Here is a playlist of the interviews we conducted among random residents of Fort Greene regarding the state of the neighborhood, the changes they see, and the reason they live here. All interviewees were told that their dialogues would be used in the making of this website. They were also told that no images or identifications would be disclosed, but small descriptions of their appearances may be broadcasted.
Nalena’s Interview Analysis
Overview of Interviews
All nine of the interviews came from people in the park to get a diverse sample group. The interviews centered on variations of these questions:
- How long have you lived in the area?
- Have you seen a change from when you first moved into Fort Greene?
- What area did you move from? And if possible, can you explain why?
- What was the appeal to this neighborhood?
- Are you and your surrounding neighbors friendly? Do you know their names?
- Have you seen any form of positive community experiences or bonding? If so, when and what? I.e. Community gardens. If not, why do you think you haven’t?
- Are you familiar with the history of this neighborhood? (for example, the stereotype of drugs and poverty).
The demographic of the people we interviewed varied, from older African American women to college Caucasian males. We tried to focus on gentrification without leading or making any assumptions during the interview process. The focal point of all interviews was the change of the neighborhood the past couple of years, more so for those who had lived in the neighborhood for along period of time. There were two specific interviews that stood out from the rest, one from a young white male (Interview 7) and the other being from an older biracial couple (Interview 9) who have lived in the neighborhood since 1971. Both seem well informed in the gentrification process, as if they were tailored perfectly for our project. The young male made a particular comment, “exuberant rent affects all people” and he proceeded by saying not only are the original residents being affected but “the artist and journalist are too because not everyone works on Wall Street”. Through the way he was speaking it can be presumed that he was an artist or lower income person, if not, he is the first white collar man to speak about gentrification negatively. This comment automatically reminded of a conversation we had in class referring to one of the readings. Particularly how the process of gentrification begins, young artist, journalist, essentially free lance workers, and lower income people being attracted to a neighborhood for its low rent to then get pushed out. Without realizing it, he began the involuntary system of me labeling every interviewee. I automatically assumed he was some sort of freelance worker, by the irritation in his voice when speaking about those moving in and the price of living affecting everyone.
I later met an elder biracial couple that I labeled as the older residents whom were known to be selling there homes for an expensive price, yet complain about the change in neighborhood when they are essentially inviting the change through realty development. The man was African American and the woman was Caucasian, they live in a coble stone three family home. They spoke about how when they first purchased their home it was for almost 1/3 of the price of what it is currently worth, though the women was hesitant to talk about the current price. My label was proven correct when they stated how one of their friends who had lived in the neighborhood for years along side they sold their brownstone for over 5 million dollars, after instantly regretting telling us the price. They had the longest interview, spanning for around 12 minutes, with content about fort Greene’s history along with personal stories. One interesting story about “back in the day” when the self proclaimed business men selling stolen auto parts and setting up tables in Fort Green park over due to the lack of police. The couple was also a large part in Fort Greene’s history, admitting to protesting against the building of the Barclay Center and giving us names and locations of stores that has closed down prior to the construction. The pivotal part of their interview was the reference they gave us, there daughter, who wrote a piece on the gentrification of Fort Greene for the magazine The Brooklyn Rail. The piece gives an in depth look into the chances of forth Greene from a first person perspective of a biracial women. The factor of her nationality allowing her to speak on the cultural issues that have ensued after gentrification.
Overall, the interviews were informative and confirmed the obvious, there is a change occurring in the neighborhood. However, it also gave us a look into more controversial topics of how those watching the neighborhood feel verses those being apart of the change. Christopher Columbus syndrome seemed to prevalent in a majority of the interviews as well as underlining racism that people were hesitant to admit to, regardless of which ethnicity it was directed towards. Through the interviews you can also see the difference in what is considered best for the community, which though not entirely based on Cultural preference, culture and economic status are factors in people’s opinions. Newcomers with a higher income living in the high rise apartments tend to say that the changes are positive and increase safety. People who have been in the neighborhood for a while (such as the Asian women and biracial couple) say that the changes may bring favorable outcomes, there are also adverse results. Some of the negative results being that friends and long time residents are being pushed out of the area due to rising rent and the change in stores coincide with the inflates prices of food and other products
Fort Greene and The Barclays Center Interviews
When traveling to Fort Greene to conduct interviews, I made a point to ensure that the individuals that I was interviewing were residents of the Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Additionally, I made sure that the residents of Fort Greene that I interviewed were of different status background. The socio-economic background of the residents interviewed was either working or middle-class and I interviewed one Caucasian male, two African American men, and one African American woman. In total, I interviewed a wealthy, white middle class man, an older working class African American man, and a young African American couple.
The white middle class man who I interviewed told me that he was currently living in one of the recently constructed high-rise apartment buildings on DeKalb Avenue. The man said that he had “recently moved in to the apartment building because it was a very nice apartment and was only a couple of stops away from his job.” On the other hand, the older African American man who I interviewed said that he also lives on DeKalb Avenue, but the rent where he lives is not quite as high the new high-rise apartment building, but still demands a decent, well-paying job. He said “I have lived here since I was a little kid and my home has been in my family for decades.” Similarly, the other individuals that I spoke to were a young African American couple who said “we were both born and raised in Brooklyn, and have lived here our whole lives. We recently decided that we would move in together into a brownstone apartment on Myrtle Avenue.”
When I asked these residents of Fort Greene about the recent gentrification and changes in their neighborhood, three of out of the four interviewees said that they have seen a rise in the price of rent and a corresponding rise in the cost of living in Fort Greene. The interviewee who was unable to comment on it was the white middle-class man because he has only lived in the neighborhood for just under a year, but he did say that: “the rent and cost of living in my apartment building is expensive.” He went on to say: “I was able to afford the expensive apartment because my job pays very well.” Conversely, the young African American couple told me that: “the rent of the apartment that we just moved into is definitely more expensive than the rent of our old homes in similar areas of Brooklyn. They said that the rent they had to pay in order to live in their old homes before they moved in together were cheaper and more affordable than that of their new home.
Unfortunately, for many of the couples and families such as they who have been in living in Fort Greene, Brooklyn for decades if not generations, the cost of living of Fort Green is only on the rise as a result of gentrification. Consequently, many of these long-time, lower income residents living if Fort Greene have been forced to move and leave their homes because of the rising cost of living. This ongoing gentrification will only continue to displace lower income residents from their homes in Fort Greene. On the other hand, higher income individuals, such as the white middle-class man living in a high-rise building that I interviewed, have ultimately benefitted from this ongoing gentrification of Fort Greene. He told me that “I am very happy with my new home” and went on to add that “It is a good, safe neighborhood, and I don’t have to worry about transportation because the train is only a couple of blocks away from my apartment and my job is only a couple of stops and a short walk from the nearby train station.”
Three out of the four individuals that I interviewed told me that the recent gentrification had a largely negative effect on their area. Although most of the individuals I interviewed generally spoke well of and enjoy living in Fort Greene, many were not fond of the gentrification occurring in their neighborhood and the resulting construction of new high-rise buildings and the renovation of expensive housing. When I asked them about the opening of the Barclays Center, the people I interviewed mostly responded negatively about it. In particular, the young couple I interviewed, expressed their dissatisfaction with the eminence of the Barclays Center because of the largely negative effect they believe it has on Fort Greene. They argued that the rise of the Barclays Center area typically attracts loud, large crowds, therefore, disrupting the previously quieter nature of the area Although more importantly, they stated that “the growth of the Barclays Center area supports large business, while forcing out smaller businesses and displacing many of the working class residents of Fort Greene who live close to the Barclays Center; because the majority of them are unable to afford this new high cost of living.”
In the interviews I conducted at Fort Greene, one requirement I set for myself was to interview residents of Fort Greene. While questioning my subjects, I mainly focused on the basics of gentrification, asking basic questions like “How has gentrification affected Fort Greene?” and “How has the culture of Fort Greene changed?” The three people I interviewed was a Black woman approximately in her 40s who has lived in Fort Greene for approximately 30 years, a Caucasian male, and an elderly Black male. While interviewing the Caucasian male approximately in his 30s, he was a resident of Fort Greene for about 2 year and he had been in a few other neighborhoods. The surprising thing about his interview was his opinion on gentrification. He sternly declared that it had a negative effect on the neighborhood and stated that increasing rent was oppressive. An interesting thought that came to my mind would be Spike’s opinions on this particular individual. While they both agree that gentrification is bad for the neighborhood, Lee would probably view the interviewee as part of the problem. (Interview 2) In my next interview, the woman that I interviewed was on her way home from work. Despite her youthful appearance, she had been resident of Fort Greene for approximately 30 years. She was pretty apathetic about Fort Greene, not really knowing what made it special. She was unable to answer why she lived in Fort Greene. Like Spike Lee, she is also a longtime resident of Fort Greene. However, she does not have share the same pride of the culture and neighborhood that Spike has. (Interview 5) In my final interview, I interviewed an elderly man walking in the park. He was one of the lucky ones to own his brownstone home when they still went for extremely cheap prices. However, he did tell me about the times that he watched several of his past neighbors sell their houses and move to the South. The experience this man has described to me is the exact same scenario that Spike gives in his infamous rant on why gentrification is bad. (Not recorded)
Fort Greene, like all neighborhoods, is an area that has undergone change. From interviewing its residents, I got the idea that, in terms of safety, Fort Greene has a history of a roller coaster of change: from its poverty and drug ridden history to its era of gentrification. One resident, a black woman, opined that the neighborhood was “rough” in the past and “people did not want to move [to Fort Greene].” She believes that since then, Fort Greene has had a positive turn-around with the advent of new businesses and people. Her image of the “old Fort Greene” can still be seen as she has “isolation Old buildings were removed and replaced with these new expensive complexes. An influx of new people came to Fort Greene bringing with them new businesses and an overall new identity of Fort Greene. When talking to the residents most have called this change in Fort Greene positive. However, many of the interviewees still cited the dangers of the neighborhood. One resident, an Asian lady who lives in public housing and has been a resident for 4 years, explained that she comes home at midnight from school and “it’s so scary over here,” and another immediately pointed out “Murder Ave” (Myrtle Ave) when we asked him about the neighborhood’s safety. Some residents talked about an increase in the police presence, while some others still wanted more of a presence from the authorities. These two residents live closer to the housing projects where crime is more prevalent.
When asked why they moved to Fort Greene, aside from the available transportation, many of the interviewees used the cost of living as an incentive. They moved out of various parts of New York due to the rise in rent. At the time Fort Greene was the most cost effective. However, one Caucasian resident, who lives south of Fort Greene Park, (he moved around much throughout his life) talked about how everyone is ”pressured to make money” to be able to maintain their residency in Fort Greene, as “exorbitant rent” is a present issue. He talks about how “a lot of people are struggling.” This is understandable since the neighborhood is gentrifying and trying to raise the standard of living.
Overall, Fort Greene has a history of somewhat of a roller coaster of change. The neighborhood was “dangerous” and “scary” but then got better, but is still unsafe in some parts. People moved to Fort Greene because it was affordable, but now feel the pressure of rising rents and the overall cost of living. Those who live near the Walt Whitman Housing Projects are more concerned with the level of police presence. However those who live farther south from the park, away from the housing projects, are more concerned with monetary issues than safety. This difference in priorities is a prime example of the socioeconomic split that is prevalent in Fort Greene.