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Faces/Places in the ‘Hood

November 10, 2008

This is a new series I will be starting in which I’ll be interviewing residents as well as proprietors in the neighborhood.

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What’s your name and business name?  My name is Michelle and the name of my business is ‘Mirrors on Grand’. A bar located on Grand ave between Clifton place and Lafayette ave.

How long have you been in the area?  The business has been open officially open since March 29, 2008. I’ve been in the immediate area for ten years…I used to live in Fort Greene prior to Clinton Hill and my family has been here since the ’70’s.

What do you like most about this neighborhood? I like thats it’s very diverse.

Has it always been diverse?  Yeah, it’s always been diverse.

What do you like least about this neighborhood? There’s nothing I really like the least…I like everything. I take the good with the bad and I think the good outweighs the bad.

What changes would you like to see in the neighborhood? New businesses… And umm minority owned businesses that are actually from and involved in neighborhood.

Would you like to see some the new businesses that have opened up be more active in the community? Definitely…I feel like older neighborhood businesses, those places that have a reputation for themselves already, have a relationship with the community…whether it’s the arab corner store or the chinese restaurant, they all have some type of relationship with there customers. When it comes to some of the newer establishments in the neighborhood, it seems as though they welcome the new residents and don’t quite welcome the old.

Interesting…Have you ever felt unsafe in the ‘hood? NEVER! Ever, ever…only one time when I was real young visiting New York.

Where were you visiting from and how old were you? I came from England, I was 9 years old. At that point in time my family stayed on South Elliot between DeKalb and Lafayette, I happened to venture to the Myrtle side of Fort Greene park. I was scared because I didn’t know how to get home.

What are your fondest memories of the neighborhood? My fondest? Wow…there’s so many. My fondest memories of the neighborhood…Man, there’s so many…block parties are one of my favorites. Watching my son grow up in the neighborhood, I mean that’s a given. I’m a single parent and businesses, people in the streets, they look out for my son. He comes home all the time saying someone told him to tell mommy ‘hello’. I appreciate that, the community feel…the bodegas, the liquor stores, all the other businesses, it feels good that they keep an eye out for em’.

How do feel about the gentrification of the neighborhood? I love it but I hate it. When I say that…I love it that now Fort Greene/Clinton Hill gets recognition for being the diverse community based neighborhood we are, but what I hate is that they make it seem like they made Fort Greene/Clinton Hill the diverse community based neighborhood we are…

When you say they…who do you mean? The new comers…umm you know…some of the new comers feel as though they made Fort Greene/Clinton Hill but actually Fort Greene/Clinton Hill had many events, a lot of things going on and no disrepect to anyone but it was Fort Greene/Clinton Hill before them and will be after them…So the gentrification I love somewhat because now people know about the area but I don’t want to buy 2 lemons for $2.00! I want my 6 lemons for a dollar at my local Pioneer, C-Town or Met Foods. I don’t want an organic market replacing these stores…I don’t.

Tell me something about the ‘hood you think is overlooked: Umm..The Paul Robeson Theater…the church on Lafayette and South Oxford that used to house runaway slaves…I would like those kinds of things to alse be brought up about the neighborhood, the history…I mean Paul Robeson was the Denzel Washington of his time, an icon and here we have this theater in his name and no one knows or cares to rebuild this theater that we’ve had in our neighborhood for so long…

You had a fundraiser…Yes I did have a fundraiser, it was a very small turnout. Dr.English, the owner of Paul Robeson theater showed up…You know I just wish we could recognize people in our neighborhood that have been here, that have done things for the community…I mean Dr.English delivered Malcom X’s first daughter, people don’t know about that, here she is in our community, she’s been in our community, owns a theater that no one wants to help rebuild and doesn’t get any recognition. She was the only OB/GYN doctor in this neighborhood for over twenty years at one point! I just wish more people in the neighborhood were recognized…

How do you feel about the coverage of the area, media or otherwise? I don’t think it’s balanced at all, I mean this goes with the gentrication thing, I’m not mad at it because yeah I may want to go to Tillies for a latte but there’s other places in the neighborhood that have lattes…there’s this place on Bedford, even though that’s Bed-Stuy but still there’s alot places that won’t survive because they don’t get supported. Even over here Brown Betty that’s on Grand ave has great lattes and hot apple cider, she can’t afford to be open 5-7 days a week now cause she doesnt have the business but has great lattes. There’s alot of quaint businesses in the cut that are quality but don’t get the coverage or support.

Speaking of coverage, how do you feel about the brownstoner incident?(A few months ago one of Brooklyn’s most prominent bloggers brownstoner.com, wrote a post about the closing Grand 275 in which it was stated it may be because of the ‘dodgy’ crowd at Mirrors on Grand across the street and that the 88th precinct needed to do a crackdown on the place immediately) I was really offended by that post, alot of people in the neighborhood were offended. I was especially offended, more than anything because he’d never been to the venue and would have a negative comment to make, that’s one of the sites I go on, I’m a blog reader and I just feel like it was a little bit racist…not even a little bit, it was racist. I feel like the site only makes negative comments when it comes to minority businesses. I felt like he hurt my business, I felt like he discredited Grand 275, it was their last day of being open and I felt like to say something like that to their patrons, that they wouldn’t even give a chance or possibly frequent my venue. He made it seem like Mirrors was the reason Grand 275 shutdown. The post was removed but I felt like I should’ve received a formal retraction and formal apology…it was removed but the damage was already done…I mean he really went in on me with that and it brought out some bad tension out in the comments.

Any ending thoughts?  The reason I call the bar Mirrors is because I wanted it to be a reflection of the neighborhood…the new AND the old..the new is here and the old is not to be forgotten.

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