What We Talk About When We Talk About Gentrification: A Conversation With My Brooklyn Director Kelly Anderson

09/18/2012 3:48 PM |

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  • Laurie Sumiye via My Brooklyn

While you can’t exactly say there’s any shortage of discussion about gentrification in Brooklyn, a lot of it isn’t what you’d call productive —patronizing and ham-handed at best, short-sighted and destructive at worst.

All of which is to say that when the opportunity does arise to look at the changes springing up in local neighborhoods in an intelligent, thoughtful way, it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. My Brooklyn, a new documentary following development in the Fulton Mall, does just that, looking at the individual project as well as the changes that have swept through the entire borough over the past three decades, many of them the result of government policy.

It doesn’t hurt that director Kelly Anderson, a film professor at Hunter College (CUNY) who collaborated with Allison Lirish Dean on the film, comes to the project from a unique perspective: Anderson moved to Park Slope in 1988 for the same reasons a lot of us move to Brooklyn — lower rents, calmer streets, a thriving arts community — eventually finding herself priced out of the neighborhood while still feeling partially responsible for its drastic demographic change.

“I wanted to explore the race and class dynamics of gentrification, and figure out whether there was a political solution — a way that we could actually help stabilize the neighborhoods we move into rather than just contributing to the displacement of entire communities,” explains Anderson. “I love living in Brooklyn, as do many other people, and it’s my dream to find a way to live here in a way that integrates me into an existing community instead of being part of wiping that community out.”

In the lead-up to a screening of the film this week at the Brooklyn Public Library, we spoke with Anderson about the Fulton Mall, the city’s role in promoting sweeping changes, and what, if anything, can be done about it.

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