Gentrification Rant By Spike Lee Raises Eyebrows, Stirs Debate in NYC

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Film director and New York City native Spike Lee went off on an expletive-filled rant against gentrification in the nation's biggest metro area this week.

Lee grew up in the Ft. Greene, Brooklyn, where his parents still live.


In response to a question at an African American History Month lecture Tuesday at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, the 56-year-old film great said:

"Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers into the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Brown Heights, for the facilities to get better?"

Explaining this quote, he told Anderson Cooper, "My problem is, when you move into a neighborhood, have some respect for the history, for the culture."

To stay a great city, Lee said NYC needs more affordable housing.

He also offered these choice, NSFW quotes on the subject ...

  • "The garbage wasn't picked up every (expletive) day when I was living in 165 Washington Park."
  • "Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It's like the (expletive) Westminster Dog Show."
  • "Then comes the (expletive) Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can't discover this. We been here. You just can't come and bogart."
  • (Renters) can't even afford (expletive) (expletive) Williamsburg now because of (expletive) hipsters."

In a response to the controversial, racially charged remarks, Joshua Greenman, who is white and lives in Brooklyn, called Spike Lee's rant "ignorant."

"The phenomenon he decries is mostly innocuous, inevitable and, in a diverse and economically dynamic city, healthy," Greenman writes in the N.Y. Daily News.

Greenman pointed to studies that demonstrate how gentrification is actually good for long-time residents because businesses and services improve.

Like Lee, though, he pointed to the need for affordable housing.

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