Tour of towers: Walking tours highlight gentrification of Downtown and Gowanus

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Call him a social justice walker.

A native Brooklynite has created a pair of walking tours that spotlight the history and impact of gentrification in the Gowanus and Downtown neighborhoods. The twice-monthly, $10 tours highlight the changing borough and make sure that those crushed under the wheels of development are not forgotten, said the man behind the tours.

“I think a lot of people get the idea that Brooklyn is thriving — but parts of Brooklyn are thriving and parts of Brooklyn are between a rock and a hard place,” said Mike Higgins, who hails from Fort Greene. “The people who have had to undergo the disinvestment are not necessarily thriving.”

The Social Justice Tours organization features several walks in Manhattan, including a gay history tour and a walk focused on Trump-related sites, but Higgins created his two Brooklyn-focused tours earlier this year.

The mile-long, 90-minute “Environmen­tal Justice in Gowanus” focuses on the notoriously fetid waterway’s transformation from dumping ground to Superfund site to hipster hot spot and home for possible future luxury condos.

The two-hour “Gentrifica­tion in Downtown Brooklyn” stroll begins near MetroTech Center — the area’s first harbinger of the development that began in the 1980s, Higgens said. The tour then loops through Downtown, stopping at a former abolitionist house and Underground Railroad stop on Duffield Street that the city has promised to preserve. Other stops include City Point — the site of the former small business-focused Albee Square Mall — and Barclays Center, where Higgins discusses the eminent domain seizures that made it possible.

Tour participants so far have been a mix of native Brooklynites and first-time visitors, and Higgins tailors his tour to account for his listerners’ background with the borough.

“On the one hand I want to talk to native New Yorkers who live here, who are experiencing the consequences of unaccountable development, but I also want to talk to tourists about the ways in which Brooklyn has been sold around the world as a brand,” he said.

Higgins also wants to prompt tour-goers to consider their own role in gentrification and displacement — and how they can fight back against those forces.

“It’s everyday people that have contributed, and a lot of city government stepping in to decide who gets to live there and who gets to benefit from that new investment coming in,” he said.

“Environmen­tal Justice in Gowanus” tour (Union Street and Fourth Avenue in Gowanus, Nov. 4 and 11 at noon. $10.

“Gentrifica­tion in Downtown Brooklyn” tour (Jay Street and Myrtle Avenue Downtown, Nov. 10 and 17 at noon. $10.

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Posted 12:00 am, November 2, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Sparkle from Bay Ridge says:
I will walk this tour and scream rage against these changes. I want things to remain exactly how they are now. No neighborhood should be allowed to change. All these new buildings and changes should be torn down. Things must stay the same and no one should ever have to move because they don’t earn enough money to live where they have been living.
Nov. 2, 2018, 8:46 am
Honeysha from Da Hood says:
10 mutha fumpin dollars!!! So this tour is only for gentry?! How are poor supposed to afford it?!?
Nov. 2, 2018, 9:54 am
Joey from Clinton Hills says:
This is so far down on my bucket list that I fear I'll die before I get to take this tour.
Nov. 2, 2018, 10:17 am
Rusty from Flatbush says:
None of us are entitled to other people’s property. No neighborhood belongs to anyone. The city is constantly changing and has been since it was founded. I can hear the screams through history about the name change from New Amsterdam to New York.
Nov. 2, 2018, 12:49 pm
Wanda from Crown Heights says:
The people who live in these neighborhoods are the original settlers, descended from Native Americans, and have the God given right to live there unmolested by wealthy white interlopers.
Nov. 2, 2018, 6:21 pm
Wilbur D. Horse from Gofigure says:
This guy is Profiting off of gentrification by charging money for his tour of other people's property! I find that ironic. Then again, I majored in Irony.
Nov. 2, 2018, 6:52 pm
Rusty from Flatbush says:
Let the DNA tests begin!
Nov. 3, 2018, 6:02 pm
Brooklyn Oldtimer from Downtown Brooklyn says:
How I miss the good old days in Brooklyn when dope dealers controlled Ft. Greene Park, vicious killers preyed on students at Pratt Institute, $5 prostitutes walked along Pacific street, and vandals covered every inch of every subway train with graffiti. The evil invaders who have gentrified Brooklyn need to leave immediately in the name of social justice. Brooklyn must be restored to its former days of glory when every car had a "no radio" sign and BMW stood for "break my windows!"
Nov. 4, 2018, 10:54 pm

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