Pushed Out by Penthouses: The Gentrification of Downtown Brooklyn

October 21, 2013

This episode of Forms of Life, with Kelly Anderson, is part of Creative Time Reports’ Summit Series, which features articles related to the theme of the 2013 Creative Time Summit: Art, Place & Dislocation in the 21st Century City.

In this episode of Forms of Life, host Nato Thompson speaks with Brooklyn-based filmmaker Kelly Anderson about the manifold forces that drive gentrification, what New York’s next mayor can accomplish and how culture becomes entangled in unjust development. Anderson’s most recent film, My Brooklyn (2012), started as a documentary about the eviction of small businesses from downtown Brooklyn’s Fulton Mall. But it became an investigation of a much longer history of banking practices and government decisions that have engendered New York’s deeply unequal housing situation.

As a resident of a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood, Sunset Park, Anderson stresses how important protecting a community’s existing culture is for newcomers. “Try to connect. Don’t just shape it to your will,” she advises. Encouraging people to speak out about gentrification, no matter who is in power, Anderson recommends partnering with grassroots organizations like ALIGN, FUREE, Good Jobs New York and Right to the City to address housing issues. She also notes the inherent difficulties of fostering a central role for culture in cities without advertising neighborhoods as “artsy,” a label that policymakers and real estate proprietors often use when promoting new developments that have the potential of being detrimental to residents. Anticipating a predicament that will likely become a main focus of Creative Time’s 2013 Summit, Anderson warns, “We need to be real about the way that art and artists have been used.”

Trailer for My Brooklyn, dir. Kelly Anderson, 2013.

Forms of Life is a monthly podcast hosted by Creative Time’s chief curator, Nato Thompson. Guests are culture makers whose work posits new ways of looking at political realities. By addressing a wide variety of issues—such as alternative economies, calcified political structures and new forms of collective living—or simply by being a thorn in the side of normality, Forms of Life interviews provide an opportunity to think counterintuitively about social conditions faced by people around the world.

Special thanks to The Clocktower Gallery and ARTonAIR.org for their support.