Kelly Anderson: Documenting Downtown Brooklyn

Filmmaker Kelly Anderson has lived all over Brooklyn since moving here from Montreal in 1988. Having been a resident of Boerum Hill, Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, and Park Slope, Anderson now lives in Sunset Park, and has seen the borough change dramatically in her time here. It is these changes that became the premise for the documentary film My Brooklyn, an autobiographical look at the gentrification of Brooklyn and what it’s meant for the borough’s economic, ethnic and cultural makeup. Anderson directed the documentary as a collaboration with producer Allison Lirish Dean as a way to explore the shifting dynamics of the borough she calls home.

“Brooklyn has attracted a lot of artists historically because it’s been more affordable in terms of housing, and it has great local character,” Anderson tells us. “Unfortunately, those same artists have paved the way for the gentrification we’ve seen happen, which has displaced a lot of artists and people of color. Developers have long used artists to pave the way for big development projects like the crazy condo booms we’ve seen in Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn. The 2004 Downtown Brooklyn Plan has largely replaced what was interesting and vibrant about that area with luxury high-rise condos and generic chain retail.”

A large part of My Brooklyn is focused on the controversial plans to demolish the Fulton Mall, an area which is—perhaps surprisingly—revealed to be New York City’s third most profitable shopping district. The film shows the area to be something of a cultural mecca, and delves into the emergence of early hip-hop culture at the Mall. Anderson’s investment in maintaining Brooklyn’s character is an example that all of us can follow. She is quick to point out all the positive things about the borough, but also admits the high cost of living here is unsustainable, saying, “It needs to be gotten under control or we won’t be the wonderful, artsy, hip, diverse place that Brooklyn is known for being. We need to get engaged in our community boards, and in the neighborhood organizations,” she urges, “It might not be sexy to sit around talking about zoning or subsidies, but it’s the only way to preserve life as we love it in Brooklyn.”

Photo by Danny Lyons

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


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