If there’s a shorthand version of the transformation of Brooklyn in recent years, it goes something like this: Gritty, rundown district gets rediscovered by young people with a vision, who start bands and open coffee bars and mayonnaise stores, leading to an urban renaissance. Or, if you’re of a different ideological bent — or someone who’s gotten evicted to make way for a mayonnaise store — replace “young people” with “developers and gentrifiers” and “start bands” with “destroy everything that was once good about the place.”
It’s the same story as in numerous other cities, where “revitalized” urban neighborhoods have sprung up in recent years, germinating Thai takeout and juice bars wherever they go.
Yet the real story of the New Brooklyn is far more complex. It's a tale of quick-buck land flippers and city officials playing cat-and-mouse as each pursue their own self-interested ends; of artists and entrepreneurs and sideshow hucksters seeking to claim neighborhoods for their own, while at the same time hoping to fight off the next wave of colonists who invariably follow them; of unemployed master puppeteers on soup kitchen lines and longtime shopkeepers alike trying to fight through the tidal surge of the new Brooklyn economy; and of young newcomers who seek apartments by riding the L train until they find a neighborhood they can afford. All are helping to shape Brooklyn in their own way, though some are more influential shapers than others.
These are just some of the people you’ll meet in “The Brooklyn Wars,” a full-length book that will zoom in on four key battlegrounds in the borough’s transformation:
• The redevelopment of Coney Island, which began as a complicated four-way battle between amusement park operators, city planners, real estate magnates, and low-income residents. It's resulted in a beachfront that has been transformed, but not in ways that everyone agrees is for the better.
• Downtown Brooklyn and Bushwick, two neighborhoods on the front lines of the borough’s gentrification battles, pitting longtime residents against wealthier (and whiter) newcomers.
• The outer Brooklyn neighborhoods, from eastern Bedford-Stuyvesant to Flatlands and Canarsie, where most of the borough’s one million poor live, and where economic benefits haven’t always trickled down.
• The new Barclays Center arena for the Brooklyn Nets, which sparked a decade-long fight over “jobs, hoops, and housing” involving the strangest of bedfellows.
These are all areas that I’ve covered extensively for more than a decade, for such publications as the Village Voice, City Limits, and Metro NY. (See demause.net for links to recent articles.) “The Brooklyn Wars” will take the best of this reporting — including a backlog of material that wouldn’t fit into a 500-word op-ed column — and mix it with new research to create an all-new work intended to answer the question: How has Brooklyn changed, who are the winners and losers, and what does this mean for other cities facing similar transformations?
So why, exactly, do I need your help with this? Right now, I have tons of stories to tell, but they’re scattered across dozens of articles in multiple outlets (many no longer available online), not to mention countless notebooks and minidisc cartridges that have piled up over the years. Your donation will not only help me research my research, as it were, but to conduct new investigations as well. Add in time for layout (I have book production in my bag of tricks as well) and some professional illustrators (very much not in my bag), and your funding is what will make it all possible.
Plus, of course, you’ll get all the nifty rewards shown at right — including, if you so choose, an actual physical book, printed via Createspace and mailed to you via the U.S. Postal Service. Just like people used to buy in the old Brooklyn.
Huge thanks to David Dyte, author of As Seen In Brooklyn, for the use of two of his photos in the above video, and to Tara Key and the wonderful band Antietam for use of their song “The Gate Closed” off their 2008 album Opus Mixtum. Once you’re done supporting my project, please go support theirs as well at the included links.
Risks and challenges
I've written both books (see http://demause.net/books/) and large magazine projects before, and know my way around planning timetables and hitting deadlines. Given the amount of research I currently have in hand, the amount I have yet to go, and the time (ten months) I've given myself to finalize the project, I'm confident that this is a more than reasonable timeline — especially since, with the exception of illustrations and copy editing, these are all tasks that I have both time and expertise to handle myself.
In a worst-case scenario, you may get your books a few weeks late — if not, I'll eat World B Free's oversized hat that Bruce Ratner wore at the Brooklyn Nets arena announcement. Regardless, I'll be sending out regular updates on the book's status so that you know what to expect and when to expect it — and, if it comes to it, pictures of me with my mouth full of hat.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (22 days)