sitting on their stoops in the warm weather, that there's a number of locally-owned cafes but not a single Starbucks! We're certainly not living in the glass condo towers going up near Flatbush, we think they look horrible. I'm always saying hi, smiling and nodding when I pass the neighbors, and I certainly didn't grow up here.

I don't like to think long-time residents see a young white guy and instantly associate me with "Manhattanization." We moved here and love it here because of what it IS, not because we're trying to make it into something else.

May. 04 2009 11:46 AM
yh from brooklyn

to 77 - I did not go. I don't live in the neighborhood. I'm just bringing up the fact that these changes *do* happen through a political process, and can be influenced/changed etc., and that there is a way to participate through the political process.

sadly, despite living in brooklyn for 10 years, i can't afford to buy something and am actually moving to a place where i *can* be a part of a community and neighborhood.

May. 04 2009 11:41 AM
Bill from New York

Dave From Queens, 69: Computers are pretty pervasive, and one of the failures of labor and causes of the falling of middle class wages over recent decades is the failure to see many white collar jobs as working class. I'm sitting in front of a computer, I sit in front of one all day, and I can barely afford the studio I was lucky to find four years ago in Crown Heights. What percentage of one's salary is one's rent not supposed to exceed? By that calculus an alarming percentage of New Yorkers simply don't make a living wage; certainly they can't save and can barely pay down their debts. Where does the responsibility lie? With employers? Real estate? Both? Whatever the case, it's very much an ethical issue, it seems to me.

May. 04 2009 11:40 AM
lauren from Asbury Park

i know the history of AP. by saying it was "all white" - of course blacks built it. but they were never allowed on the beach - kids who visited didnt see the black kids. even today, i live in town, and i rarely see white people. (im white). but on the boardwalk in the summer, i challange you to find any black kids on the beach, still .

May. 04 2009 11:39 AM
Vanessa Roe from Prospect Heights, BK

I think when developers tear something down and surround the big hole with a plywood fence, they should be required to post photos of what was there before, as well as the mock up of what's to come!

May. 04 2009 11:36 AM
Phil from Queens

Change, change, change... every neighborhood changes. For example -- Harlem was orginally Jewish. Rosie, Nelson, get over it! The over-development is the more important story. Seeing light and having fresh air and green spaces was the advantage growing up in the Boros. And Rosie please stop practicing for a network talk show on public radio's time. Make your own pilot for God's sake. You would be good and the networks need a hot latina to spice up the mix of banal talk show hosts.

May. 04 2009 11:36 AM
steve from Englewood, NJ

About Asbury Park: The caller should brush up on her town history. Asbury was NEVER all white! It was built (especially the boardwalk) with cheap, black labor. When construction was completed, the blacks were not allowed to live anywhere near the desirable beach area, and where instead herded to the west part of town. The explosion of racial tension there in the sixties and seventies was the price the town paid for past sins.

May. 04 2009 11:35 AM
anon from Hells Kitchen

Every time Rosie is on, she says the same thing: Brooklyn is great, her Brooklyn is great and everywhere else is filled with uncaring people, out to ruin her neighborhood.

Perez says she felt safe in her neighborhood growing up, because everyone knew her. Clearly "outsiders" were not welcome. Isn't this the same parochial thinking that would be considered "closed and prejudiced" in a small, primarily white, town upstate.

I'm not sure what Perez's qualification for moderating a live discussion are. She moans about the state of things but offers no solutions.

May. 04 2009 11:34 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

Sorry, but why is this discussion about the future of NY being held on a Thursday morning? Why not at a time when people who actually work for a living could show up?

May. 04 2009 11:33 AM
Desiree from Fort Greene

Change is inevitable. How would you suggest that New York residents, both new and old, support a responsible and respectful change of New York neighborhoods in landscape and attitude?

May. 04 2009 11:33 AM
a woman from inwood

And then there's Little Neck, NY, a white neighborhood when I moved in (from racially and culturally diverse Flushing,NY) at the age of 12. THe first time I faced racism was in Little Neck. All I can say about Little Neck now, is that it's a lot more diverse, many more brown faces there now, and it's about time. I'm glad that neighborhood isn't the weird, vaguely trashy white neighborhood that eyed me with suspicion in the late 70's and early 80's.

Change is fine with me. Personally, I seek out neighborhoods that remind me of my childhood Flushing, Queens, whenever I need to move: working class mixed with middle class, ethnically and culturally diverse, not a mall, like the LES, for example, has become.

May. 04 2009 11:33 AM

64 -- did YOU go? Did your friends? If so, how did you vote?

The marblecountertoppers often are too busy working to join or should I say, "become" their communities.

May. 04 2009 11:32 AM
Office Worker from Fort Greene, Brooklyn

Not that I believe that boundless gentrification is a good thing, but I'd like to know where people expect all the new people to go.

May. 04 2009 11:32 AM
B from ft greene

I've been in the neighborhood for 10 years and love it. It may have been mostly black 15-20 years ago but now the hood is more diverse and hence more enjoyable for myself. I dont want to live in an all black or all white or all hispanic neighborhood. Ft Greene is a great mix right now. Neighborhoods are always going to change and if you dont accept that you might want to check out the conservative republican party. By the way my great grandmother was born and raised in Ft greene circa 1901-1918.

May. 04 2009 11:32 AM
Jamison from Ft Green

Roosy is a nut! I went to school at Pratt and now live a bock from her and ft green is so much nicer now.
I maybe see here out once a summer! she so full of it!!!

May. 04 2009 11:30 AM

Brooklyn is one of the most racist places in this country.

May. 04 2009 11:30 AM

What's the point of this discussion? Gentrification is not a new phenomenon and it is a virtually unstoppable economic force in this country. Including a credible urbanist (pace Rosie Perez) might have improved the quality. As it is, this is a very boring show.

May. 04 2009 11:30 AM
the truth from bkny

If you don't like the new neighborhood, wait, it will change again. Life is change.

May. 04 2009 11:29 AM
william from bronx

I use to like the times plaza area of brooklyn. In 1968 it was a red lignt type district with bars on every corner. I remember the triangle area at flatbush ave & atlantic ave & 4th ave. The bars stayed open until 4am and the girls were walking the street and marvin gaye [what's going on ] music was in the air. It was GREAT !

May. 04 2009 11:29 AM
Dave from Queens

"nyc's poor, working class, indigenous are suffering a slow, insidious Katrina. WE'RE being washed out along w/our culture, spirit, etc." - blanca from manhattan

Chances are if you are sitting at a computer while listening to WNYC you are either not working or not working a job that is working class.

May. 04 2009 11:29 AM
jrdn from greenpoint

I don't understand the binary approach to evaluating changes neighborhood; it is hardly ever a simple choice between positive and negative. I don't know any neighborhood which has not both benefited and suffered as a result of change.

For example: Mr. George brushed aside a comment about improved safety in Brooklyn with a dismissive "You think there is no crime in Brooklyn?" This ignores the fact that many parts of Brooklyn are much safer now than they were 3, 5, or 20 years ago; to dismiss such an assertion is absurd.

No, such improvements do not change the fact that gentrification has many drawbacks. Many neighborhoods in Brooklyn are becoming much communal. People are more transitory; most of the people I know who are moving to Brooklyn are not going to be here in 5 years, to say nothing of in 50 years or in 2 generations.

The important thing is to acknowledge that these changes are complex and do not amount to a simple "Good" or "Bad." It's a much more interesting, rich discussion than that.

May. 04 2009 11:29 AM
Bill from New York

I find it hard to believe that whatever picture one has of one's childhood neighborhood threatened now by change doesn't itself represent a change experienced to others in their time. Some months ago I was on the G and some African American boys were speaking demonstratively (for the benefit of the white kids sitting nearby) with nostalgia about how "it's over" because now white kids can walk on Clauson without fear (for shame!), as though things have been as they've been from time immemorial until now. Traditionalism is largely a conservative myth. Where I live in Crown Heights it's now mostly Caribbean, but, yes, with increasing numbers of white residents, but until the 80s it was predominately a Greek neighborhood. The only continuity is change.

May. 04 2009 11:29 AM

i kind of doubt rosie perez would have moved back into her neighborhood if it wasn't a bit more gentrified since she lived there as a child--no one would move back to somewhere full of heroin addicts (her example), if it hadn't changed, no?

May. 04 2009 11:29 AM
lb from ft greene/clinton hill

I have lived in the Ft Greene/ Clinton Hill area for 7 years now. Even in that short time (after the change was very apparent) I have seen many changes. I worked at the coffee shop Tillies, that Rosie mentioned, for 3 years. I knew the customers very well, as it became my community. It went from artists, musician, carpenters...everyone said hello, knew each others faces, and it felt very supportive. By the time I stopped working there, people would not smile, or friendly (there was a definite feel that b/c I was serving them, they didn't want to talk to me), and I get run off the sidewalk by stroller moms. I still love my neighborhood, and have a great community there, but I do not like a lot of results of the change in the loss of artists and people of color and cultural diversity (when the rich move in we are forced to move out).

May. 04 2009 11:28 AM
yh from brooklyn

i agree that ny is become homogenized -- starbucks, seinfeld, friends, etc.

however, the community also voted to have the condos come into the neighborhood. can you discuss the lack or the kind of community participation in the zoning changes, etc?

May. 04 2009 11:28 AM
RJ from prospect hts

I've lived here for 25 years, and when I moved in it was mostly Haitian/Caribbean and Southern black. Now it's mostly white--young people and young families--and the homes bought by Southern blacks in the 60s when the neighborhood was red-lined have been gut-renovated and sold for $1 million plus to mostly white people. It's sad. There's still some mix, but the working class stores are now restaurants and it's too expensive for most people to live here.

The one positive new growth has been in mixed-race and gay couples, but I suspect there's more growth in those communities throughout the city, as society has changed more broadly.

May. 04 2009 11:28 AM
a woman from inwood

I grew up in Flushing, Queens, when it was like the classic "Benneton" ad -- totally mixed, my school friends and block friends were Puerto Ricans, Indians, Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, Irish, Russians... It was such that when I had to get a social security number, I didn't know what to put because I was so unconscious of my race (which is mixed, or other, it turned out).

Flushing is now mostly asian, from what I see, but since China, for one, is such a big country, I can imagine there must be quite a diversity of different Chinese and other Asians there. Change is change. I like Flushing as it is now, though I don't live there anymore. It's fun to visit. My old house is better maintained than when my parents owned it, for one! The garden is prettier. I think the new inhabitants have done a good job, just as good or bad as we did.

May. 04 2009 11:28 AM
Jesso from White Plains

I work in Washington Heights, and I get so tired of people kvetching about gentrification. Having gone to school there several years ago, and then coming back to teach, the change is amazing and, so far as I can tell, all to the advantage of the neighborhood. The ethnic mix of the community is still there -- Jews, Dominicans, etc. -- and so is Starbucks -- but what I've seen is that Starbucks has provided a number of jobs for people in the community, as well as a nice and safe place to read and talk and drink coffee. What's so wrong with that???

May. 04 2009 11:28 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

You want to talk about the "scariness" of change? Try growing as the only white Jewish kid in the Van Dyke housing projects in mid 1950s, and having to wear a yarmulke to boot. That can traumatize a kid, having to run up the back stairs of the Projects hoping to get into the apartment ASAP, and not to get ambushed on the way up. From 1949 to 2009, every formerly Jewish neighborhood I lived in became mostly black and brown. Now, some hassidic Jews have reclaimed a little territory because they huddle together in their new neighborhood ghettos.

May. 04 2009 11:27 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Mel [34] you just don't know what you are missing. It's called community and if people are not capable of greeting each other, how can there be a true sense of community -- other than to come out to protest against some new political cause? -- Which is not the same as saying good morning to a neighbor.

Gentrification is dozens of people sitting around a Starbucks and barely interacting. Yuck!

May. 04 2009 11:27 AM

23 -- most of us weren't around in 1600; and we can be sure this "idiotic" conversation was going on in 1672 as well.

That said, NYC has always been scrappy, lively, brilliant, and a bit dangerous.

For the first time it's not. Or not nearly what it always was. Emerging talent isn't as interested, for example. THAT'S the real topic I believe.

May. 04 2009 11:27 AM
Seth from Upper West Side

Wesley Snipes should pay his taxes! That would really help the neighborhood.

May. 04 2009 11:27 AM
Alex Andrews from Fort Greene

I am a white 28 year old male who moved to Fort Greene 3 years ago specifically to escape the kind of sanitized and racially homogeneous options I had in New York. When I moved here, I cherished the neighborhood feel and relationships I built with my neighbors. Over the last few years, I've seen the makeup change dramatically, and I must say, I hate it. The newcomers may look like me, but I have to say I don't really welcome them.

I wonder if the loss of community stems from the unwillingness by residents to embrace new arrivals, and the new arrivals subsequently feeling unwelcome and un-neighborly.

May. 04 2009 11:27 AM
adair from park slope

i miss the bohemian energy that the city used to have. it's too straight and squeaky clean now. losing it's soul to money and the need for "fancy."

May. 04 2009 11:26 AM
mozo from nyc

The sad truth is that nyc has been and continues to be a city that constantly goes through change. Every 30 years roughly one fifth of the five bouroughs is torn down and rebuilt. This has been consistent for the last 60 years. I was born, raised and live in nyc and will be leaving soon. Thomas Wolfe said it before: you can't go home again.

May. 04 2009 11:26 AM
blanca from manhattan

too many "urban professionals" don't realize they are gentry and contribute to displacement of the lower-waged locals.

nyc's poor, working class, indigenous are suffering a slow, insidious Katrina. we're being washed out along w/our culture, spirit, etc.

and once we're gone, we can't come back. what will the world look like w/o real new orleaners and real new yorkers?

be careful what you wish for when you vote for Bloomberg & his cronies.

May. 04 2009 11:25 AM
Andy from Brooklyn

I hate the corporatizing of the city as much as anyone else; but where does this concept of the city being built by the poor come from? Yes, physically constructed by the poor. But when you name landmarks of the city they are institutions of wealth usually, and only rarely humble neighborhood spots. It was _Breakfast at Tiffany's_, not _Breakfast at Grey's Papaya._

May. 04 2009 11:25 AM
KC from NYC

I think Rosie's critics have a problematic concept of "gentrification." My neighborhood is currently getting gentrified, and it doesn't need to be. As it ceases to be a coherent neighborhood, crime might well go up, not down, because the new young professionals are largely uninterested in community. They're mainly looking for condos that grant them easy access to Manhattan, and that's it.

May. 04 2009 11:25 AM
Sarita from Brooklyn

I really appreciate Rosie and Nelson weighing in on this issue. I live in Prospect Heights and work in East New York. The most disturbing part of "changes" is what doesn't change, and this is WHO is being pushed around, often pushed out of the very blocks and neighborhoods they worked to improve. It is always people of color, primarily Black and Latino people.

May. 04 2009 11:25 AM
Seth from Upper West Side

Nothing existed in Brooklyn until Nelson and Rosie and their families moved there! Oh brother.

May. 04 2009 11:25 AM
caroline from clinton hill

I moved to Clinton Hill a year ago from Manhattan. I have to say that the thing I love so much about living in Clinton Hill is the diversity and the sense of community. There are plenty of opportunities in both Clinon Hill and Fort Greene to become involved in sustaining the community and getting to know others who live there. I understand that the demographic and "Texture" of the community has changed over time, but I believe a great strength can be found in encouraging residents of these neighborhoods to take stake in them and build a coalition that defends the wonderful history and culture that exists here.

May. 04 2009 11:24 AM
Joe Burns from NJ

I really miss the good old days when I first moved to NYC '83. Howard Beach was really safe for instance...unless of course you weren't Italian.
And of course there was the African American friend of a friend who was greeted the day she moved into her new apartment in Greenpoint with a .38 to the temple and the explanation that "nothing personal, but she was just the wrong color and should move out today before she got hurt."
Why can't people just stay where they belong like they do in the Balkans or in Iraq. Who needs all this intermingling?

May. 04 2009 11:24 AM
Biding myTime

NO more street smarts, some parts of Brooklyn filled with Vics. Thanks for the Marble Countertops, Vics!

Seinfeldization (Friends even worse) -- totally apt comment.

May. 04 2009 11:24 AM
rick from brooklyn

I agree that gentrification has its downside, but this idea that bushwick and brownsville were safe neighborhoods is absurd! just go see the new movie Tyson to hear him talk about Brownsville in the 1970's.

May. 04 2009 11:24 AM
lucy from brooklyn, ny

i think it's important as brooklynites and brooklyn veterans, that we pass on and train the new-comers in a way, what it means to live in brooklyn. say hello to everyone even if it scares them.

May. 04 2009 11:24 AM
Elsie from Brooklyn

Although I wholeheartedly agree that Brooklyn and the city in general have lost large parts of its soul, I'm not sure why people have waited so long to point this out. This has been happening for well over ten years in full force, and I can't help but wonder why people are only now starting to speak out. When Guiliani started "cleaning up" the city, New Yorkers were openly happy even though it was clear that this cleaning up meant dislocation for many lower income and minority New Yorkers. Bloomberg has only made things worse by openly wooing millionaires/billionaires into the city at the expense of making the city livable for middle and working class New Yorkers who have been shoved out. You don't need to be a sociologist to know that people with money aren't interested in community, they're interested in maintaining their investments. I only wish that New Yorkers who sold their brownstones to the highest bidder would have thought a little more about the importance of maintaining community, rather than lining their pockets. The result: the city is a hollow shell of bankers, tourists and rich kids posing as artists. The truth: New Yorkers have no one to blame for this but themselves.

May. 04 2009 11:24 AM
Theresa from Brooklyn

I grew up in a boring Brooklyn neighborhood, and still live in the same boring Brooklyn neighborhood-- and I have no desire for it to become "exciting," "hip" and "happening." That's my big fear. I appreciated the safe place to grow up and work in dignity, and I want to grow old that way.

May. 04 2009 11:24 AM
Seth from Upper West Side

Nostalgia will kill us all. In 25 years what will the W-Burg hipster's babies remember? And who cares? Not all the change is good and not all is bad.

Gee whiz, aren't there people who know their neighbors and block associations still in existence? I love Rosie, but what exactly is the point of all this? This discussion is all over the place. New York City changes every decade? Wow! Stop the presses!

And dude (caller), what about the Spkie Lee-ization of Brooklyn. He's had a part in that, too!

May. 04 2009 11:23 AM
Darius from Prospect Heights

Ha it's not just the Seinfeldization of the city, it's also the Sex in the City-ification.

May. 04 2009 11:23 AM
inquisigal from Brooklyn

I used to live in Fort Greene - not nearly as long as Rosie and Nelson - but arrived there when it was not a "destination" neighborhood. Two things strike me as a reason why people knew each other more then a). there were very few places to go (restaurants, coffee shops) and the general age of the population was more mixed. When you live in a 'hood where there's not much going on, more people go to the few places that exist (like in my current neighborhood, south Bed-Stuy, we have one restaurant, Peaches). Also, maybe this is "ageist," but older people (35+) tend to be more friendly and interact with their neighbors, because they are there for the long haul, perhaps own property, and have an active interest in their neighborhood.

Fort Greene today is much more filled with younger transients, and there are so many places to go, the opportunity to "get to know" everyone is difficult.

May. 04 2009 11:23 AM
bruce from Williamsburg

I think one of the striking things about the gentrification in Williamsburg is that the hipsters/arrivestas do not really embrace the old Italian restaurants and shops that have been there for decades. You essentially have two neighborhoods - the older community that still get their coffee and pastries from Fortunato Brothers or eat in one of the old Italian restaurants and then the new people who have imported their own scenester havens restaurants, bars, and yoga parlors. It makes me wonder why they moved to the neighborhood to begin with.

May. 04 2009 11:23 AM
mel from brooklyn

And people say they are being pushed out of their neighborhoods but where do people think these "newcomers" are coming from? They are coming from neighborhoods THEY got pushed out of by wealthier people.

May. 04 2009 11:23 AM
mary from brooklyn

As a child I went to PS107 and PS 321 and lived primarily throughout Park Slope and for a year in Windsor Terrace. We were out-priced in 1980.

My mother was, at one point, able to rent in Park Slope as a single mother who waitressed to support us (without child support). When school let out, I could go into any store on the street - the sometimes open gem shop, the falafal stand, the lesbian bookstore- if I was bored or felt threatened.

Decades later, when I visit, it is apparent that Park Slope continues to be racially mixed but economically, purely upper class.

Where does a kid get susan b. anthony paper dolls? What old guy can have a gem shop he opens on rainy days? Where can a latch-key kid duck in for a favor among safe neighborhood storekeepers?

Furthermore, my ma used to take me to Washington square Park to disco dance in a huge crowd of dancers with tight satin pants and vibrating boomboxes. I was six. I was reminiscing in graduate school about this. The head of my department, an artist who has lived on the square for decades, snapped about how that impacted her "quality of life." The class-based tension is apparent here.

May. 04 2009 11:23 AM
Erin from Fort Greene

Nelson is taking a much more nuanced approach to change in Brooklyn and FG than Rosie, and I appreciate that.

In the four years I've lived in FG, I've come to know my neighbors very well. Sometimes it's hard to get off the block when folks are out, everyone wants to chat. People ring my doorbell to remind me to move my car or offer a parking spot; kids flow back and forth between houses all weekend, etc. Wherever they happen to be at dinnertime is where they eat!

My daughter's bedroom looks onto the Williamsburg Bank tower, and we watch the sunsets every day, have dozens of pictures already.

I love Brooklyn and ADORE Fort Greene. Someday, I will be nostalgic for these days...

May. 04 2009 11:22 AM
mel from brooklyn

Boy, this is a tired old argument for those of us who live in Ft Greene/Clinton Hill. I've heard the "newcomers don't say hello" complaint a lot. I think that's really silly. It doesn't matter to me if people say hello as long as my neighbors are decent people.

May. 04 2009 11:22 AM

Your guests need to understand that for better or worse they are also gentrifiers. I'd love to get a nice place in Clinton Hill, but I can't afford to because well off people like Rosie have contributed to higher prices. Nelson who moved to Ft. Greene in 1985 was at the forefront of that neighborhood's change, not an innocent bystander.

May. 04 2009 11:22 AM
oscar from greenpoint

Growing up in Greenpoint for the last 30 yrs, I have seen alot of change, mainly in housing prices and the Gentrification of the neighborhood. Tall highrise condo's with doorman, Expensive shops and chain stores are movin. the local flavor of the neighborhood has change thanks to the hipsters.

May. 04 2009 11:21 AM
Nick from NYC

Common thread for it all... real estate, surprise, surprise...

Yet, nothing is done to enforce even the existing laws on the books to protect tenants.

When I moved out of the East Village my $850 monthly rent was increased to the next tenant to $1500... and this has probably happened a few times over now.

The DHCR is an eviscerated, ineffective enforcement agency, and I've yet to hear Bloomberg pretend to care about maintaining tenant's rights.

May. 04 2009 11:21 AM

You don't have to go to Brooklyn to see the "Manhattanization" of a neighborhood. Just look at the north side of W. 3rd St., for one, to see what once was a neighborhood replaced by NYU's hideous skyscrapers.

NYU's anschluss of the Villages isn't slowing down, either. Entire neighborhoods now are occupied by 4-year-residents between ages of 18-22. It's horrendous.

May. 04 2009 11:21 AM
MichaelB from Morningside Heights

Rosie is right on target. Everytime someone describes a restaurant or place to go or be seen as "cool", a neighborhood loses another piece of its soul.

Real neighborhoods don't need the impriamtur of "cool." That's what gentrification and gentrifier enablers are all about -- the need for "cool."

May. 04 2009 11:20 AM
Dan Carlson

They present no solutions to their "problem".

NYC is about change.

Their main complaint seems to be that people aren't nice - the new people in Fort Greene. That's hard to legislate.

May. 04 2009 11:20 AM
antonio from the mean streats of park slope

Having observed gentrification in Hell's Kitchen (that's where I am from), I feel like at least the shoppes that moved into 5th avenue in the slope are part of the hood..
What happened in HK seems kind of touristy and seems an extension of broadway.

May. 04 2009 11:20 AM
James from Brooklyn

Whether it's 5 years ago or 20 years ago, I think there's a tendency to consider one's own starting point in a neighborhood as the "original" version of the neighborhood, and the present neighborhood as the "fallen" version. The implication is, gentrification (or whatever you call it - change, etc.) started about 6 months after I moved in, whenever that was.

May. 04 2009 11:20 AM
Neil Kernis from Queens

I don't like the one-sidedness of this conversation. Everyone bemoans gentrification, and it's easy to do so, but when Ms. Perez romanticizes the "immigrant enclave," she's suggesting that ghettoization of immigrants and other groups is a better option. Immigrant enclaves tend not to survive not because of gentrification, but rather because the children of immigrants see the world beyond their block and set out for better opportunities. The death of community, figuratively and literally, is far more complex than she makes it out to be.

May. 04 2009 11:20 AM
Jessica from Manhattan

Businesses that move into neighborhoods where hi-rise developments go in are not organically connected to the local economy of the neighborhood. They make the neighborhoods less flexible in an economic downturn further undermining the community.

May. 04 2009 11:20 AM
Telegram Sam from Staten Island

This discussion is idiotic. Look at the history of NYC from the 1600s and the only constant is constant change.

May. 04 2009 11:20 AM
Jeff Putterman from Queens

The problem is that developers pay off our sorry greedy politicians, who then gut zoning regulations. And we end up with neighborhoods destroyed.

That is why Jackson Heights is so cool. (Don't tell anyone, as we don't need to be gentrified!!!)

May. 04 2009 11:19 AM
cindy from clinton hill

How about the way some of the new parents in the neighborhood are working to improve PS 11--raising money, etc...???

May. 04 2009 11:19 AM
Lisa from CT

I grew up on the upper westside (95 & Columbus) in the 80's. It was a great racial and economically mixed neighborhood with a strong community feel. We played outside and all of the parents and business owners knew us and looked out for us. They told our parents when we were up to no good. The older neighborhood kids who would now be seen as unwelcome gang members, made sure we younger kids got home safely if it was late. There were tennis courts and playgrounds within the buildings that we freely moved between (all gone now). Central Park was our backyard. We lived there for 30 years. Years after graduating from grad school and getting married, we tried to move back into the neighborhood and were totally priced out. The sad thing is I feel like "our" community made that neighborhood great and as people discovered it and moved in, it became gentrified and people who were of that community became outsiders.

May. 04 2009 11:19 AM
dp from Brooklyn

New transplants can reinforce existing culture. I'm from another state and moved to Brooklyn 10 years ago. My transplant friends and I play bocce with a bunch of older neighborhood guys, who are really happy that younger folks are interested in their tradition. Their local descendents are just not interested. Our experience of the neighborhood has definitely been made stronger and more meaningful by hanging out with, and eventually being accepted buy these guys.

May. 04 2009 11:19 AM
J from Sunset Park, Brooklyn

35 years ago, Boreum Hill, Brooklyn, was an unknown pocket neighborhood tucked in between Cobble Hill and the Gowanus projects. Locals were lower income, Hispanic, black, and a handful of artist "pioneers" (to which my parents belonged). The neighborhood is definitely richer and whiter now--old crack houses now condos and co-ops, frilly boutiques and french bistros dot smith street, once home to bodegas and Latin social clubs. Do I mind? Well, I can't afford to live in the neighborhood I grew up in, and that makes me sad and not just a little bitter. Mom, though, still keeps it real on Wyckoff Street. Sigh.

May. 04 2009 11:18 AM
Gary Brubaker from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

I live in Clinton Hill/Fort Greene, and I think she's right on some things but when I walk in my neighborhood I say hello and talk with my neighbors. Some respond, and others not. It's a question that is up to the individual, not the community at large.

May. 04 2009 11:17 AM
Andy from Brooklyn

Brian, what do you mean by "old style?" Name a neighborhood in NYC that has remained at all the same (same predominant ethnic group, same predominant business community, etc) for more than a few decades.

May. 04 2009 11:16 AM
JohnG from Manhattan

I grew up in West Harlem and Washington Heights, in the 60s and 70s. I am not happy with what Giuliani and Bloomberg are up to in Manhattan either.
I'm not against change, but many of the yuppies and hipsters who are moving in, have no interest in participating in neighborhood life; they just want to live in a "hip" neighborhood.
Gentrification has killed everything that makes a neighborhood a neighborhood.

May. 04 2009 11:16 AM
Jessica from Manhattan

I think the biggest problem is that developers now have such control over the evolution of neighborhoods. When you have the city giving developers incentives to build highrises and expensive housing you prevent the possibility of community surviving. You can see this all over manhattan too.

May. 04 2009 11:16 AM
Mary from Westchester County

I grew up in the 70's in Westchester county. I live here still. the woods I grew up in are now a Corporate "Park", built by developer Capelli, we completely lost our woods. we also can't walk across the top of the beautiful Kensico Dam anymore b/c it is closed b/c of terrorist concerns after Sept. 11th. I also can't pull out of my driveway anymore b/c my friendly neighbors all moved out b/c they could not afford Westchester anymore and my new unfriendly neighbors don't even have the courtesy to stop and let me pull out of my driveway (I live on a busy street). urgh. I miss my old town (Hamlet of Valhalla, Town of Mt. Pleasant, Westchester County, NY). I'm a native and 4th generation Westchester-ite and it has sadly changed.

May. 04 2009 11:16 AM
eastvillage from nyc

Transients! This is the real problem. The city has become too transient. The new arrivals are paying huge amounts for rents, doubling and tripling up, and they do not stay. The amazing increase in university housing also has eliminated apartments for people who want to stay here for the long term. Middle class houseing, be it co-op/condos and just plain old rentals has dried up.

May. 04 2009 11:16 AM
Anne from Manhattan

Do native New Yorkers think they're so special that a shift in their home town is unique to them? I grew up in Asheville, NC - before the rest of the country discovered how great it is. It changed from a sweet, rural town to a booming haven for hipsters. Asheville is completely different different now. I hardly recognize it.

This is happening everywhere. Deal with it.

May. 04 2009 11:14 AM
bernard josephoseph from brooklyn

remember the chuck d. line-"got jumped by the brothers in ft.greene?"
yeah, it's good to feel nostalgic about those days. what a bunch of hogwash these people are spewing.

May. 04 2009 11:14 AM
Mike from BedSty

I have lived in BK for 13 yrs coming from South Ozone Park in Queens. I gone from heavy drug dealing, dice games, contact smoke and no services to services lower drug dealing and no dice games and less chicken bones on the sidewalk. My kids can now play in front of my house and we are African Americans, whats the problem? Things change nothing remains the same.

May. 04 2009 11:14 AM
Waldo from Manhattan

Each ethnic group moves to the suburbs as they wend their way into the middle class -- 'Twas ever thus. Then the yuppies move in. Then you get the cheese shops and coffee places. It's NY -- get over it.

May. 04 2009 11:13 AM
Darius from Prospect Heights

I grew up in Prospect Heights and as Park Slope expanded (money-wise) it consumed the Latino community along 5th Ave in Bklyn. Now Prospect Heights has a bunch of ugly glass and steel (and expensive) luxury condos that clearly don't fit in: financially and aesthetically.

I grew up in Prospect Heights and knew all the kids in the neighborhood but it's becoming too expensive for Brooklynites. We're not Manhattanites!

May. 04 2009 11:13 AM
Laura from Brooklyn

I grew up in the East Village in Manhattan in the 1970's and 80's. When I was growing up, Basquiat opened in a gallery around the corner, the Rolling Stones were filming a video on the bar on the corner,we could get Kielbasa from the Polish butcher on our block and eggs from "Just Eggs" - a storefront on 9th St open only on Thursdays, serving eggs from a farm in Jersey.

Now? It's just a playground for drunken NYU students and suburban kids. The artists and tradition ethnic groups (Puerto Rican, Ukrainian, Polish) have all been way priced out, and it's lost it's soul.

May. 04 2009 11:12 AM
the truth from bkny

My neighborhood is different than when I grew up there. Totally "gentrified" now. It probably would not have made a difference because we received our life lessons from our parents and immediate family not from external influences or the buildings surrounding the neighborhood.

May. 04 2009 11:11 AM
rick from brooklyn

you can tell by her accent that Rosie is not from Ft. Greene. Why have her 15 minutes lasted beyond 1989 and "do the right thing"? she is not clever or interesting at all.

May. 04 2009 11:10 AM

I came to Harlem from Guyana in 1976 and have never imagined living anywhere else in this country until recently. Now I absolutely despise the neighborhood. Its mostly about the people who make it intolerable. The crack epidemic caused a lot of absentee parents and now the kids of those parents have grown up and there is no supervision of them. Wearing their pants hanging off their behinds, their language and general demeanor. I find it very depressing and can't wait to get out!!!!

May. 04 2009 11:09 AM

Neutering of 718/212 sure has improved the gene pool of 201/908!

May. 04 2009 11:01 AM
Lynne Grifo from Temporarily living in New Jersey!!!

35+ years ago Cobble Hill, where I grew up, was just beginning to gentrify. The ethnic residents (Italian American, Irish American, Puerto Rican) called the new folks "Beatniks" and they brought culture and diversity which I appreciated even as a kid. I learned only 30 years later that one of my street playmates grew up to be Spike Lee! Cobble Hill was slated for Urban Renewal then but was saved by the efforts of local residents to get landmark status.
Changes: The area is lovely and looks much the same. My Catholic grammar school was turned into co-ops years ago. When I tried to find an apartment in Cobble Hill in the late 1990s I discovered to my dismay that even earning a good salary I could not afford to rent a nice apartment there. I wonder how much ethnic diversity there is now?

May. 04 2009 10:56 AM

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