Yesha Callahan

Spike Lee’s 7-Minute Rant About The ‘Motherf*cking Hipsters’ Gentrifying Brooklyn Is Epic


Last night, Spike Lee, never one to bite his tongue, went off when he was asked about the gentrification of his beloved Brooklyn during an event at Pratt Institute. Lee expressed every sentiment that he could possibly muster up as to why he’s sick of the hipster gentrifyers that are practically taking over the borough.

In the the seven minute long rant, that was transcribed by NY Mag, Lee appropriately compares the hipsters to Christopher Columbus:

“Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. You can’t just come in the neighborhood and start bogarting and say, like you’re motherfuckin’ Columbus and kill off the Native Americans. Or what they do in Brazil, what they did to the indigenous people. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here?”

Here are a few other bullet points from the NY Mag transcription:

“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? Why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park… 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.”

“When Michael Jackson died they wanted to have a party for him in motherfuckin’ Fort Greene Park and all of a sudden the white people in Fort Greene said, ‘Wait a minute! We can’t have black people having a party for Michael Jackson to celebrate his life. Who’s coming to the neighborhood? They’re gonna leave lots of garbage.’ Garbage? Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show. There’s 20,000 dogs running around.”

[After discussing people not being able to afford Williamsburg anymore…] “These real estate motherfuckers are changing names! Stuyvestant Heights? [SpaHa] What the fuck is that? What do they call Bushwick now? How you changin’ names?”

Ironically, if I replace the word Brooklyn, with Washington, D.C. the same thing still applies. As I scream, “What the f*ck is the ATLAS DISTRICT?”. 

  1. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    I feel Spike, esp with the way my own city, the District of Columbia has gentrified and gotten so $wanky and frou frou that it is dang near unaffordable to live here. Esp for those that held this city down for decades when “others” were afraid to venture beyond of the shadow of the Capitol. should be inclusive not a situation where you are pricing/taxing native folks out.

  2. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    So sick of white people and their coconuts cosigning this bull. They did and continuing to do the same thing in Boston Black/Latino communities. Always friggjn’ changing our traditional neighborhood names.

  3. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    “When Michael Jackson died they wanted to have a party for him in motherfuckin’ Fort Greene Park and all of a sudden the white people in Fort Greene said, ‘Wait a minute! We can’t have black people having a party for Michael Jackson to celebrate his life. Who’s coming to the neighborhood? They’re gonna leave lots of garbage.’ Garbage? Have you seen Fort Greene Park in the morning? It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show. There’s 20,000 dogs running around.”

    I used to work in the Fort Greene area, right on Fulton Street and near Flatbush Avenue. I remember hearing about the festival and waiting for it to happen.
    Shit, I know if it was up to them, the West Indian Day Parade wouldn’t exist anymore.

    • February 26, 2014 - Reply


      Funny you mention the parade because they have shortened the hours of the parade as well as the ‘juvee’ that use to take place the night leading up the parade. The other thing they did is that they limited the areas where you can start and stop playing the music. I’m from BK and years ago the bands wouldn’t stop playing till they reach their home base after they finished playing mas, now, you’ll be lucky if you make it past the museum. 🙁

  4. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Reading this makes me think of the show “Girl”. The double sword of gentrification.

  5. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Living in a gentrified neighborhood of Brooklyn, I understand where Spike is coming from.

    It’s ironic b/c many of these recently gentrified neighborhoods USED to be white decades ago. Then these people did “White Flight” around the 50s/60s, and left tons of good quality brownstones/whitestone townhouses/mansions in black hands. Fast forward to 2014, many of the black homeowners are now elderly and are being swindled by white landowners,lawyers, and real estate companies (even city governments) so those good homes can go back to white hands (heck sometimes our OWN try to swindle our elderly out of good property). It’s a shame. I can’t tell you the many stories of elderly black homeowners, who had so much good quality homes, being preyed upon by sharks and the City of New York (if you don’t pay your taxes or water bill, NYC can put your property up for auction and lo and behold, you can be thrown out of your own home!)

    Then you have part 2: the children of our elderly (who are now in their 50s/60s – the Baby Boomers) would rather give up a good solid home made from stone (in a black neighborhood) to live in a shoddy a$$ home in a majority white neighborhood.

    Feel free to disagree, but this was what led to gentrification in many neighborhoods in NYC. Gentrification (and all it’s sneaky practices)is what slowly degrades black wealth/prosperity.

    • February 26, 2014 - Reply

      @Eyes Wide Shut

      “Then you have part 2: the children of our elderly (who are now in their 50s/60s – the Baby Boomers) would rather give up a good solid home made from stone (in a black neighborhood) to live in a shoddy a$$ home in a majority white neighborhood…”

      I have a relative who is a native Brooklynite. For close to fifty years, his trade was carpentry, landscaping and construction. Back in the 1990’s, he bought two townhouses for a dollar each (his words… not mine. I’m not sure if it is true or not). He bought two of them, in hopes of renting one home and living in the other. At the time, his family of seven was renting an apartment in the Pink Houses, so he believed that it was time to move into a house.
      Flash-forward twenty-three years, he is afraid to leave his homes to any of his kids. His wife has gone home to glory, six years ago. So he cannot leave it to her. He doesn’t want to leave the properties to his kids because he knows that they will sell it quickly.
      He has already witnessed the effects of gentrification in his neighborhood. Neighbors that welcomed him and his family to the neighborhood are no longer there. The houses have been sold to new families who refuse immerse themselves in the community. Or they make attempts to force their lifestyles onto the neighborhood’s occupants.

  6. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Spike Lee gave me liife with this rant! Growing up in bk I’d hear all these other ppl denigrating it. Brooklyn was a punchline for many well off whites. Now to hear that bk is “cool” cuz some random white folk from the middle of nowhere set up shop is crazy to me. What’s cool about higher property values, more bars/coffee shops to spend more money, and the elimination of long standing institutions that actually served the community? Crazy thing is hipsters actually think moving in to my hood is serving some Goodwill purpose cuz they’re “eliminating crime”-__-…no ur just shuffling it around

  7. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Don’t ever change, Spike. Once again he says exactly what many people have private convos about.

    My landlord has raised the rent on my Bed-Stuy apartment $200 dollars in 2 subsequent years. That is a $400 DOLLAR RENT INCREASE for the same apartment. And I am still paying below market for my block, which is in a recently landmarked district (another gentrification tactic).

    A few years ago I checked craigslist ads for apartments, just for fun. It’s what NY’ers do for self torture. There was an ad for a “Stuy Heights” brownstone apartment on a tree lined block. The copy that raised my blood pressure? “Come see this marvel in this rapidly changing demographic neighborhood!!!” I emailed them and asked them to clarify rapidly changing demographic, and what was so joyful about it? A neighbor and I joked about paying “folks” to come through and act real hood during summer weekends; when the open houses are in full swing and ‘they’ come waltzing through en masse taking pictures, pointing, asking dumb a__ questions like ‘ooh we have dogs too! Is it safe to walk dogs late at night?” I wanted to sic my cocker spaniel on them.

    • February 26, 2014 - Reply


      I have a cousin who has been living in the same Brooklyn apartment for fifty-two years. Her rent is dirt cheap. The building’s owners has been trying to persuade my aunt and her family to move out of that apartment for the past fourteen years! LOL!

  8. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    I love Spike for saying this; profanity and ALL! Sometimes that’s what it takes to get your point across. A lot of these new white residents think they’re improving the neighborhood, yet all their doing is removing the culture, or appropriating it.

    When the reporter said white folks are moving back because beautiful brownstones were “maintained by people of color” caused me to cringe. So yet again, white folks are profiting off of the hard work of Black people…. I live in Park Slope- very lily white & I enjoyed going to Fort Greene or BedStuy to be around Black culture that isn’t frequently found in my area. Now, those areas mirror Park Slope & WIlliamsburg. We need to take queue from racists in Florida and stand OUR ground and not continue to let this happen.

  9. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    It’s sad hearning some of the personal stories from commentors about how these new residents are making rules and changing neigborhoods. It’s sad how they flew away during white flight, then they came back and now setting rules and sucking the culture out of section and trying to make resident who been there longer than they were born or even though about living there feel like outcast. I haven’t really seen gentrification in my city yet even though I believe are city government has tried to get it started.

  10. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Amen!!! This is how i feel everyday when one of my Hipster neighbors closes a door in my face or acts like they don’t want to ride the elevator up w/ me because their “nervous”. my grandmother has lived in the same apartment in east flatbush for over 25 yrs and its the most lively multicultural place you’ve ever seen i hate the fact that its changing so much but then you have the older generations of black ppl who feel like we need gentrification to make a better neighborhood, not realizing that these white ppl don’t want to live with us they wants us OUT the landlord don’t even rent to us anymore its just a shame we have to do better.

    • February 26, 2014 - Reply

      @jazzy jay

      “…but then you have the older generations of black ppl who feel like we need gentrification to make a better neighborhood, not realizing that these white ppl don’t want to live with us they wants us OUT..”

      It’s the ‘pink elephant’ when it comes to the native, gentrification-supporters. They want to believe that they are safe because they own their homes. They don’t realize that there are other ways of pushing someone out.

  11. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Yes…just YES!

    Even though I am country girl, I do live in the largest city in NC. Even HERE, this is happening…but slightly differently. They will tout “redevelopment projects” and go to poor Black/Hispanic neighborhoods (mostly located in the downtown area). They will level the abandoned/unsalvageable homes, fix the streets and sidewalks, and build new apartments/condos. They will allow the poor Black residents to remain, but the luxe apartments that they build then drive up the property value of the area. They then play up the vast “improvements” made to the area with the general public…without mentioning that with increased property value…comes increased property taxes. The same native residents that have been in the area for years can still afford their homes…but not to stay in the neighborhood due to inability to pay the HUGE increase in property tax that comes with the “improved” area.

    So here, it is not the elevated rent or greedy building owners selling to the “hipsters” that is the problem…but more so them coming in and doing so much with the area that the residents are indirectly priced out of their own neighborhood.

    I remember riding with my mom past a downtown neighborhood and seeing lots of young, white faces milling about. She looked at them, turned her nose up, shook her head, and had the same reaction that Spike did, but much more succinctly,

    “Can’t we have NOTHING???!!”


  12. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Thank you Mr. Lee!
    1. When white folks move in, it is not to live amongst us. They move in to take over.
    2. White folks aren’t the only race guilty of gentrification. Snooty black folks also come in & want the “common folk” out!

    • February 26, 2014 - Reply


      “. White folks aren’t the only race guilty of gentrification. Snooty black folks also come in & want the “common folk” out!”

      I know some people who has this mindset.

  13. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    He is telling the truth. When are we black people going to start harnessing our real power and stop living vicarously though black celebrities and their financial success. Spike Lee has been in the trenches and when he speaks out about an issue, too many chastise him. Remember that Django Unchained nonsense?

    There is a reason we seem to be renting space in our own lives. I will give you a hint – stop trusting these white people to do the right thing. Stop accepting bad conditions. Do not get beat down and say, oh that’s just the way it is…

    I could go on, but I am tired. BTW, didn’t Spike talk about this in a movie that came in the 90’s? You know- the sneaker incident.

  14. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    I am a Jamaica-Saint Albans native. Both communities are located in Queens.
    I know that Queens is consider to be either the “boonies” or “the suburbs” for most NYC inhabitants. But it doesn’t stop me from thinking about the effects of gentrification, if it occurs in my community. It’s one thing that I’ve learned about gentrifiers: they love to live in towns and communities that has a “rich history”. Saint Albans is one of those communities.
    I know that some of the elderly residents believe that their beloved Rev. Floyd Flake will keep that from happening. I am not too keen on that idea.
    Now, all I need to do is look out for the Trojan Horse of Gentrification: a Star Bucks.

    • February 26, 2014 - Reply


      I am from Queens as well. I am from Long Island City/Astoria Queens. I am also seeing gentrification in my area. There are factories being torn down and replaced with High-rise luxury apartments. There was a news segment on the local news channel regarding how NYC is losing its cultural luster, and how native New Yorkers are dismayed by it. In my “neck of the woods,” there were so many Mom and Pop stores, where the store owners were like family. Now everything is Starbucks and other big chain brand stores. Mayor DeBlasio talks about the “Tale of Two Cities,” but I wonder if he has a plan for this Tale he spoke about during the Mayoral election? It is so disheartening to see this happening in NYC and other areas.

    • February 26, 2014 - Reply


      In my neck of the woods, there hasn’t been any noticeable changes so far. Most of the empty plots are being bought by Floyd Flake and turned into something. But there haven’t been any plans for high-rise apartment buildings. Thank God.

  15. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Preach on Spike!

    This is happening all over the SF Bay Area as well. With the exception of Hunter’s Point, San Francisco’s black population is all but disappearing. Long-standing African American enclaves like Oakland, East Menlo Park (in the shadows of Facebook’s HQ) are rapidly changing…

  16. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    I recently moved to Crown Heights with my SO who is from Manhattan. I noticed as soon as someone moves out of our building, they renovate the unit. Our apartment is one of the newer ones. There are people on my floor that have lived here for 35 years! I seriously doubt they could afford the adjusted rent of the newer units. Thankfully our rent is stabilized at a manageable rate right now. We’re only going to be here for a short time because in a few years our unit is going to be valued at 3,400 for a one bedroom. Per month! In Crown Heights! They are really going to price everyone out for the building.

  17. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    This is how it starts:

    With regards to Brooklyn, many of the brownstones/whitestones were owned by whites of various ethnicities since the beginning. Then around the 40s-60s, blacks from all over the diaspora started to come up (especially after WW2)and moved into these areas. The whites, as usual, sold these gorgeous homes to blacks and ran away to “safer” enclaves – i.e. Manhattan, Long Island, Staten Island, et al. The only whites who still kept some of their property (especially apartment buildings) were Jewish.

    After the post WW2 “White Flight”, blacks snapped up the property from fleeing whites for dirt cheap. For decades these homeowners lived their lives in peace with generations of their family in their homes. In the time frame, many paid off their mortgages and just paid NYC property tax and the water bills thereafter.

    Then in the 90s, developments started popping up in Brooklyn. Harlem was the 1st to experience this. By now, many of the black brownstone homeowners are old, their children have moved out to be in white neighborhoods (as these black neighborhoods had high crime rates – NO LIE!)Slowly,home prices on the brownstones started to CLIMB…..

    Many of the elderly could not keep up with repairs on their homes. The children either sold the homes or refinanced at a high rate or simply re-mortgaged the homes to pay for elder care for their parents or to finance care in nursing homes. Many Jewish landlords started to NOT renew leases on their black tenants in non-rent controlled buildings. Many of the elderly who didn’t have family or wise children simply couldn’t pay city tax, medical bills and their water bills as inflation started to eat away at their pension and social security. The City of NY took over their homes and auctioned off these houses to the highest bidders (often non-black people). New owners either kicked out these homeowners or simply “allowed” the elderly black people to “occupy” the house until they passed away.

    Then came the 2008 housing crisis. The children who remortgaged the homes with sub prime ARMs, simply lost the homes to foreclosure. Very few elderly, gladly sold to the whites. It was mainly their adult CHILDREN who sold out (can’t say I blame them, as they got close to 1-2 million $$$ for their parents home!)Those black owners who remain (the elderly and their children alike) are hanging on to dear life as inflation (a curse for wealth building)is running out of control. Other races (i.e. Jewish) are offering pure cash for these homes and often harass black owners into selling…..

    That’s why it’s important to teach our children the value of wealth and stress it to them at a young age. That and black unity.

    • February 27, 2014 - Reply

      @Eyes Wide Shut

      There are some points that I agree with and other things I just can not sit with. Black unity has nothing to do with this, this is purely business.
      Black folks have opportunity to buy there were auctions in Harlem selling buildings for $1.00. Please folks lets us not use “OH I Black” Excuse you should have bought when you lived in your hood. Last Spike Lee Brooklyn to live in the UES, so what the hell is he talking about!

  18. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    Sorry but Spike Lee has become that uncle that complains about everything.

  19. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    This brings up a question I feel that white people need to ask themselves, that is, why was there white flight in the first place? In some of the very neighborhoods that are now being gentrified,it used to be white populated. That includes the downtown mid Oklahoma City area where I live. I went to look for a new apartment last year , and was shocked at the cost of the average apartment price just for a two bedroom. I decided to stay were I am at LOL!! I don’t know if the experience made me paranoid, but I stated to wonder what is the real motive of gentrification. Is it spite! Is it to come back and claim what white people feel is theirs in the first place? Do they want to price blacks out? I don’t know the answer. I do know when everything is said and done, some may not be able to afford to live in these swanky areas. I have to admit that OKC is looking pretty beautiful with it’s new facelift and every black person I’ve spoken to is enjoying it. I just got to see what the ends gonna be.

  20. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    I went to a black owned/run breakfast place in Brooklyn back in 2010 (at the beginning of the hipster trend) and had one of the most memorable breakfast meals I have ever tasted. Whole lotta white folks in there too. I’d like to think they walked away with a full belly and maybe a more open mind. But, naw, Spike, fuck those people. They’re ruining your neighborhood by eating at a soul restaurant and changing the way things look.

    • February 28, 2014 - Reply


      @Coldcut LMBAO @ “open mind” I wish!! They’re ruining the neighborhood because they’ve driven people out who can no longer afford to live there. They’re ruining the neighborhood because many gentrifiers act like the people who’ve been they’re for generations are invisible. It’s all fine and good to enjoy the “soul food experience” and then go back to your $2500 a month studio apartment in Crown Heights and go to bed satisfied when people have become homeless and displaced because of this type of willful ignorance.

  21. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    The “Atlas District”. Trying to turn H St into a hipster Adams Morgan…

  22. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    As a long time Crown Heights, Brooklyn resident I completely agree with Spike. Hipsters usually clear the way for the yuppies to come in, so this might just be the beginning. What I have a major problem with is the dismissive attitude they have towards people who live in these communities and have been here through the good and the bad. I’ve overheard so many conversations among these new invaders talking about “my neighborhood’s kind of gentrified but it needs to be more gentrified and IT WILL” or “yeah I just moved over there, it’s in transition”. They just don’t seem to understand their way of doing things and of living is not everyone’s ideal. I love the flavor of Crown Heights, Flatbush, etc. and after working all day in a bland whitewashed world, I don’t want to come home to it as well.

    Thanks for bringing this to light Spike . . . since the City Council candidates who have something to say about gentrification rarely, if ever, get elected.

  23. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    I am very familiar with these neighborhoods and I do have some ambivalence about the overall impact of gentrification in Brooklyn. Between the unfair mortgage practices and the people who sell their legacy for “30 pieces of silver” many of the black homeowners in Brooklyn are like unarmed one-armed combatants in a knife fight. I have known people who have lived in places like Ft. Greene for near 20 years and could more than afford to purchase their own homes in the neighborhood and chose to rent instead. You cannot complain when the landlord sells the building and you get evicted. You did not get pushed out you chose to not invest where you lived. Home-ownership is not easy, but it is an investment in yourself and your community. I know too many folks who just cannot be bothered which is your right but you don’t get to complain about who buys it afterwards.

    That being said, Spike does have a point about the “new neighbors” especially when they exhibit such utter disregard for the people in the community into which they have chosen to move. The prevailing attitude seems to be we are here now you just need to move along: whether its walking down the sidewalk 3 abreast and not moving when others approach. Or covertly making rules that will impact your neighbors without the courtesy of consulting them. Many of the newcomers are poor neighbors and if they cannot understand the hostility it is because they are willfully oblivious to their own behaviors.

    I do miss the old Brooklyn, well the fun parts not the drugs dealers, the crime and the garbage but the neighborhoods, the culture and that thing that gave sovereign state of Brooklyn that special feel. I think that is what is being lost, that special feel.

    • February 27, 2014 - Reply


      @ Rastaman THANK YOU!!!!!! you had every chance to go to your local bank inquire about a mortgage and buy, some chose not to and are losing out!
      If you wanted to take the initiative to buy you should have

  24. February 26, 2014 - Reply

    San Francisco is going through the same crap.

    The funny thing is the hipsters’ hurt feelings. They cannot stand that they are perceived as the bad guys.

  25. February 27, 2014 - Reply

    “The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park…”

    …said everything as far as I’m concerned. The MC’s point about the opportunity for wealth creation is a good point as well.

  26. February 28, 2014 - Reply

    Black folks LOVE to blame ‘others’ for our circumstance as if we have no power to control our destiny! People are literally dying to come to this country to take advantage of the opportunities America affords us all. Yet we constantly, year after year, generation after generation, piss our opportunities away as we blame others for EASILY dominating us! Spike has a right to be pissed, but his anger should be directed at those fail to educate themselves and acquire the necessary skills to compete on the worlds stage!

  27. February 28, 2014 - Reply

    Gentrification is occurring rapidly in many US cities that are still thriving after the economic recession. In some places (like Houston), it’s going to straight to yuppies.

  28. May 1, 2014 - Reply

    As a white hipster who’s been living in Flatbush for over a year now I have to say you’re all thinking too deep into our motives for moving into “your” neighborhood. It’s a nice neighborhood. Lots of good Caribbean/Jamaican food. There’s fun block parties on Flatbush in the summer. Close to Prospect Park. Drum circle in the park all the time. Also – when moving to NYC from Florida (a move I’ve wanted to do my whole life) this was the most affordable and nicest neighborhood around.

    I’m not moving in to move people out. I just like the place. As a person who lives in the neighborhood you love is that so hard to believe?

  29. May 15, 2014 - Reply

    […] Spike Lee recently ranted about what he calls the “Christopher Columbus Syndrome”, that is not only being seen in boroughs of New York City, like Brooklyn and Harlem, but also in every major city across the country. […]

  30. June 24, 2014 - Reply

    “Fear of a Hipster Planet”

  31. October 14, 2015 - Reply

    London is also going through the Gentrification process. Its not only affecting people of colour, its also affecting working class caucasian people too. Unable to live in London boroughs they’ve lived in for generations, forced out by the higher rents and expensive businesses moving in. Theres been anti-gentrification movement forming in the UK, and I believe this movement will only get bigger as Gentrification forces more and more working class people out of their homes, leaving them no choice but to relocate to other parts of the country they have no ties with or cultural heritage. The hipsters move in and completely take over. Most, but not all, come across as arrogant and aloof, and do not wish to socialise with working class people who’ve lived in the area for generations, long before they arrived. They have an aura of self importance, believe they are the chosen ones, are cleverer, or think they are, when in reality they’re not. They’re just privilege hipsters who are no different to working class people. They come in this world the same way, and will leave the same way. Sooner or later they will realise that when they age.

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