New Film Reveals Truths of Burgeoning Brooklyn

STORY BY Artie Vincent

Published: April 13, 2013

Just as Williamsburg grows by the minute, there's many business owners and landlords that quickly forget how humble the neighborhood once was. 
 
That's the heart of the matter for filmmaker Su Friedrich.
 
Friedrich's film "Gut Renovation" opened March 6th at the Film Forum in Williamsburg, and the film takes a meticulous and hard examination at the changes in Williamsburg since the implementation of the new zoning laws in 2005. 
 
The meteoric growth of real estate in Brooklyn put the borough on the national stage. In a nation suffering through recession, Brooklyn was the only place in the country where property value rose in the last six years. But the new trend has a price, like pushing away the middle class. 
 
In the past, Brooklyn was an affordable urban option for New Yorkers. The rent prices were half of that Manhattan and still offered the cultural experience of New York. It had easy accessibility to the city (the subway rides were no more than 15 minutes to Manhattan). 
 
Today, the cost of living in Brooklyn has rose to the point that it's more affordable living in Manhattan. The average studio on the upper east and west sides of the city is $1,900 while a studio in Williamsburg averages $2,500 at some areas of Williamsburg.
 
Friedrich, a filmmaker for more than 30 years, delves into those issues with his documentary. 
 
Friedrich has lived in Williamsburg since 1989. He was witness to the demise of  small businesses and the rise of condo building. Though the documentary centers on one area of Brooklyn, Friedrich makes a statement that gentrification will swallow the city entirely, posing a challenge for the mom and pop stores and the lower middle class. 
 
Back in the late 1980s, Williamsburg was the city's best kept secret for artists. They were just a handful of stores and a few restaurants. The birth of the artist loft came in the shape of the industrial buildings. 
 
The reshaping slowly took place for years until it snowballed with the 2005 rezoning laws. 
 
From Connecticut, Friedrich found a special place for Williamsburg, until big businesses began their take over. He decided to record the process. He would go on his bike and shoot video every day. Then it grew from there. 
 
The documentary became a statement to disturbing trend for nation in economic turmoil. 
 
The age of "Condoburg" began.  
 
And at the heart of the documentary's spine, the neighborhood lifers like Friedrich feel the city will go down a wrong path. The end of the middle class is near and stylish neighborhood hubs -- a la Williamsburg -- will appear everywhere for only the rich.
Other Stories by Artie Vincent
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