Spike Lee's war with the New York Times over gentrification isn't going away any time soon: after the paper's head film critic AO Scott took on the subject through a cinematic lens, Lee fired off an epic riposte through social media.
Scott's article was just the latest in an ongoing conversation centered around gentrification in Brooklyn, dialogue that was thrust into the forefront anew after Lee was recorded publicly railing against a previous piece in the Times that suggested gentrification has spurred positive effects for the borough. That audio was first published in The Daily Intelligencer and went viral.
On Sunday, Scott published what Lee took to be a dig. "Whose Brooklyn Is It Anyway? Tracing Urban Change in Brooklyn From 'Kotter' To 'Girls'" read, in part:
What’s the saying about people who live in glass brownstones? Nearly everyone who brings up gentrification is implicated in some way, and accusations of hypocrisy on Mr. Lee’s part were not long in coming. In a Daily News op-ed article, Errol Louis noted that Mr. Lee currently lives in the old-money oasis of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and also that when he lived in Brooklyn, he was both an agent and a beneficiary of the gentrification he now decries. Mr. Lee’s presence in Fort Greene in the 1990s — as an artist, an entrepreneur and a celebrity — contributed in no small measure to that area’s cachet. Fort Greene was colonized by successive waves of interlopers: bohemians and creative class types; recent graduates and fledgling families; bankers and lawyers.
The director's open letter, which was published the following day via the social media platform WhoSay to -- to eschew outside edits, Lee said -- criticized Scott's piece as a "lame, weak, not really thought out" argument that attempts to portray Lee as a hypocrite.
You stated in your Article that because I live in The Upper East Side and I’m talking about Gentrification that makes me Hypocrite. The fact is where I live has nothing to do with it. Your argument is OKEY DOKE. If you did your research you would see I’m a product of The New York Public School System, from Kindergarten to graduating from John Dewey High School in Coney Island. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and my Family moved to Crown Heights, Brooklyn when I was Three. The Lees were the 1st Black Family to move into the predominantly Italian-American Brooklyn Neighborhood of Cobble Hill. My Parents bought their first home in 1968, a Brownstone in Fort Greene, where my Father still lives. Did you know his and a Next door Neighbor’s Brownstone were vandalized by Graffiti after my remarks on Gentrification at Pratt Institute? Curious you left that out of your article.
Since Lee's post was published on Monday, Scott took to Twitter to respond:
.@SpikeLee thanks for this but I was not accusing you of anything, just reporting (and critiquing) someone else's accusation.
— a. o. scott (@aoscott) March 31, 2014
Scott's piece did largely paraphrase another article published in The New York Daily News, in which it was actually NY1's Errol Louis who took aim at the director for calling out gentrifers, when Scott himself had moved to the affluent neighborhood of the Upper East Side.
Nevertheless, Lee's letter concludes with an exhortation to Scott: "Mr. Scott, please learn 'SPREADIN’ LOVE IS THE BROOKLYN WAY.' WAKE UP WE BEEN HERE."