An Irishgirl abroad — New York life through a European lens

Rapping on Dean Street

Posted in Brooklyn, Local, New York by Frieda on June 18, 2010

Leah Hart & friends, ready to rap

When I picked up my camera this afternoon and headed outside, I never thought I’d come across a bunch of rappers: eight of them, along with a woman with a video camera and a car blasting background music, right outside my house. The videographer was Leah Hart, and they were performing a rap cypher, a 16 bar chant to which all eight add their own individual rhythm. They live nearby — Leah’s on Park Place — and they chose my street because they liked the graffiti.

I love my new neighbourhood, Crown Heights in Brooklyn. There’s something magical about it, a community feel with creative artistry sewn in. It’s ethnically diverse and has not always fared well. In 1991 riots broke out after a 7-year-old African American boy was killed by a car driven by a Hasidic man. In the three days of violence that followed, one man was killed and almost 200 injured. Now, though, such conflict seems a thing of the past, and all sorts of groups co-exist and work together, literally, with businesses that are side by side.

Nearby Franklin Avenue is a hive of activity: locals gather on their apartment stoops, businesses thrive. Yesterday I discovered a bijou community center, where freelancers, artists, and local organizations can meet, for free. One or two organic groceries and swish coffee shops bear witness to change: gentrification, which is raising rents and bringing double-edged benefits.

Off Franklin, warehouses and factories overshadow the sidewalks, some in their original function, others converted (legally & illegally) into artists’ lofts and collectives. Everyone seems to have something on the go. At the end of my road, canopied by orange parasols, a man sells watermelons, and plants from his garage.

These are pictures from my 15 minute walk.

Poem by James Wright, on a lampost at Franklin & St. Johns (click to enlarge)

Locals plan to appropriate this disused lot & make it into a community garden (this weekend)

Notice on on Franklin Ave.

Factories on Bergen St.

Local film-maker, McClinton Karma Stanley (see

A graffito on Franklin Avenue


3 Responses

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  1. queen of parks said, on June 23, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    That’s all really interesting! Were those riots the same ones that inspired Spike Lee’s film Do the Right Thing, I wonder, or am i getting mixed up?

  2. Tuf Pak said, on June 19, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I love those old beer warehouses on Bergen Street. We live right around the corner and have spent years watching them slowly collapse upon themselves.

    Funny enough, the owner of the lot is now a British fund manager who’s just sitting on them. I’m still hopeful a use can be found.

  3. Frieda said, on June 19, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    Thanks for the note, Tuf Pak. Interesting to hear that a British fund manager is sitting on them. How did you find that out? The news makes my blood boil a little, since they are beautiful and could be put to a practical purpose rather than having a rich guy keep them to himself as an investment. I had assumed someone was living there.

    Just FYI, this is an old version of my blog. My new blog is and you can find this post here,

    Cheers! Frieda

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