On the podcast, The City discusses the intersections of race, class, and redevelopment in Brooklyn, New York with My Brooklyn filmmaker Allison Lirish Dean. In the filmmakers’ own words:
My Brooklyn is a documentary about Director Kelly Anderson’s personal journey, as a Brooklyn “gentrifier,” to understand the forces reshaping her neighbourhood along lines of race and class. The story begins when Anderson moves to Brooklyn in 1988, lured by cheap rents and bohemian culture. By Michael Bloomberg’s election as mayor in 2001, a massive speculative real estate boom is rapidly altering the neighbourhoods she has come to call home. She watches as an explosion of luxury housing and chain store development spurs bitter conflict over who has a right to live in the city and to determine its future. While some people view these development patterns as ultimately revitalizing the city, to others, they are erasing the eclectic urban fabric, economic and racial diversity, creative alternative culture, and unique local economies that drew them to Brooklyn in the first place. It seems that no less than the city’s soul is at stake.
Meanwhile, development officials announce a controversial plan to tear down and remake the Fulton Mall, a popular and bustling African-American and Caribbean commercial district just blocks from Anderson’s apartment. She discovers that the Mall, despite its run-down image, is the third most profitable shopping area in New York City with a rich social and cultural history. As the local debate over the Mall’s future intensifies, deep racial divides in the way people view neighbourhood change become apparent. All of this pushes Anderson to confront her own role in the process of gentrification, and to investigate the forces behind it more deeply.
The film is an important reminder of how seemingly mundane processes of zoning and land use change can dramatically change urban landscapes, and these changes may entail the loss of vibrant, racially diverse neighbourhoods and the displacement of lower-income residents and affordable, independent businesses. While the contexts may be different, these broader processes are at work in cities across North America, and certainly in Vancouver.
Social mix is a euphemism for destroying low-income communities. This is a community that fought for – and won – the only safe injection site in North America. This is a community that had to occupy a Police Board meeting in order to get the Police Board to put out the same reward for the missing women that it put out for garage robberies on the Westside. This is a community that had to fight for seven years to get a community centre like other people have. This is a community that had to camp out on a beach for a whole summer in order to get a waterfront park like other communities have. This community has a history of fighting for human rights, and the City destroys that by condo-fying the whole [neighbourhood] and displacing low income people – that will be destroying one of the most valuable assets it has.
–Jean Swanson, Carnegie Community Action Project
Vancouver’s Chinatown is undergoing increasingly rapid gentrification. The Carnegie Community Action Project’s Jean Swanson (author, Poorbashing: The Politics of Exclusion) discusses why a significant influx of condominiums and high-end retail are threatening to displace the neighbourhood’s low-income residents – and why the city is approving these major developments before the completion of the Downtown Eastside local area plan. You can check out a past podcast, From Poor to Yuppie: Artists, Boutiques, and Neighbourhood Change, if you are interested in hearing more about gentrification and social dislocation in the Downtown Eastside.
On the second half of the program, we hear why the independently-owned Festival Cinemas has been sold to Cineplex. We talk with co-owner Leonard Schein about why he is calling it quits, the challenge to operate cinemas independently, and what he believes the City and province should do to help arts and culture thrive/survive in Vancouver.