A New Yorker, while crossing the street, is blocked by a car trying to make a right turn. "Jersey driver!" he shouts at the confused driver. This cliché scene has the ironic twist that the New Yorker is a recent colonizer from the Midwest and the "Jersey driver" is a native New Yorker who was forced by economic conditions to move to a less desirable part of Rahway, New Jersey.
To add salt to the injury, the recent implant is a six figure salaried tech hipster and the “Jersey Driver” is a working class NYC MTA worker who now has to spend hours getting to work so that the hipsters could have a working subway system.
Yes, people who are born and raised in the boroughs of New York City are feeling the tinge of disrespect in their own city in more ways than one.
For instance, movie director Spike Lee was targeted by some of the new New Yorkers when his father’s home in Fort Greene, Brooklyn was vandalized with spray paint with the words “Do the Right Thing.” This was in response to Spike Lee making headlines when he spoke at a black history event at Pratt University calling the new residents of his old hood "m...f... hipsters." He angrily responded to an audience member and told about how his father, who had lived in his Forte Green brownstone since 1968, had the cops called on him by an agitated neighbor for disturbing the peace because he played his acoustic bass in his own home. Lee's father is a jazz musician.
Using a heavy dose of profanity, Lee complained that the hipsters who moved into his old neighborhood were disrespecting the black culture. In addition he mentioned that the tradition of musicians and drummers jamming in the Fort Greene Park was stopped by a local ordinance because the new residents - i.e. hipsters - did not like it.
One wonders why the new residents of Fort Greene are trying to create a suburban life within the confines of an urban environment. Yet, this may be the future of the American city – little suburbia in the hood. In an AC 360 interview Spike Lee told Anderson Cooper that “there has to be a whole rethinking about what cities are going to be in the United States of America.” (Interview can be found here)
There was an immediate backlash to Spike Lee’s comments due to the racial overtones of his rant. Twitter, Facebook, and comment boards were jammed with posts by irate hipsters. The Daily News quickly came out with an article entitled “Brooklyn residents don't appreciate Spike Lee's rants on gentrification.”
Among the offended was Marina Rutherford, a young 25 year old restaurant owner from an upper class neighborhood in the Hamptons and a recent resident of Fort Greene who retorted, “I don’t see a negative in cleaning up a neighborhood.”
Fort Greene was a black neighborhood that is now increasingly upper class white. The old residents are certainly being cleaned out.
This article is the first part of series on gentrification.