Saturday, May 28, 2011

As his finishes his film Brooklyn Boheme, filmmaker and writer Nelson George will leave Fort Greene; one spur is the opening of the arena

Update 8/27/11: George says he is not, in fact, leaving.

A 4/28/11 Wall Street Journal profile of writer and filmmaker Nelson George, Artist Films a Farewell to His Home: Nelson George Looks Back to a Time When Fort Greene Spilled Over With Talent, describes George's work on a documentary on black creative folk titled Brooklyn Boheme:
Within a few years, Mr. George found himself surrounded by cutting-edge African-American artists and performers. He soon became an editor at Billboard magazine and a columnist for the Village Voice. In the years since, he has published 15 books and a number of screenplays, and directed several films. He cited Fort Greene's proximity to Manhattan as well as its superior architecture and, in the 1980s, affordable prices—the result of a once-affluent, culturally rich area having fallen on hard times in the 1970s—for the rapid evolution of the community. "[Author] Carl Hancock Rux moved into a duplex apartment for $350 and his landlord asked him if he could recommend the other vacant units to his friends," Mr. George said. "You could buy a house for a hundred thousand."
Escaping the arena

Now George is leaving the neighborhood:
His own impending move is motivated primarily by the opening of the Barclay's Center, which will house the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets of the NBA. Citing the population density and traffic that it will bring, he said, "the DNA of the area will change profoundly; it will be the end of this era of the neighborhood."
But it's not just the arena. George has previously expressed his concerns about gentrification, writing in the Times in April 2009:
I’ve been gentrified, and while I’m not as mad as hell, I’m not entirely comfortable as an artsy, graying black man of 51 when I walk the streets of the neighborhood where I’ve lived half my life.

...And the neighborhood became the centerpiece of this black alternative vision precisely because it was a place where many whites were afraid to go.
Asked, at a panel that month, about the future of Fort Greene a decade hence, “I’m not certain,” George responded. “If they build a sports arena, and they build those other things, I think it will change the nature of the neighborhood. You can’t build a sports arena and not have fast food restaurants, not have souvenir shops, not have strip clubs.”

So far, the changes seem focused on Flatbush Avenue and Pacific Street, but the arena is still more than a year away.

George is no new critic of the arena; he's a member of the Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn Advisory Board, which made a splash when inaugurated in 2006 but which is essentially dormant.

2 comments:

  1. Inevitably there's 'collateral damage' when a project of this size lands on a neighborhood. It's sad. As a newcomer to BKLYN not sure I have standing to weight in on Atlantic Yards. I've had the opportunity to see a cut of Black Boheme (or is it Brooklyn Boheme?). The film will be - it's still a work in progress - very good. Hard to see it without an appreciation of what Fort Greene was...Encourage all to keep an eye out for it when it releases...

    Perry Schaffer

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  2. It's Brooklyn Boheme, now corrected, tks.

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