Landlords, Eviction, Gentrification

The Following: A Bonanza of Paranoia in the Hood

By Guest Blogger Karen Malpede

 “The Following is scheduled to film in your area FOR THE LAST TIME on Mon., October 27 & Tue, October 28, 2014 from approximately 7:00 AM until 11:00 PM,” read the signs taped to posts around Clinton Hill.

Despite neighborhood unrest, the film shoot continued last week and will conclude as Halloween approaches (always a neighborhood festival with trick or treat designated homes for the children already decorated and two free public performance spectacles, on Clinton and Waverly Aves., created by two talented groups of local artists).

Before then, five and a quarter blocks of parking will be unavailable during two full days; large trucks belching CO2, with dressing rooms, and equipment, several cranes and lots of police cars will occupy the public space. The sidewalks will be filled with gangs of techies on walkie-talkies, and there will be the required hospitality food table—for whom?Last time, a week or so ago, when I walked by the food table, I asked: “Is this the food pantry for the neighborhood?” and was met with guffaws from the techies buttering their bagels. So continues the saga of 280 Washington Ave., currently the primary location for The Following’s third season. You do the math: six full days of shooting at $10 to $20,000 per day to the owners of the house.

But lest you think the neighborhood dissatisfaction that had once threatened to cancel all this was for naught, think again. Some accommodation has, in fact, been made: First off, if you bother to read the bold face print you will see that the neighborhood is to be thanked for our “patience and continued support” and that Bonanza Pictures, the producer, will be providing “a food or desert truck on the evening of Tuesday, October 28,” when presumably we can gather to eat the leftovers—of food or desert.

We’ve been promised food, but on the street the second morning of the shoot, I witness the following scene among the three men: a black man holding what look like two raspberry smoothies in plastic cups is pointed out by another black man to a third black man. The middle man says, “I told him to stop! I told him he couldn’t take those!” The third man responds, “He’s all right. He’s one of us. But, I appreciate your telling me, brother.” Evidently food or desert for the neighborhood is going to be strictly monitored. No actual hungry persons allowed. (Nor, do I think the food giveaway ever actually happened, though I ate dinner at home and didn’t go out to look.)

We are further informed that “the primary location owners have required” the film production company to make donations to four local charities. My own not-for-profit social justice theater company received a tax-deductible paypal donation in the amount of $1000 ($990, after fees). Three other neighborhood non-profits also received money, I have been told. A local elementary school, the older of the of two Halloween shows, a youth theater company based at Medgar Evers College, and an incorporated group of neighbors dedicated to aging in place in the homes they own.

“I donated tens of thousands of dollars this week. If you must know who they are,” wrote the 280 property owner in an angry email to me, alarmed by my unsympathetic portrayal on this very blog of her use of her own property. If that number is correct, then the other not-for-profits received a great a deal more money than mine did (which is fine with me, by the way); though it is not clear from whom, the property owner or, as the film company says, the film company itself.Therefore, we need to say that protest works(!), to some, small selective extent, for no donations at all would have been forthcoming, no matter what their size, without the mini-uprising of neighbors against the usurpation of public space.

Then, again, as I make it a practice never to watch the Fox network, I had no idea what the television show The Following is actually about. Here is a synopsis of the current season, taken from the show’s official website: “A series of horrific murders rocks New York, sending its residents into a state of fear and paranoia, and the entire city into lockdown.”

As The Following enters its final day, on the way to teach, I complain, vociferously, not about the mess on the street, but about the violent terrible junk that is being filmed with all this fancy equipment and borrowed police cars, to the Jamaican man who is standing guard outside my gate. We get to talking and walk together to the corner. “There’s a lot on television that should not be watched,” he says. “I know you are just doing a job,” I say. “I’m putting one son through college and I have other children at home.” We part smiling. “I’m going off to teach at John Jay College, now.”In the afternoon, after a long day of teaching Ibsen in my theater and social justice classes, I voice the same complaints “bad, violent television that increases paranoia; it is total junk,” to a big white techie guy. “You should leave New York,” he sneers.

“This is my city,” I respond, even as I wonder how it can be my city anymore. I’ve lived here as a working artist and educator for nearly fifty years. I’ve been part of creating child-care collectives, food coops, alternative theater spaces, demonstrations against our many wars and climate change. I’ve worked with and mourned along side survivors of the crack epidemic, Aids, the 9/11 attacks, hurricanes Irene and Sandy. I’m one of the people who has made this neighborhood attractive and upped its real estate value enough so that this violent-fantasy Fox television show is being filmed across the street.There is a real violence loose on our streets, not the bogus paranoia of The Following third season: It is the violence of the wealthy, supported by the very laws of the land, against the rest of us. If they are using television to teach us what a lock-down will be like, it’s not because of some pretend serial killer but because they simply wish us to know our place.

Join the Conversation


  1. Again, a mischaracterization of what happened. I didn’t send one or any angry emails. I invited you to breakfast to discuss how we could work together.

  2. It is my understanding that the money that was given to PS 20 allowed the school to keep their art teacher!! Great news, a teacher keeps her job and the students continue to be enriched by this program.

  3. Just re-reading and I should mention that Karen is quite aware that the the donations to community organizations were planned well before her protests. The donations were not the result of her complaints. It was prior to shooting that we reached out to Karen to tell her that we were interested in donating money and that we had arranged for the production company to also make donations of an additional $500 to each group. This was when she was still being nice, visiting and drinking wine, and enquiring about my husband’s mother’s health (all while planning slanderous blog posts).

    1. After the last article, many people asked me if I still planned to donate to Karen’s theater. There was no question that I would still donate money even after she wrote slanderous things about me and my husband. It was right to keep my word and it would have been wrong to take money away just because Karen disagreed with me.

      I thought it would be great to give money back to the neighborhood from the film shoot. This decision was made before a contract was even signed with the studio. I researched groups, spoke to representatives from various organizations and tried to choose those that would help kids, the immediate neighborhood, seniors, and the arts. I asked the studio to also make donations. I requested that I be an anonymous donor. For some reason this angered Karen. I tried to explain that it wan’t about me and that the focus should be on the work of each of these amazing organizations.

      I was shocked when Karen chose to focus on me in her blog posts. After reading the posts, the blinders were off but even this did not prepare me for how low Karen stooped. Unbelievably, Karen changed the facts to make herself the reason that neighborhood groups benefited. How could she claim that no donations at all would have been forthcoming without her? The donations were announced before her protest.

      “Therefore, we need to say that protest works(!), to some, small selective extent, for no donations at all would have been forthcoming, no matter what their size, without the mini-uprising of neighbors against the usurpation of public space.”

      Her version simply isn’t true. Karen has written lies. That said, she cannot take away the truth or the joy that has come from being able to help our neighborhood. We love Brooklyn! My kids are the 5th generation of my husband’s family to live in this amazing Borough. This is not Karen’s city as she yelled. It belongs to everyone who lives here. Maybe this is what she has missed in her 50 years here.

  4. Dear Karen,

    You really don’t deserve a longer reply to your howl of self-aggrandizing misery than this: there are REAL protests, and this ain’t among them. Desperately trying to make generous, open neighbors look selfish and remote while shoe-horning “heroism” onto your (included!) resume adds NOTHING positive to your neighborhood, your life, your city. Nothing. Despite the haughty claim that you “make it a practice never to watch the FOX network,” what you’ve done here, darling, is exactly what FOX News does — make up stories that sound exciting by people desperate to trumpet themselves, and get people’s dander up (which, I bet, you criticize in your “classes” and “theater”). But it doesn’t work on the large scale, nor does it work here — the wars happened, the gentrification enlarged, the middle class got (and is getting) screwed DESPITE your powerful play, or blog post, or paper maché puppet. See? Selfishness LIKE THE ABOVE is effective only in achieving the exact opposite of your goal. It hurts everybody who listens, takes much needed attention away from actual problems, and poisons the atmosphere. Criticism, fine. Have at it. A real conversation about the direction of your neighborhood, the oligarchy, the traffic, etc. That’s not what you’re doing — this is just petty character assassination under the barest fig-leaf of collectivism and self-righteousness. When you wonder why the social justice movement is in such a sorry state, look in the mirror.

    “Large trucks belching CO2…” — what are you belching? You complain about “violent, terrible junk” that the production company is putting out; holy cow, this deserves it’s own display in the Hall of Irony — have you read your own piece? Is there ANYTHING constructive in it? What’s more “terrible junk” — a tv show that can be turned off, or a bitter neighbor who’ll blatantly lie in an attempt at shaming people publicly while grabbing the spotlight? The revolution starts at home, baby.

    And you teach? I hope, for your sake, that what you teach is fiction, because it’s clearly the only skill you have here, if that. Want to read a real piece of journalism that has an actual effect? Something thought-provoking, factual and sourced? Esquire has a terrific piece this month about the dysfunction in our legislatures. What makes it good is that it uses real quotes, by real people, and identifies real problems, not “hey, this Jamaican guy agrees with me…”

    …which neatly brings me to another point, your insufferable racist subtext; you can’t seem to refrain from superfluously mentioning skin color. Why do I, as a reader, need to know that the techie you kvetch to is big and white (the bad guy), that the guard is Jamaican, etc., when it has absolutely nothing to do with the story? It’s the journalistic equivalent of a privilege-class white woman throwing gang signs — it makes your biases obvious. Your gauzy closing scene with the Jamaican guard, where you condescendingly tell him that you know he was “just doing his job…” then inform US and him, after your special shared smile, that you’re off to teach at John Jay College — what a Special Moments Figurine™! Here’s how that reads: “I’m white, but one of the people I deign to speak with is dark-skinned with an accent; aren’t I multi-cultural!?” You’re on the flip side of the same coin as George Lincoln Rockwell! And nobody needs that currency.

    You want a better neighborhood? Act like a better neighbor. You believe in social justice? Practice it.

    Until then, perhaps you can find a gig on Fox & Friends — you’ll fit right in.

  5. I had intended to comment on Karen’s absurd and fictional screed but instead I will just say I agree with Rob. Honestly, Karen, I’m glad you have been evicted. I don’t want you as a neighbor.

  6. Please, please, please get out of my neighborhood with all your negativity. You are exactly the kind of bitter person I pray gentrification doesn’t bring to our neighborhood in the future. How did you live here for so long? I think Park Slope is much better suited for you.

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