My Google Alert for Crown Heights was blowing up this week on account of Thursday's Wall Street Journal article entitled "Prospect Heights edges into Crown Heights." The article makes a number of interesting claims about Northwest Crown Heights, including this gem:
"Now, the attack of the fish-tank condos is pushing the boundary of Prospect Heights eastward into Crown Heights, an in-between neighborhood that realtors and developers have dubbed ProCro. The result is a mingling of million-dollar condos and sleek wine bars with creaky, rent-controlled buildings and graffiti-pocked bodegas."
My reaction to the initial article was "Eh, is this really news?" The "ProCro" thing struck me as a local messing with a journalist (and sounds like some crypto-fascist conservative website), as I've never heard that term before, but maybe I'm just out of the loop (at last summer's screening of "Gentrifying Brooklyn," one landlord said there was a move to dub the same area "Museum Heights"). This was, apparently, not the correct blogger response, as the online commentariat was awash in assessments of the article and the situation it describes. A smattering of the replies:
- The Journal followed their article up with a blog post suggesting that the "Past in Crown Heights is Baltimore's Present".
- Curbed jumped on the "border war" at work in the article's definition of the area.
- Gothamist fired off their standard-issue gentrification news re-post.
- Prospect Heights Patch claimed the entire area west of Bedford for Prospect Heights.
I'm not feeling up to a sensible reflection on any of this on account of information overload, but there is a tone that runs through much of this discussion that doesn't sit terribly well with me (Nostrand Park, who led off the discussion on Brooklynian, took issue with the article's characterization of CH, and I agree with them). Whether it's the initial article passing off the West Indian Day parade (one of the largest street festivals and celebrations of Caribbean culture in the world) as a post-riot "Caribbean festival" that makes the neighborhood more desirable for condo-building or the language of colonization/invasion deployed in so much of this discourse, I feel like a) I'm not learning a lot from it and b) it's not offering a very accurate or nuanced portrayal of what's actually happening in the neighborhood. Even the snarky mockery that lots of blogs/comments employ strikes me as unproductive - it's easy to poke fun at the gentrifyers, but that seems to be a project for justifying one's own authenticity/self-awareness in the context of neighborhood change (and to raise a question that was raised of this blog in comments in the post below, I wonder how many of the people commenting on this WSJ article are CH residents, and what demographic they're in).
Also, this "condo boom" hasn't been seamless at all, and the story doesn't reflect that - there's still a huge hole at Franklin and Eastern, where one of these glassy condos was supposed to go, there are more holes or half-built hulks rotting over on St. Marks and Bergen just east of Grand, many of these buildings took far longer to complete than they were supposed to, and despite the official sales stats, I'm not convinced anyone actually lives in some of them (like Ishi). The condo boom might be peripherally indicative of neighborhood change, but it's definitely not at the heart of the story.
This post is rapidly losing coherence - meanwhile, the 77th Precinct is under the gun for manipulating crime statistics, and their beat saw a significant bump in several crime categories last year (this, I think, is news). Readers, your thoughts?