Spike Lee criticizes NYC gentrification

Spike Lee attends the screening of "Oldboy" hosted by FilmDistrict and Complex Media with the Cinema Society and Grey Goose at AMC Lincoln Square Theater on Nov. 11, 2013, in New York. Getty Images

Film director Spike Lee has engaged in a brief and lively profanity-laced debate about gentrification of largely black New York City neighborhoods.

Lee grew up in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. He made his comments during a Black History Month speech at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn this week.

He says gentrification had little regard for people who "have a culture that's been laid down for generations."

While gentrification brought improvements to neighborhoods such as Fort Greene, he demanded to know, "Why did it take this great influx of white people" to make things better?


According to CBS New York, Lee a crowd at Pratt on Tuesday, "Here's the thing: I grew up here in Fort Greene. I grew up here in New York. It's changed. And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn't picked up every [expletive] day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. P.S. 20 was not good. P.S. 11. Rothschild 294. The police weren't around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o'clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something."

Some audience members said they understand why some of their neighbors couldn't pass up high offers for their homes.

Lee lives on Manhattan's Upper East Side and recently listed his town house for $32 million. He's been working on "The Sweet Blood of Jesus," an upcoming independent romantic horror comedy.

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