The Real Deal New York

Spike Lee’s wife chimes in on Brooklyn gentrification

Lewis Lee says the film director's love of the borough "made everyone want to come here"
July 01, 2014 12:00PM

Director Spike Lee has long been an outspoken critic of Brooklyn gentrification. But Tonya Lewis Lee, the director’s wife of 20 years, recently chimed in on the hot topic to say that her husband is partly to blame for the way the borough looks today.

“I may get in trouble for saying this, but I tend to tease Spike about the fact that he’s the one that caused for a lot of the gentrification here in Brooklyn, because he put Brooklyn on the map in a big way, and showed everyone how great and hip and cool it was, and made everyone want to come here,” Lewis Lee told New York magazine. “We were here in Brooklyn a few weeks ago, and I was like, ‘this is because of you.’”

The comments came over the weekend during a block party in Bedford-Stuyvesant to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of Lee’s film “Do the Right Thing,” during which a stretch of Stuyvesant Avenue between Quincy Street and Lexington Avenue was officially christened “Do the Right Thing Way” in honor of the film.

Lewis Lee also touched on comments her husband made back in February lambasting what he called a lack of improvement in facilities until there is “an influx of white New Yorkers.”

“I think the issue is we need to start taking care of our poorer communities before they become these gentrified places,” Lewis Lee said. “So if we really care about these communities before, and I’ll say moneyed people [arrive] — I don’t think it’s just white people — we need policies to make sure kids are getting education.”

Spike Lee, a Fort Greene native, is currently trying to unload his Upper East Side townhouse at 153 East 63rd Street, also known as the Hatch House, with Brown Harris Stevens’ Paula Del Nunzio for $28.5 million. Previously listed with Sotheby’s a few months ago with an asking price of $32 million, the digs boast five bedrooms, 7,000 square feet and a central courtyard. Lee purchased the property from painter Jasper Johns for $16.6 million in 1998. [NY Mag]Julie Strickland