If you tuned in to CNN anytime yesterday or last night, the “big” topic of discussion was director Spike Lee’s swear word laced tirade about the gentrification of black communities in Harlem and other communities in Brooklyn, where he grew up and where his parents still live.

But it’s not the same neighborhood he grew up in, and his feelings about newcomers now inhabiting once-blighted parts of America’s most-populous city slapped many people in the face after the famed director went into his rant during an African-American History Month lecture on Tuesday.

“I grew up here in New York. It’s changed,” Lee said at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, an art, design, and architecture school.  “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 mother******* day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. … 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.”

Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy and planning at New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service, said the city has witnessed an enormous recovery since 2001, and the greatest change has been felt in Brooklyn, which has drawn newcomers because of its housing, access to Manhattan and improved safety.  “Cities don’t stand still, and the cities that stand still are Detroit,” Moss said. “So if Spike Lee wants to see a place where there is no gentrification, he’ll also find a place where there are no investments.

He added: “Brooklyn has become more attractive to more people. Of course, that means some people are going to have to find other places to live, but that’s the magic of New York. We create new places. Today, Bushwick, which was an area that people were afraid to go to, now has some of the best restaurants in the city.

On Wednesday, Lee said that he’s not against new people moving into areas that were once predominantly poor and predominantly African-American.  “My problem is that when you move into a neighborhood, have some respect for the history, for the culture,” Lee said.

He gave the examples of people playing drums in Mount Morris Park, a tradition he said lasted 40 years until the new residents complained.  Lee said his father, “a great jazz musician,” bought a brownstone 46 years ago.  “And the mother******’ people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He’s not — he doesn’t even play electric bass. It’s acoustic. We bought the mother******’ house in 1968, and now you call the cops? In 2013?”

According to a New York Times article, police have received 17 noise complaints. The Times said a woman who lived next door had called most.

Lee lamented that Fort Greene Park in the morning resembled the Westminster Dog Show with hip dogs and that real estate brokers and “mother******* hipsters” conspired to change the names of neighborhoods like the South Bronx to SoBro or Bushwick to East Williamsburg.

“So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better?” Lee asked. “Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!”

Gentrification is a shift in an urban community toward wealthier residents and/or businesses and increasing property values sometimes to the detrimentof the poorer residents of the community. Gentrification is typically the result of investment in a community by local government, community activists, or business groups, and can often spur economic development, attract business, lower crime rates, and have other benefits to a community. Despite these potential benefits, urban gentrification is perceived to result in population migration, with poorer residents displaced by wealthier newcomers.

In a community undergoing gentrification, the average income increases and average family size decreases. Poorer pre-gentrification residents who are unable to pay increased rents or property taxes may be driven out. Often old industrial buildings are converted to residences and shops. New businesses, which can afford increased commercial rent, cater to a more affluent base of consumers—further increasing the appeal to higher income migrants and decreasing the accessibility to the poorer residents.

My only question to people like Spike Lee is that if his rant about gentrification was valid, then it would seem true for the reverse, where people of lower economic worth would move into a higher economic neighborhood and ultimately diminish its standard of living.  But blacks would find that idea to be racist, because how dare we stop blacks or other persons of color the right to move into predominantly white neighborhoods.

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