Open City Magazine: Mapping Displacement and Resistance in Sunset Park

How arts and tech can preserve intergenerational neighborhood stories and fight back against gentrification.

By Huiying Bernice Chan

Betty-Yu-by-Huiying-B.-Chan_photographer.jpg

Teresa Gutierrez’s cadences in Spanish pulsated through the television screen as she described the changes happening in Sunset Park, her neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“The rents are so high that our community can’t find decent housing or a healthy place to live for themselves,” Gutierrez, a long-time resident and immigrant rights organizer, said. “We need to organize to protect ourselves to know our rights.”

Gutierrez was among numerous Sunset Park residents who were interviewed by multimedia artist and activist Betty Yu for her interactive, multimedia exhibit, “(Dis)Placed in Sunset Park.”

“Sunset Park is home to one of the largest populations of Chinese residents in New York City, exceeding the number of those living in Manhattan’s Chinatown.”

Yu, a long-time Sunset Park resident, opened her exhibit highlighting the accelerated gentrification and community resistance in Sunset Park in September at the Open Source Gallery, in the heart of where she conducted her interviews.

Attendees were immersed in a curation of photographs, maps, and short films that brought to life stories of how Latinx and Chinese residents have created home in Sunset Park, intertwined with their concerns and organizing work against displacement today.

Sunset Park is home to one of the largest populations of Chinese residents in New York City, exceeding the number of those living in Manhattan’s Chinatown. They mostly live in the 8th Avenue area of the neighborhood, while Latinx residents live in the 5th Avenue vicinity. Today, about 50 percent of residents are Latinx, from the Dominican Republic, Mexico, and other parts of Latin America, while 40 percent are Asians, mostly Chinese. There is also a growing Arab and Muslim community from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, and other countries in the Middle East.

In the last decade, the neighborhood has been a prime target of real estate developers that has led to accelerated displacement. Developers have been pushing to change zoning and land-use laws in Sunset Park so they can build more luxury housing and commercial buildings, especially in areas like Industry City.

A complex of former manufacturing buildings owned by Jamestown Market, Industry City is one example of a project that is already displacing long-time residents, especially in the Latinx segment of the neighborhood below 5th Avenue. A $1-billion venture that spans seven waterfront blocks from 32nd to 39th Streets, Industry City is being designed to be one of the country’s largest innovation-maker hubs. The development comes at a large cost to the neighborhood, as it attracts college-educated professionals and simultaneously pushes out working-class residents.

“A lot of my friends in the 4th Avenue side are gone, because they’ve been displaced,” Yu said. “It’s really weird walking around there. Because what’s happening there is about to hit the Chinatown part,” she continued.

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Betty wins the 2017 Documentary Film Award from James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism for "Three Tours"

Betty received the 2017 Documentary Film Award from James Aronson Awards for Social Justice Journalism for "Three Tours". Her documentary film, "Three Tours" captures the lives of three U.S. military veterans, Nicole Goodwin, Ramon Mejia and Ryan Holleran, as they work to heal their wounds and battle with PTSD resulting from their deployments in Iraq. The film follows their transformation from U.S. military trained soldiers to agents of change advocating for proper mental health treatment of veterans and an end to unjust wars.

In the coming year Betty will be focusing on getting the film distributed and screened out in veteran communities, rural and communities of color that are most impacted by militarism and this "economic draft". She also hopes these powerful stories can be used as anti-military recruitment tools in schools. Now more than ever she feel it's important to get this film out there as Trump increases funding for the military to wage unjust wars, occupy foreign nations while accelerating his Islamophobia, hate and war mongering.

Read more here: http://ima-mfa.hunter.cuny.edu/ima-news/ima-alumna-betty-yu-ima-documentary-winner/

Come to Thesis Film Screening of "Three Tours" Saturday May 21st at 5:00pm

“Three Tours” a film by Betty Yu

SCREENING as a part of the IMA/MFA
Integrated Media Arts Spring 2016 Thesis Show

Saturday, May 21st  
starting at 5:00pm

@ Hunter College 68th St & Lexington Avenue (North Building)
Lang Auditorium & TV Studio, 4th Floor

About the film: "Three Tours" is a documentary film that captures the lives of three U.S. military veterans, Nicole Goodwin, Ramon Mejia & Ryan Holleran, as they work to heal their wounds and battle with PTSD resulting from their deployments in Iraq.  The film follows their transformation from U.S. military trained soldiers to agents of change advocating for proper mental health treatment of veterans and an end to unjust wars. 

“Three Tours” will be screened with other thesis projects by Wendell Cooper, Makia Harper, Walis Johnson & Lindsey Cordero that evening.  

There will be a Q&A with all of the thesis presenters at the end of the show!

The entire thesis show runs from May 20th and 21st - see details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1683844345212791/