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Bullet-hole decor: the Brooklyn bar on the frontline of the gentrification wars Bullet-hole decor: the Brooklyn bar on the frontline of the gentrification wars
(about 2 months later)
Despite rapid gentrification, the realities of routine gang violence and its cost remain vivid in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, New York.Despite rapid gentrification, the realities of routine gang violence and its cost remain vivid in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, New York.
So it was perhaps unwise for Becca Brennan, a 31-year-old former corporate tax attorney from Toronto, to use the totems of thug life to promote Summerhill, her new “boozy sandwich shop” in a traditionally Jewish and West Indian neighbourhood.So it was perhaps unwise for Becca Brennan, a 31-year-old former corporate tax attorney from Toronto, to use the totems of thug life to promote Summerhill, her new “boozy sandwich shop” in a traditionally Jewish and West Indian neighbourhood.
A recent press release and Instagram post from the restaurant prompted widespread anger among local residents, when it advertised one of Summerhill’s cocktails beside a “bullet hole-ridden wall” — remnants of “a rumoured backroom illegal gun shop”.A recent press release and Instagram post from the restaurant prompted widespread anger among local residents, when it advertised one of Summerhill’s cocktails beside a “bullet hole-ridden wall” — remnants of “a rumoured backroom illegal gun shop”.
“Yes, that bullet hole-ridden wall was originally there and, yes, we’re keeping it,” the release claimed.“Yes, that bullet hole-ridden wall was originally there and, yes, we’re keeping it,” the release claimed.
New York culture publication, The Gothamist, first drew attention to the press release. Among other highlights, Summerhill advertised Forty Ounce Rose, a brand of wine bottled to recall a 40-oz bottle of malt liquor. In an area that was until recently subject to periodic gun battles between the Lincoln and Bergen Family gangs, the post was immediately criticised for its insensitivity.New York culture publication, The Gothamist, first drew attention to the press release. Among other highlights, Summerhill advertised Forty Ounce Rose, a brand of wine bottled to recall a 40-oz bottle of malt liquor. In an area that was until recently subject to periodic gun battles between the Lincoln and Bergen Family gangs, the post was immediately criticised for its insensitivity.
Yes, that bullet hole-ridden wall was originally there and, yes, we’re keeping itYes, that bullet hole-ridden wall was originally there and, yes, we’re keeping it
“It’s like you’re mimicking people’s shortcomings,” says local business owner Tracy Reid, who runs a a store selling ethnic clothing opposite the bar. “I would gladly have told her she was touching on some very sensitive issues. This community is trying hard to rid itself of the stigma that comes along with the violence.”“It’s like you’re mimicking people’s shortcomings,” says local business owner Tracy Reid, who runs a a store selling ethnic clothing opposite the bar. “I would gladly have told her she was touching on some very sensitive issues. This community is trying hard to rid itself of the stigma that comes along with the violence.”
Local carpenter Kareem Smith had been watching the enterprise set up from the stoop outside his cousin’s barber shop. “When you come a neighbourhood at least be nice,” Smith said. “It was a bad a statement and wasn’t too smart for her business. I didn’t see nobody in there Friday or Saturday night, so it definitely wasn’t a successful move.”Local carpenter Kareem Smith had been watching the enterprise set up from the stoop outside his cousin’s barber shop. “When you come a neighbourhood at least be nice,” Smith said. “It was a bad a statement and wasn’t too smart for her business. I didn’t see nobody in there Friday or Saturday night, so it definitely wasn’t a successful move.”
A local resident inspects the "bullet hole wall" for authenticity during a protest at Summerhill in Brooklyn, NY. @EaterNY pic.twitter.com/WePjR5FZV2A local resident inspects the "bullet hole wall" for authenticity during a protest at Summerhill in Brooklyn, NY. @EaterNY pic.twitter.com/WePjR5FZV2
On a recent visit to the beleaguered venue, a Summerhill barman described the offending “bullet holes” as anchor holes for the fridges that had been there, and in a later statement to the Guardian, Brennan acknowledged the error of the Instagram post, saying: “I deeply apologise for any offence that my recent comments might have caused,” adding: “The restaurant décor is not intended to make light of any aspect of Crown Heights, or its history.”On a recent visit to the beleaguered venue, a Summerhill barman described the offending “bullet holes” as anchor holes for the fridges that had been there, and in a later statement to the Guardian, Brennan acknowledged the error of the Instagram post, saying: “I deeply apologise for any offence that my recent comments might have caused,” adding: “The restaurant décor is not intended to make light of any aspect of Crown Heights, or its history.”
Fake bullet holes & serving wine in paper bags? This is disgusting. Shame on you Summerhill. #CrownHeights #Brooklyn https://t.co/CS9hPTk94CFake bullet holes & serving wine in paper bags? This is disgusting. Shame on you Summerhill. #CrownHeights #Brooklyn https://t.co/CS9hPTk94C
The controversy is only the latest in a procession of conflicts around the issue of gentrification, in cases where new ventures have been set up without a careful reading of the surrounding environment and history.The controversy is only the latest in a procession of conflicts around the issue of gentrification, in cases where new ventures have been set up without a careful reading of the surrounding environment and history.
Last year, African-American residents objected to a new bar being named after the area’s 19th century name, Crow Hill. “Crow”, critics said, was used as a derogatory or racist term. While owner Dan Wilby initially resisted the criticism, he ultimately acceded to pressure and changed the bar’s name from Crow Bar to Franklin 820.Last year, African-American residents objected to a new bar being named after the area’s 19th century name, Crow Hill. “Crow”, critics said, was used as a derogatory or racist term. While owner Dan Wilby initially resisted the criticism, he ultimately acceded to pressure and changed the bar’s name from Crow Bar to Franklin 820.
We knew ​about gentrification, but it never used to be so blatantWe knew ​about gentrification, but it never used to be so blatant
The pressures of gentrification are spreading ever outwards – to Harlem, Long Island City, Bushwick, Astoria, Gowanus. Three years ago, filmmaker Spike Lee launched an invective-laced tirade against the transformation of his home-turf, the now highly gentrified Fort Greene.The pressures of gentrification are spreading ever outwards – to Harlem, Long Island City, Bushwick, Astoria, Gowanus. Three years ago, filmmaker Spike Lee launched an invective-laced tirade against the transformation of his home-turf, the now highly gentrified Fort Greene.
“I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And 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? 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.”“I grew up here in New York. It’s changed. And 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? 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.”
In August 1991, Crown Heights saw three days of rioting between black residents and Orthodox Jews. Now, new bars and coffee shops populate the area, the typical outposts of gentrification, but empty storefronts also pepper the streets. Local property agents say small businesses have been forced to close due to rising rents. At the same time, business owners say they have seen trade decline because their traditional customers are moving away.In August 1991, Crown Heights saw three days of rioting between black residents and Orthodox Jews. Now, new bars and coffee shops populate the area, the typical outposts of gentrification, but empty storefronts also pepper the streets. Local property agents say small businesses have been forced to close due to rising rents. At the same time, business owners say they have seen trade decline because their traditional customers are moving away.
According to DNAInfo analysis, the postal code covering parts of neighbouring Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights has seen some of the highest influxes of high-income renters in the city. Between 2000 and 2010, the white population nearly doubled, to 16%.According to DNAInfo analysis, the postal code covering parts of neighbouring Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights has seen some of the highest influxes of high-income renters in the city. Between 2000 and 2010, the white population nearly doubled, to 16%.
The community tension is also being felt by new residents coming in. Photographic assistant Christopher Garcia recently arrived from Portland, Oregon. Graffiti opposite his apartment block reads: “No Gentrification.”The community tension is also being felt by new residents coming in. Photographic assistant Christopher Garcia recently arrived from Portland, Oregon. Graffiti opposite his apartment block reads: “No Gentrification.”
“I honestly feel bad about it and I recognise what gentrification is. When I got here, I immediately felt, ‘Damn, this kinda sucks’, and I’m part of it.”“I honestly feel bad about it and I recognise what gentrification is. When I got here, I immediately felt, ‘Damn, this kinda sucks’, and I’m part of it.”
Some have suggested Summerhill’s owners should make amends for failing to engage with the community, as other bars and restaurants have done. “It’s not too late to amend,” said Koran Wong, at the adjacent property letting agents. “I don’t think it was intentionally malicious. She should do something in the community to show she’s ready to fix it. Have a block party or some community out-reach.”Some have suggested Summerhill’s owners should make amends for failing to engage with the community, as other bars and restaurants have done. “It’s not too late to amend,” said Koran Wong, at the adjacent property letting agents. “I don’t think it was intentionally malicious. She should do something in the community to show she’s ready to fix it. Have a block party or some community out-reach.”
But Natherlene Bolden, a founding member of the Crown Heights Tenants Union and one of those leading last week’s protests, said she for one would not accept Brennan’s apology. “She’s making fun and money out of us. She’s saying, ‘I don’t care how you feel. I’ll come into you neighbourhood, open up a bar and make money off your pain while you’re still here’.”But Natherlene Bolden, a founding member of the Crown Heights Tenants Union and one of those leading last week’s protests, said she for one would not accept Brennan’s apology. “She’s making fun and money out of us. She’s saying, ‘I don’t care how you feel. I’ll come into you neighbourhood, open up a bar and make money off your pain while you’re still here’.”
“We knew [about gentrification] but it never used to be so blatant. She put it in our face, now it’s our turn to react.”“We knew [about gentrification] but it never used to be so blatant. She put it in our face, now it’s our turn to react.”
Follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion, and explore our archive hereFollow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion, and explore our archive here
This article was amended to correct an editing errorThis article was amended to correct an editing error
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