My Brooklyn is a documentary about the gentrification and development of Downtown Brooklyn with a particular focus on the Fulton Mall area. The film follows director Kelly Anderson’s personal journey to understand behind-the-scenes actors such as NY Department of City Planning (DCP), the
Economic Development Council (EDC), and private real estate developers, who are shaping the future of Brooklyn. The film asks: Who is Brooklyn for? Who is calling the shots behind these changes? Watch the trailer here.
My Brooklyn takes an in-depth look into the historical processes and changes that have affected Brooklyn neighborhoods since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Anderson explores red-lining–the process where banks refused to lend money to individuals living in neighborhoods that were home to African-Americans residents. Through the film, she explains how this led to both white flight out to the suburbs and concentrated poverty within the city.
Despite the poverty and violence that haunted these neglected neighborhoods, Anderson portrays strong, resilient communities that worked together to keep their streets clean and take care of each other. The Fulton Mall was one such vibrant community–a gathering space to shop, dine, and meet friends–the third most profitable shopping area in New York City.
The film is loaded with iconic images from photographer Jamel Shabazz that capture the flavor of street life in 1980s Brooklyn: break dancing, kids opening fire hydrants and dancing in the water, and pictures of hip hop’s birth.
Flash forward to the early 2000s, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg incentivized real estate developers to transform Downtown Brooklyn into a 24-hour destination area complete with corporate restaurants, shopping, and global businesses.
The film shows how the Department of City Planning and the Economic Development Center use up-zoning to optimize land for economic gain. In Downtown Brooklyn this means building massive high-rise condominiums that completely transform the space, character, and feel of the community. The zoning changes are supposed to create jobs for the community by attracting new businesses, but the end result is housing that is well out of the price range of the average resident.
From the film it appears that the community is divided in its response, with most white residents responding favorably and African-American residents feeling that the city is casting them aside. The Fulton Mall shop owners face increased rent prices or are asked to leave outright, with little to no compensation or assistance in establishing a new store.
My Brooklyn raises tough questions about development and corporate control over land use, especially over how the borough is changing so rapidly. The film comes down strongly on the side of the community members and portrays DCP and the EDC very negatively as pandering to corporate interests rather than local residents and business owners. Anderson is priced out of Fort Greene, and her and her daughter move to Sunset Park to “start over” as she describes it.
The film just ended its limited run, but keep your eyes out for a screening near you.
For more information related to gentrification issues in Brooklyn, visit:
The Difference Between Koch’s City and Today
Memoir: When Brooklyn was Mine