If Boerum Hill is Dangerous, Gentrifiers Don’t Care

10/26/2011 9:46 AM |


Anecdotal evidence suggests a growing problem with violent teenagers in Boerum Hill. Since September, the Brooklyn Paper has counted at least five examples of teens attacking people or property or both, not to mention the time in January that the paper’s own reporter was assaulted; the manager of a local drugstore has to kick out teenagers “at least 10 times a day.” The most recent attack took place on Bergen Street, where eight teenagers surrounded a 40-year-old Cobble Hiller and his friend; the former was punched in the face, even though he was wearing glasses (c’mon, teens), which fractured and damaged his cornea. “The kids just laughed and hurried off,” the victim told the Paper.

Coincidentally, the Times ran a piece this week about Warren Street, between Nevins and Bond, in Boerum Hill, which has two different housing projects on its west and east corners. But, though the Gowanus Houses and Wyckoff Gardens are “enduring symbols of danger, social dysfunction and blight,” the block’s unusual geographical position has only slightly affected its real estate prices—properties sell for $35-$55 less per square foot that comparable ones on nearby Bergen Street (which, remember, is where people wearing glasses get punched in the face). Dangers real and imagined are not stronger than the allures of Brownstone Brooklyn.

Longtime residents of Warren Street seem more likely to resent their new neighbors than those in the housing projects.

“I bought this house for $17,000 in 1972,” said Charlie Soule…Back then, she said, the block felt safer because she knew all her neighbors—something that is no longer true…Mike Rodriguez, who grew up in the house a few doors down and still lives there with his family, had a similar take. “You got too much ‘ippity’ folks around here,” he said. “They’re uppity, but I call them ‘ippity,'” he added…”They look at you like you don’t belong here.”

5 Comment

  • That’s because, Henry, agents of gentrification caring about the perceived or real danger of the neighborhood will become a concern only long after the block has been completely displaced–the danger, even when it is real, will likely be felt vicariously than directly experienced, and this will only be enough to construct a pending demonology, to demonize former residents but not to their faces [we’ll wait until history allows backs to be turned before the lie unfolds]. Think deeply on it comparing to the larger narrative of Williamsburg: if every agent of gentrification that describes Williamsburg is consistent about how horribly horrible it all was, how full of demons and terrorists and rapists and junkies and prostitutes in mid-fellatio, why were they there? The most potent imagination of gentrification doesn’t happen in the galleries, friend.

  • Notice the attitude by “longtime residents of Warren Street more likely to resent their new neighbors than those in the housing projects”–will their narrative about how the block used to be be the same as these newer residents when you return five years from now? I note your anecdotal references, but still–there is always so much more than meets the journalist’s eye, especially the journalist reporting on real estate.

  • I also note how your anecdotal references about “how bad Boerum Hill can be” seemed to be used to preface a summary of a NY Times article on Warren Street. So while the article is specific to the conditions in a particular block of Boerum Hill, you’re leading up to it with crime reports from Brooklyn Paper [a not altogether reliable source] about the entire neighborhood, as though preempting a criticism that Warren Street is being subjected to the type of demonology we’ve come to love in Williamsburg. Not very fair, if you ask me.

  • Check out the article with accompanying photo that you linked to, of the reporter, in his own words “brutalized.”

    Wow. A nick on his hand–brutalized. That’s the point here, Henry–the opening to your article on Warren Street is led by some sensationalism [I’m certain] coming from the sensationalistic Brooklyn Paper, with an article from that sensationalist paper by a sensationalist who, wait for it, calls himself a “hero.” Please. As I’ve said before, and you yourself reported it, “Anecdotal references from agents of gentrification about how bad a neighborhood [is or] used to be are always suspect.” Anecdotal references about crime are rife with sensationalism and self-aggrandizement. I suspect some of this is playing into this article.

  • And to further complicate observations of a “crime wave” throughout Brooklyn, here are our beloved police: