polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

This Gentrification Will Be Televised

by Alex Schafran

New York filmmakers Allison Lirish Dean and Kelly Anderson's recent film, Lasting Scars, is remarkable for more than just it's thoughtful consideration of the ongoing City-led transformation of one of Brooklyn's most vibrant African-American shopping districts, Fulton Mall. Lirish Dean, a planner and journalist whose work spans print and video mediums, and Anderson, an experienced documentary filmmaker, use the film's website, lastingscars.com, as an ongoing chronicle of media coverage about Fulton Mall's continuing saga.

Recognizing that the issue is not dead once the film is shot and edited, they are using the flexibility of the internet to both promote the film and keep people informed about related issues, new writings about Brooklyn, and perhaps most critically, some of the problematic coverage of Fulton Mall in the local media. Their recent posts about how the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal portray Fulton Mall, especially the latter's nostalgia for the old (white) heyday that was replaced by the "grungy" (read black, lower-income) days of today, are critical to exposing the powerful discourses of decline and obsolescence that enable city government, redevelopment agencies and private capital to deem certain uses and certain people irrelevant to the modern city.

Far more pernicious than the oft-mythologized artist-led gentrification or hipster invasions, state-led, developer-driven and media-enabled whitewashing lies at the heart of the ongoing race and class transformations at the center of so many global cities today.

Credits: Lasting Scars Trailer (August 2010) from Kelly Anderson.