After causing a stir with his incendiary yet honest comments about gentrification in Brooklyn and New York City as a whole, Spike Lee appeared on Anderson Cooper 360 to explain exactly where he was coming from.
According to Lee, his issue with gentrification isn't people moving into new neighborhoods, it's the lack of appreciation for the neighborhood's history and wanton sense of entitlement that's on display:
My problem is that when you move into a neighborhood, have some respect for the history. For the culture. And I'm going to explain the word "bogart" for people that don't know. "Bogart" comes from Humphrey Bogart, meaning you come in and just...take it over. You can't do that. Harlem's a historic black neighborhood. History. Bedford Stuyvesant, Fort Greene...just come and be humble. Don't come in saying "We're here now, and this is the way it has to be." That's crazy to me.
He also discussed a bigger issue: the soaring cost of living. Lee believes that if people can no longer afford to live in New York City, the city itself will suffer:
I just hope that there's an affordable house for everybody so that New York City can stay the great city that it is. Because if you have to be a millionaire to live in New York City, New York City is not going to be the great city that it is because the artists aren't going to be there. You can't afford to...to send your children to private school, it's just going to be a disaster. We need affordable housing and just a whole rethinking of what the city's going to be in the United States of America.
Considering his confrontational approach to filmmaking and proclivity for speaking his mind, Lee is no stranger to controversy. Hopefully, the clarity that Lee provided here shows that his original comments come from passion and a belief in the city's greater good as opposed to a hateful place.
Rosie Perez, who appeared in Lee's seminal classic Do the Right Thing, alluded to the truth in his words. In an interview with Leonard Lopate, the actress and dancer extraordinaire agreed with his assessment:
I read about Spike’s rant – and you know, he’s kind of right. He’s kind of right. You know people say, ‘Oh well, New York changes all the time.’ The city changes all the time. The boroughs have always been slow to change. If you go to Woodhaven, it still looks like the opening credits to All in the Family, it’s still Archie Bunker Land. And so, just I wished that people would respect that, just a little bit.
Perez also reinforced Lee's belief that measures need to be taken to resolve the issue so New York City becomes the city that everyone needs it to be:
We all need to come together and stop fighting and try to make it work so that everybody gets a piece of the new pie that’s placed on the counter.