Spike Lee Believes Cobble Hill Has Gentrified Into Brooklyn Heights

In a lengthy Q&A on New York magazine’s Vulture blog, Spike Lee talks with writer Will Leitch in detail about his roots in Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill. The director was born in Atlanta, and moved to Crown Heights at an early age, followed by eight years beginning around the age of 4—from 1961 to 1969—at 186 Warren Street, between Henry and Clinton streets.

Lee’s take: Cobble Hill has gentrified to the point that it’s now… Brooklyn Heights. Read more at Cobble Hill Blog.

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  • Factsarefunnythings

    @Arch Stanton

    When exactly did you attend “St. Anne’s”? I was one of the original 60 students who went there. There were more than “a couple” of back students there. Stanley was a lot of things, but one of his beliefs was to find spaces for disadvantaged kids.

    Saint Ann’s was affiliated with the Episcopal Church, not the Catholic Church.

    It is a little ridiculous of Spike Lee to speak of Saint Ann’s in such a way when his mother not only taught there, but was a huge presence at the school. Some forty-five years later (!) I have vivid memories of her, resplendent in her Dashikis and braided hair, interwoven with gold. Also, at least three of his siblings went there. I just saw David and Joie (sp) at the memorial for Stanley Bosworth.

    Finally, to say that Saint Ann’s was founded so that Heights Whites didn’t have to send their kids to Public school is ridiculous. For years if White parents truly wanted, they had Packer and Poly Prep (and Friends) as Spike well knows. Saint Ann’s was founded with a specific philosophy in mind, and was about teaching in a new and different methodology, as his mother exemplified.

    Shame on him.

  • Skeezix

    These intemperate remarks seem to me to be much ado about nothing. But I can’t resist making two comments:

    1. In 1961, when Spike Lee moved to Cobble Hill, Brooklyn Heights was not yet “Brooklyn Heights” in the sense he means it.

    2. Although it is probably correct that Saint Ann’s was formed by parents who didn’t want to send their kids to the newly integrated public schools, it is disingenuous to say that Saint Ann’s was formed to exclude “us black kids” when three of your siblings went there and your mother taught there.

  • Gerry

    @ y’all i am NOT responsible for any restrictions at the Heights Casino before 1986 when I became a member.

    What may have gone on is history water under the bridge get over it.

    FYI the Casino will take anyones money and thats a fact they take my Irish/Catholic money and my wifes German/Jewish heritage we are not blue-blood WASPS.

    It is mean to keep this Casino bashing up times have changed.

  • maestro

    I have been told that Brooklyn Heights was a HUGE mecca for gays in the 70’s and 80’s. Equal to the west village or Chelsea. Does anyone remember that?

  • Marcia K

    My kids went to St. Ann’s when it was young and new and said to be for gifted children. Children took the Stanford-Binet test to see if they were “smart” enough. No parents started the school. It was totally the brainchild of Stanley Bosworth who talked Canon Harcourt of the church into sponsoring it. It was called St. Ann’s Episcopal School for several years until it became well-known and could break ties with the church and become St. Ann’s School.
    It was a wonderful school and Stanley was …well, a genius, I suppose, in his way.

  • Brooklyn Tea

    Celebrities should not speak without a script, because when they talk it simply exemplifies their ignorance and/or hypocritical and phony attitudes.

    We really need to stop worshiping these useless, self absorbed people. They are over-paid and under-worked. They claim not to be part of the 1%, yet make millions per movie or episode. They claim to be “green” but fly on their private planes and live their 10k square foot homes, drive around in gas guzzling limos, Give us all a break.

  • WillowSt.Neighbor

    Brooklyn Tea,
    Amen to that!

  • Mr. Crusty

    Lots of hatred for Spike. Interesting.

  • sue

    Mr. Crusty
    Its not hatred for him just for his sterotyping..and his nonsense. Brooklyn Tea is right lots of celebs,politicos are full of themselves

  • Mr. Crusty

    Brooklyn Tea you think Spike Lee is useless and “overpaid”? Who do you think pays him? He is a creative artist who’s movies have grossed over $600M domestically and another $300M internationally.

    When you create a product which people are willing to happily pay nearly a billion dollars to see you earn the right to call him useless and overpaid but until then you just sound silly and a tad jeolous.

    You may not like him and you may think he is anti-Semitic, but you can not deny that he has earned every penny that he has made. Don’t you believe in capitalism?


  • Gerry

    @ Mr. Crusty I have never seen a Spike Lee film nor to i plan to.

  • HicksStreetNative

    Arch Stanton said:

    “…St. Anne’s, which was founded not to keep blacks out but more keep the white Heights kids from having to attend public school with all the “ghetto kids” ”

    This statement does an appalling disservice to the vision of Stanley Bosworth and Melville Harcourt. The founding of St Ann’s had absolutely nothing to do with not wanting children to go to school with “ghetto kids” as you so charmingly put it. It was the realization of long term planning by the people who started it, following a vision they had that came out of the Progressive Education movement, and focused on an intellectually and creatively challenging curriculum. Those of us who left P.S. 8 or 7 to go to St. Ann’s in the early years left highly integrated class rooms in P.S.7&8, and entered mixed race class rooms at St. Ann’s. I too attended both schools, and cannot even remotely agree with your statement:

    “PS 8 had a a few white students and St. Anne’s had only a couple of black students.”

    That just wasn’t my experience. The founders vision included a great commitment to a racially and economically diverse student (and teacher) population. Stanley Bosworth has been accused of being many things, but to in any way imply that racism was any part of the founding of St. Ann’s is as offensive coming from you as it was coming from Spike Lee.

    @Factsarefunnythings – beautifully said! There is more than a little irony in Spike Lee’s statements about a place that his mother was such a huge part of. There seems such a disconnect there. Jackie Lee was such a huge, and lovely, part of St. Ann’s for so many years.

  • allinall

    I’ve been reading all the comments and just now got around to reading the actual article in New York:

    1) You can’t argue that it’s a bit weird for him to make those comments about St Ann’s when his siblings went there and his mom taught there. Not sure what he was thinking.

    2) @Gerry – you need to calm down and also actually read people’s comments. Noone was asking you apologize or take the blame for the Casino’s shameful. Noone’s even asking you to drop your membership. The fact is that Spike Lee said that one of the main characteristics of the heights in the 50’s was that it was Jewish, and someone was arguing that this was not true. As proof as his point he was saying that the most prominent social organization in the heights at the time (the casino) did not even admit jews, which would probably not be true in a primarily jew sih neighborhood. So Gerry – please just go back to making the same exact post about how desperately we need a pool whenever someone says something about water.

    3) I think you can read Spike’s comments about Jews either way. On the one hand, it’s probably true that there were more jews in brooklyn heights than cobble hill (even if they were not the dominant group) and it’s possible that he was describing BH as Rich and Jewish, without necessarily implying that Jewish=rich. On the other hand, Spike does have a history of making mildly racist statement about Jews that usually fall into the category of assuming that rich=jewish, which is a long running stereotype of jews that dates back even before WWII to the days when shakespeare portrayed shylock as money grubbing. It’s a hurtful stereotype that often leads to bad things for jews, so I don’t blame jews for being sensitive to this topic. That being said, I tihnk Spike deserves a pass for this one.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    @ Factsarefunnythings, I attended St Ann’s in the early-mid 70’s. I was lucky enough to get out of there for Middle & High School and receive a proper academic education. That “Progressive Education” experiment was a joke; several of my friends found themselves woefully unprepared for college after graduating from St-ann’s.

    Correction, I should have said: One of the reasons St. Anne’s, was founded was not to keep blacks out but more keep the white Heights kids from having to attend public school with all the “ghetto kids”. It was not the only reason.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Funny, if you read the blog comments attached to the article, no one raises an issue with the “Rich, Jewish” quote.

    Also one must realize it is an interview. Mr. Lee is to the point he’s not going to waste time explaining all the subtle differences between the two neighborhoods. Cobble hill was Blue collar & Italian. Brooklyn Heights was Rich & Jewish. Yes it’s an oversimplification but it gives the one the gist of it.

  • http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com Flashlight Worthy

    It’s interesting to hear St. Anne’s ever characterized as “That “Progressive Education” experiment was a joke; several of my friends found themselves woefully unprepared for college after graduating from St-ann’s.”

    It must have improved quite a bit — nowadays it sends its graduates to the finest colleges and unviersities in the country year after year. If they were “woefully unprepared” then I’d imagine that after a few years the schools would wise up and stop admitting their students.

  • Hicks Street Native

    @Flashlight Worthy – Well said. And, BTW, it sent it’s grads to the finest universities in the country even back in the early days.

    I fear that Arch doesn’t understand that “Progressive Education” refers to a theory of education that has been productively creating many of the best schools in the country for the last 60 or so years, including St. Ann’s. It’s a very well respected theory of education, and not an “experiment” as he terms it.

    It’s unfortunate that Mr. Stanton had a bad experience there, but it doesn’t follow that everyone else did, and its not OK to trash the reality of St. Ann’s successful college follow up statistics. The Wall Street Journal called it the best private school in the country a few year back. Doubt they would have said that had all the grads flunked out of college due to being unprepared as Arch suggests.

  • Gerry

    @ Flashlight Worthy – progressive education was the “open classroom” of the late 1960s and early 1970s it did not work so the plug on it was pulled. Students were taught to spell phonetically and not correctly, it was about “creative thinking”, and it failed mserably.

    Now we have a generation who need “spell-check” more than they should due to the open classroom.

    @ allinall – my wish for an aquatic center is going nowhere fast the flawed design for the floating pool in the east river is a political stunt will never see the light of day and as for my feelings about our Heights Casino I have read more comments than I care to this subject the Casino is not a bad place and in time it will become diversified for the short term my family will be the tokens ready to embrace people of color, etc. who would like to be here.

    If anyone knows of any blacks or jews who would like to be members of the Heights Casino have them walk in and ask for Gerry and Andrea we would love to meet them.

  • Mr. Crusty

    I am so glad that Gerry is content to be a “token”.

  • Mary A

    I personally think that Spike, as usual, spoke during this interview from the point of view of the angry man he’s become, and his memories have been tainted by that point of view. It’s really interesting how many conversations about the Heights and about Cobble Hill/Carrol Gardens have been spurred by Spike’s comments. If you want to see the conversations about Cobble Hill/Carrol Gardens, you should take a look at the Carrol Gardens Patch blog at

  • Gerry

    @ Mr. Crusty – thanks. Diversity at the Heights Casino must begin someplace and so if that means we are “tokens” thats the way it is.