My daily Google Alert for Crown Heights arrived with a whopping six items today (it's usually one or two, if any), including the video above, from Gothamist, asking local residents to respond to the Wall Street Journal article from a few weeks back that introduced us to the new neighborhood moniker "ProCro."
UPDATE: This should probably be a post of its own, and likely will at some point in the coming days, but having actually had a chance to watch the video (posting without watching is always dangerous, but so it goes when you forget your headphones), I can't say I feel very good about it. The first comment below captures some of my ambivalence, which stems from the way the questions are being asked. The goal seems to be to profile and caricature Crown Heights residents as much as possible, whether that means asking white folks where the yoga studio is or trying to trip up longtime black residents with the deadpan assertion that they live in "ProCro." Unsurprisingly, they get what they came for - most people look befuddled, a few halfheartedly embrace the change that "ProCro" seems to suggest, and they manage to goad one man with very serious concerns about police profiling and its impact on access to public space into a frustrated rant about the indignities he's suffered on his own street. While I'm glad they gave this resident airtime, because voices like his are severely underrepresented in the mainstream debate about gentrification (and this blog, I'll admit, is hardly an exception) the way they handle his response is trivializing, cutting back and forth to idiotic questions about how many Whole Foods outlets there are on Franklin. If this is all one big joke, as the introduction suggests, it misses an opportunity to actually engage residents about the exercise of power that (re)naming wields. Sure, there's potential value in satirizing a Wall Street Journal article that helps to reify such a name change, but ultimately, the joke's not very funny, and there are ways to provoke these conversations as a reporter without reducing your subject material to farce. Gothamist, with their predictable monotonic snark, could learn some valuable lessons the work that Laurel and Abeni from Nostrand Park put into their equally provocative but far more human trailer and soundbite for "Gentrifying Brooklyn: The Buying, Selling, and Repackaging of Crown Heights." Sometimes it pays to actually listen to what people are saying.
All that said, I'm leaving it up to provoke conversation. Thoughts?
Other articles include:
- Another video from the New York Times' City Room Blog, documenting the work of wedding planner Devorah Benjamin to bring the perfect special day to couples who can't otherwise afford it.
- A rags-to-riches-to-redemption story about Crown Heights native Iyanla Vanzant from the Daily News.
- Finally, closer to home, Nostrand Park is surveying locals to see what new business they'd like to have move in next to Pacific Oasis Cafe.