Jun 262013

This article appeared just hours ago in the New York Daily News, announcing a new night market that will be installed along Grove Pl. in Downtown Brooklyn. The writer describes the alleyway as “dingy,” “forlorn,” and “neglected,” which are perhaps reasonable descriptors if you take Grove Pl. as an isolated alley disembodied from any surroundings. But Grove Pl. sits in the context of the Fulton Mall area, a historically thriving African-American and Caribbean space that has long been maligned by journalists and city officials using similar descriptors. This article thus relates to a wider American discourse associating black spaces with failure, decline, and social pathology. Such seemingly benign media tidbits contain a subtler and more insidious message, though. They suggest that spaces that are suddenly desired by wealthy, privileged people were previously of no value to anyone. While some spaces are definitely abandoned, often times they are simply (and incorrectly) perceived as abandoned, or forgotten, or “forlorn,” because they are unappealing to outsiders. “I wouldn’t go there, so it must not be in use, or of importance to anyone,” is how the logic generally goes. It may well be that Grove Pl. as an isolated stretch of street is indeed empty and forlorn, but its immediate surrounding context is anything but. By itself, this article is harmless enough. But in the context of the carefully constructed public discourse that for decades has been pushing an image of Downtown Brooklyn as a failure, it does just a little bit more to distort the reality–and trumpet the gentrification–of one of New York City’s most interesting and celebrated urban spaces.

Jun 132013

mybrooklyn-ourcity-logo-smIntroducing … MY BROOKLYN, OUR CITY!

At every screening of My Brooklyn (more than 100 so far!) people ask us “Now that I’m convinced there’s a problem, what can I do?” After a lot of head scratching, and getting together with some of the best minds in the city on this, we have come up with an answer. It’s called “My Brooklyn: Our City” and there is a role for every single one of you who wants to take part in a campaign to strengthen our communities, build collective power and – in the process — influence the upcoming NYC Mayoral and City Council elections.

My Brooklyn, Our City is cosponsored by FUREE, Right to the City, Good Jobs New York, the Fifth Avenue Committee and the Pratt Area Community Council.

Here’s how it works:

We will make My Brooklyn available FOR FREE to anybody in New York City who wants to host a house party or screening during the month of July. We will provide you with a Facilitator Guide which includes guidelines on hosting an event and strategies for facilitating dialogue after the screening. It will also include clear information, resources and next steps for making improvements around key issues raised by the film (like the need for affordable housing, subsidy reform, anti-displacement measures and making the planning process more transparent and accountable).

In return, you agree to:

  • Host the event
  • Get at least six people from your neighborhood or community to the screening
  • Facilitate a discussion of at least an hour (using the provided facilitator packet) about what your interests and goals are as a group, and how to take a next step towards reaching them. (You can find someone else to facilitate if you aren’t comfortable doing it.)
  • Refrain from copying the DVD or sharing the link with anyone else
  • Let us know how it went, and allow us to share your comments (with or without attribution) on our website and/or Facebook page.

If interested, please fill out the form below and we will be in touch with more details.

My Brooklyn, Our City Signup Form

Please email kelly@mybrooklynmovie.com with any questions.

All the best,

Kelly & Allison

May 272013

banner2013On Thursday June 6,  My Brooklyn will open the annual conference of the Planners Network. The screening will take place at Hunter College in Manhattan at 5pm, and will be followed by a panel discussion with Peter Marcuse (Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at Columbia University), Rob Robinson (Co-Founder, Take Back the Land Movement and Housing Program Volunteer, National Social and Economic Rights Initiative) and My Brooklyn co-creators Kelly Anderson and Allison Lirish Dean. A reception will follow.

The Planners Network is an association of professionals, activists, academics, and students involved in physical, social, economic, and environmental planning in urban and rural areas, who promote fundamental change in our political and economic systems. The conference, entitled “Beyond Resilience:  Actions for a Just Metropolis,” will use My Brooklyn to frame a discussion about how traditional planning principals and developer-driven policies create injustices and discrimination. Tom Angotti, Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and one of the conference organizers, said, “My Brooklyn provides an excellent analysis of gentrification, using personal reflections, historical background and a look at the complex process of public policy making. It is a powerful tool for sparking discussion and debate.”

The screening is open to the public and free of charge (conference registrants get priority seating).

For more information, visit www.justmetropolis.org.


Mar 262013

We’re keeping after the media’s coverage of development issues in Brooklyn. The latest is this: New York Magazine recently published a piece by Ben Adler claiming that My Brooklyn argues that development caused gentrification in Downtown Brooklyn. This is an oversimplification of what My Brooklyn argues. Adler makes no mention of policy tools such as rezoning and subsidies, both of which played a key role in the gentrification process. This oversimplified piece received a properly level-headed corrective from our friend Dan Steinberg, who has the facts down so well he doesn’t need to go on a crazy rant. Dan, posing as MRKNISH, states:

“Obviously gentrification is driven by market forces and housing demand. The My Brooklyn film looks at how public policy failed to leverage a hot real estate market to create real public benefits (ie inclusionary zoning). It was instead designed to fuel speculative development at the expense of those who have lived in these communities for decades. Remember, these public land use actions created substantial economic value that was essentially handed over to developers.

And why are we talking about ‘market forces’ when one of the focal points of the film was the City Point project? City Point (luxury housing) received tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies–it was hardly the invisible hand of housing demand that evicted dozens of small, locally owned businesses here.

Finally, Adler is wrong to evoke the law of supply/demand in arguing that luxury housing construction will ultimately lower rents for working families. Economists have demonstrated that this is not how segmented housing submarkets function.”

Feb 252013

We are happy to announce that IFP is inviting us back for Round Three at reRun! Join us March 8 – 14 for screenings and conversation with special guests, co-sponsored by Filmwax. Come for the first time, come again, bring friends, spread the word! Full schedule below:

My Brooklyn at reRun Theater (147 Front Street, Dumbo)
March 8 – 14, 2013
Tickets at www.mybrooklynw3.eventbrite.com

Friday, March 8

7:30pm and 10:15pm

Special guest at 7:30pm screening: Lenina Nadal, Communications Director at Right to the City and a New Yorker who grew up shopping at Fulton Mall every weekend, will discuss how Brooklyn fits into a growing national movement fighting urban gentrification and displacement. Director Kelly Anderson will also be present.

Saturday, March 9

9am, 11:30am, 2pm

Special Guest at 11:30am screening: Angela Tucker, Producer/Director of the PBS web series Black Folk Don’t, will have a conversation with My Brooklyn Director Kelly Anderson and the audience about the ways race factors into urban planning and debates about gentrification.

Director Kelly Anderson present for Q&A at 2pm show.

Sunday, March 10

7:30pm and 10:15pm

Special guest at 7:30pm screening: Rob Robinson, of the National Social and Economic Rights Initiative (NESRI), will discuss displacement as a human rights issue.

Monday, March 11

7:30pm and 10:15pm

Special guest at 7:30pm screening: Nathalie Alegre from the Alliance for a Greater New York (ALIGN) will discuss the city-wide picture for accountable development and job creation, including how these issues might factor into the upcoming city-wide elections.

Tuesday, March 12

7:30pm and 10:15pm
Special guest at 7:30pm screening: James Bartlett, Executive Director of MoCADA, will discuss the cultural value of spaces like the Fulton Mall and the impact of new development on Brooklyn’s artistic community. Director Kelly Anderson will also be present.

Wednesday, March 13

10:15pm only!

Thursday, March 14

7:30pm and 10:15pm

Special Guest at 7:30 screening: Christine Gaspar from the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) will talk about how CUP is using the power of design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement around development and land use issues. Associate Producer Fivel Rothberg will moderate.






Feb 192013

Many people, after viewing My Brooklyn, ask “What Can I Do?” We always encourage people to connect with local grassroots organizations doing work on issues of accountable development (like FUREE, Fifth Avenue Committee, Good Jobs New York, and the Pratt Area Community Council). But in addition, Tom Angotti, an advisor on My Brooklyn and one of the people we always go to when we need an answer to a question, just came up with his list of “Five Things You Can Do About Gentrification in NYC.” Here it is:

  1. TALK TO PEOPLE on your block and in your neighborhood. If you are a gentrifier, talk to the people getting gentrified. If gentrifiers are moving in and you’re afraid you’re going to be pushed out, talk to the gentrifiers. If we don’t talk with each other we can’t work together and if we don’t work together gentrification will proceed unchecked. Talk, argue, become friends or enemies, but if we ignore each other it will only deepen the divide and make it harder to change anything. These connections are the best foundation for building alliances and creating community coalitions that can stop displacement and protect residents and businesses. Too many people get outraged at what’s going on and never talk to anyone else about it, least of all the people who are “different.” The people united will never be defeated!
  2. SAVE THE SHRINKING PUBLIC DOMAIN. Public parks, schools, community centers – everything public that is needed for affordable neighborhoods – are shrinking and getting privatized. At the neighborhood level, we need to protect and expand the commons. Keep the libraries open. Stop concessions from taking over the parks. Save neighborhood schools and keep them integrated and public. Don’t let services for the less fortunate – like soup kitchens and homeless shelters – be driven out by high rents.
  3. DEMAND TRULY AFFORDABLE HOUSING.  The first priority must be to protect existing affordable housing, including low-rent private buildings, Mitchell-Lama cooperatives and public housing. We also need to make sure that newly built housing is truly affordable. “Affordable” housing built with city subsidies is not affordable to those who need it the most. Join with others to demand the city change its definition of “affordable.” The city should use neighborhood-level median incomes and give priority to those making less than 60% of median income, especially people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. All housing subsidized with public funds should be protected as affordable in perpetuity by using regulatory agreements and community land trusts. This will keep it from going back into the private market and feeding gentrification. Finally, the city’s rent laws must be strengthened to protect the lowest income tenants, stop evictions, and prosecute landlords that evade the laws.
  4. REGULATE AND TAX REAL ESTATE SPECULATORS.  Demand an end to the public giveaways to developers – the 421-a and J-51 tax abatements, tax exemptions for stadiums, infrastructure subsidies like the #7 subway extension to serve the luxury enclave rising at Hudson Yards, etc. The city should recapture the value created by its upzonings by heavily taxing developers, and use the money to help improve the public domain throughout the city where the needs are greatest. The city should increase taxes on habitable housing that is vacant for more than a year and expropriate housing vacant more than two years. This will help put an end to rampant speculation and free up vacant units.
  5. CONFRONT AND CHALLENGE ELECTED OFFICIALS AND CANDIDATES AT ALL LEVELS.  Our representative institutions are broken. Electeds are followers waiting for us to lead them. Too many depend on contributions from the real estate industry. Tell them you want action to stop developers from running all over us and demand real solutions. Community boards are the level of government closest to the grassroots but they have practically no funds and staff, and their votes are “advisory” at best. Demand changes to the city’s charter that give community boards the resources and power to make major decisions on land use and infrastructure. Then fight to make community boards truly representative and democratic.

None of these things is easy. None of them alone can stop gentrification. But all of them build on movements and victories spanning more than a century. It is an uphill battle, but don’t forget that many of the things that put a damper on gentrification pressures – for example, rent regulations and public schools and services – would not be there at all if there had not been sustained organizing. I urge everyone to get out there and find the many individuals and organizations that continue to work on these issues across the city, nation and world!

Tom Angotti  tangotti@hunter.cuny.edu

Feb 042013

Having sold out most of two week-long runs already, My Brooklyn will be back at reRun Theater in Dumbo March 8 – 14th, 2013. Stay tuned for information about showtimes, special guests and events. Tickets will be available through www.reruntheater.com

Thanks everybody for coming out, joining the discussion, and spreading the word! The screenings have been amazing – lots of good dialogue about the changing city, the next elections, how to build community power, and best practices for development and investment. Getting ready for more!

Jan 252013

“My Brooklyn” now has a second run, which will take place from January 25 to February 3 at reRun Theater on 147 Front Street in DUMBO, close to the York Street F Train station.

The first run at completely sold out, so get your tickets early at our Eventbrite page.

See the previous post for the schedule of special guests at the Q&A’s. Guests include the filmmaker Kelly Anderson, MIT historian, author and Bed Stuy native Dr. Craig Wilder, former State Committeeman Lincoln Restler, Hunter College Urban Planning Prof. Tom Angotti and General Steele of Brooklyn’s own Smif-N-Wessun.

Jan 172013

Special guests are confirming for our new run at reRun Theater! The following speakers are now confirmed:

Friday, Jan. 25th (7:30pm)

Former State Committeeman Lincoln Restler and Director Kelly Anderosn will discuss how land use will figure in the upcoming elections – what might city politics look like in a post-Bloomberg era?

Saturday, Jan. 26 (12:45pm show)

Screening of short documentary “What Is the Community Board?” and discussion with filmmaker Tamara Gubernat and Stanley Gleaton from Community Board 10 in Harlem. They will speak about the role of community boards and the way zoning changes have affected Harlem and Downtown Brooklyn.

Monday, Jan. 28th (7:30pm show)

Graffiti Artist Blake Lethem (aka KEO and Lord Scotch) will be joining Director Kelly Anderson after the 7:30 screening on Monday, Jan. 28th for a conversation about hip hop culture at Fulton Mall during the 1980s and the impact of recent changes on the area’s cultural and artistic life.

Tuesday, Jan. 29th (7:30pm show)

Special guests from FUREE (Families United for Racial and Economic Equality) will give updates about the situation in Downtown Brooklyn and discuss their ongoing work to demand accountable development in the area.

Wednesday, Jan. 30 (7:30pm show)

Special guest Tom Angotti, author of New York for Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, will lead a discussion about how — even in the “real estate capital of the world” — communities can and have shaped their own futures.

Thursday, Jan. 31 (7:30)

General Steele of Smif-N-Wessun, who appears in My Brooklyn, will speak about how he sees Brooklyn’s changes, and the role of places like the Fulton Mall in Brooklyn’s hip hop history. Maybe he’ll even freestyle for us!

Saturday, Feb. 2 (12:45 show)

Special guests from Good Jobs New York will talk about how they are working to break down the information barriers that have traditionally excluded average New Yorkers from the development process, and to ensure that subsidies go to projects that really benefit workers, taxpayers and communities.

 Saturday, Feb. 2 (3:45pm and 7:30pm shows)

“Gentrification: What it is, and What it Isn’t” — M.I.T. Historian Craig Wilder, featured in My Brooklyn, will discuss how the redevelopment of Downtown Brooklyn fits into a larger and often invisible history of corporations, in concert with government policy, planning out the long-term future of neighborhoods.


Stay tuned for more speakers and special guests. Tickets and showtimes at www.mybrooklynrerun.eventbrite.com

Jan 132013

Due to its popularity with NYC audiences (we sold out every show!), My Brooklyn will be back at reRun Theater in Dumbo Jan. 25th – Feb. 3rd. Tickets will be available very soon at www.reruntheater.com and http://mybrooklynrerun.eventbrite.com. We will be selling all tickets online, and none at the door unless it’s not sold out, so please get your tickets early so we can avoid some of the disappointment that happened at the door last time.

We got amazing reviews including raves in the New York Times, Variety, and Bloomberg News. Kelly and Allison were on Brian Lehrer’s radio show, which really helped get the word out about the film.

For the next run, we will continue to have lots of great guests and post-screening discussions about everything from the upcoming elections, to equitable economic development models, to the history of hip hop culture at Fulton Mall. Please come and help spread the word!

Thanks everybody for helping to generate buzz around My Brooklyn and the important issues it’s helping shine a light on.