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Spike Lee explains expletive-filled gentrification rant

By Ray Sanchez and Steve Almasy CNN | 2/27/2014, 10:26 a.m.

He gave the examples of people playing drums in Mount Morris Park, a tradition he said lasted 40 years until the new residents complained.

And then there was the one that literally hit home. Lee said his father, "a great jazz musician," bought a brownstone 46 years ago.

"And the mother' people moved in last year and called the cops on my father. He's not --- he doesn't even play electric bass. It's acoustic. We bought the mother' house in 1968, and now you call the cops? In 2013?"

According to a New York Times article, police have received 17 noise complaints. The Times said a woman who lived next door had called most.

Lee: Why are the services finally better?

Lee lamented that Fort Greene Park in the morning resembled the Westminster Dog Show with hip dogs and that real estate brokers and "mother* hipsters" conspired to change the names of neighborhoods like the South Bronx to SoBro or Bushwick to East Williamsburg.

"So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better?" Lee asked. "Why's there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why's the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!"

Smith couldn't get a word in during Lee's speech Tuesday night. But the next day he said he was glad the filmmaker got people talking about the issue.

"What I wanted to do was expand the dialogue," he told CNN's "Erin Burnett OutFront."

There is another side, resident says

But Smith said there was a definite lack of balance in Lee's rant.

"I'm black, and America is America," he said. "I don't need to moan and groan about it all the time. And some things are bigger than Bed Stuy or Fort Greene or being black in Brooklyn. Gentrification is an issue everywhere. It gets right down to the whole economic scene with the super rich, the 1%, and then the other 99 % of us."

Smith said that when he bought his parents' four-story brownstone in 1989, he thought he'd be lucky to one day get $450,000 for it. "We passed that some time in the '90s," he said.

"I'm personally tired of moaning and groaning about being black," he said. "Here's a case where it has its advantages -- for the first time tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of blacks can participate in American wealth creation. My God, that's what this country is all about."

Referring to reports that Lee's 9,000-square-foot mansion on Manhattan's Upper East Side is on the market for $32 million, Smith said: "Spike is a causative factor in gentrification. If Spike moves to a swamp ... that land next door goes up immediately."

But Smith doesn't disagree entirely with Lee.

"I've had incidents with the dogs of new owners crapping on the sidewalks. They don't think anybody lives there," he said, adding that most are "wonderful new neighbors."

Lee didn't dispute to Cooper that gentrification brings rising home prices, but he worried about what became of the people who were priced out of the neighborhood.

"There's good. But what cost? If we lose half of the African-American population, in my neighborhood, Fort Greene, and the schools become better, what happened to half the people that left?"

And he was angry that city services improved when the neighborhood profile changed.

"I just find it interesting you have to have an influx of white New Yorkers to move into these neighborhoods for the services to go up, for the schools to be better," he told CNN. "They get better sanitation, get more police protection. Why didn't that happened before gentrification? We're still paying taxes. We're still New Yorkers."

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