Spike Lee vs. Michael Rapaport: The gentrification of New York City

Gentrification is a complicated issue. It becomes even more complicated an issue when you’re brand new to a city like I am to New York.

So when I came across this video of two “haves” — famous New Yorkers — Spike Lee and Michael Rapaport with differing opinions of the gentrification of Brooklyn (the “have nots”), I had to press play.

Though the video is full of potshots, I found Rapaport’s comments about Williamsburg particularly interesting because the neighborhood is the epicenter of the New York City gentrification debate.

In the video, Rapaport says that Williamsburg was a “joke in the 90s, it’s this little nichey place. It was like warehouses — it’s good that it got better!” Unfortunately, that was the only worthwhile comment from his side.

Spike contends that Rapaport is “missing the point” and counters about how people are being displaced and priced out of their neighborhoods. He questions why services only improve when white people move into those historically Black and Latino neighborhoods. Very valid points.

After a second viewing, it’s clear that Rapaport has an issue with Spike’s current wealth and status, as if that precludes the famed Brooklyn Director from the discussion. On the contrary, the issue needs more discussion from those at the top.

I also found Rapaport mentioning race a couple times was a veiled attempt to say “Hey, I am sick of this issue being about Black people” — it’s true that gentrification impacts a diverse group of people, but gentrification, and cultural appropriation, certainly doesn’t discriminate equally.

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