Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Crown Heights All Over the News - UPDATED

Crown Heights Locals React To "Pro Cro" from Gregory Stefano on Vimeo.

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.

- Thirstbaravin at Classon and Pacific got a glowing write-up in the Times' Dining section.

- 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.


  1. If this is entertainment/humor/satire, that's fine.

    But I hope it's not supposedly to news or a reflection of any aspect of reality whatsoever.

    Let's see: You've got a bunch of people excited to be filmed, most who don't have a clue what you're talking about, and one angry guy invoking race.

    Let the flames begin....

  2. It's really insulting. Gothamist took a serious, highly nuanced issue and turned it into a Jon Stewart segment...

  3. Haaaaaaa oh man, if I was being filmed, I would have taken my ray bans out of my bag so fast, and said "Oh yes yes, I used to live right by central park. I could see the met outside my window. But, oh you know, I moved here because it's just so CHARMING. So hip and, just, REAL, y'know? Mm, yes it's quiet dirty, but with the addition of all the new places, THAT will soon be taken care of. Now, excuse me, I was just going out to get some wine and tapas. I only have $25 in my wallet for lunch, and it's actually enough for a meal here!"

    But in all honesty, it's a pretty offensive video. My favorite is the guy who says "Uhh, I don't know, I have to go home now!" and just leaves. Perfect reaction. Everyone else is just like "F-you, hahaha".

    I think my favorite neighborhood label was when I saw a apartment in "South Prospect Heights". Guess where it was? Right below prospect park. Right by Church Ave BQ subway stop.

  4. Ugh... that video is seriously frustrating...

  5. If they're going to rename the neighborhood, I think it should be called Crow Hill, since a lot of the positive changes on Franklin Ave have been due to the hard work of the Crow Hill Community Association. At least that name has roots here... ProCro sounds awful

  6. Gross. Racism (and classism) at its finest, if you ask me...

  7. As soon as you say "Gothamist" I know to not expect anything serious, and more likely racially charged.

  8. @Anon 1:33am

    That's insulting to the hard work and good satire that Jon Stewart, et al (his staff, The Colbert Report) do.

    This isn't satire, it's snark. It's meant to produce a few guffaws from a bunch of Manhattan residents so they don't have to examine the beams protruding from their own eyes. Satire doesn't go after those on the losing end of a wrong (best way I could phrase that), but after the perpetrators or the social forces/context that help them function, including those who are unwittingly complicit or negligent.

    This? This is a bad joke. Could have been good satire--the subject is ripe for that--but done incredibly poorly.

  9. I found it extremely insulting. It only further exacerbates the problems of our neighborhood: gentrification, ignorance, and stereotyping. It very much plays "white" versus "black" and I wish it would be taken down.

  10. This video is offensive....It does not represent the people on my block either...and there IS a yoga studio on dean between franklin and bedford by the way "force and flow" or something like that.... and last i heard there wasnt a whole foods in prospect heights or park slope either...who needs whole foods when you can go to red hook for fairway !