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Spike Lee fires back at NY Times Miami officials seek to end annual Ultra music fest, cite ‘chaos’

NEW YORK, April 1, (RTRS): Spike Lee is unimpressed with criticism he’s received for remarks about Brooklyn’s rapid gentrification. And he really took issue with an essay New York Times film critic A.O. Scott wrote about Brooklyn for the Sunday edition. On Monday, the Manhattan-based filmmaker defended himself, and his views about Brooklyn, on WhoSay social network, vigorously refuting the notion that he could not criticize the borough’s gentrification because he no longer lives there himself. “Mr. Scott, what you fail to understand is that I can live on The Moon and what I said is still TRUE,” Lee argued in his open letter to the New York Times about Scott’s “Whose Brooklyn Is It Anyway” essay. “No matter where I choose to live that has nothing to do with it. I will always carry Brooklyn in my Blood, Heart and Soul.” Lee caused a stir last month when he railed against the changing complexion of his beloved borough, and the cultural politics — and real estate prices — that have forced many longtime residents to relocate. He called it, “mother… Christopher Columbus Syndrome,” and told new white residents: “You can’t discover this! We been here.”

Those remark earned Lee some major criticism, in part because he no longer lives in Brooklyn, and because he’s profited from real estate deals in the increasingly expensive borough. Scott wrote about Lee’s charges through the lens of film and fiction’s depiction of Brooklyn through the years. The essay included a remark about Lee living in a “glass brownstone” that alluded to the charges of hypocrisy. Lee did not appreciate that; he invoked Jay-Z as another former Brooklyn resident with strong ties to the borough. “Did anyone call Jay-Z a Hypocrite when he helped with bringing The Nets from New Jersey to The Barclays Center in Brooklyn at the Corner of Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue?” he asked. “Hey Buddy, Jay-Z had been long, long gone from The Marcy Projects and Brooklyn a long, long, long time ago and more Power to my BK All Day Brother. Should Jay-Z no longer mention Brooklyn in his Songs because he no longer resides there? You already know the answer to that one, Sir.”

In the same vein, Lee dove deep into the Brooklyn DNA of each of his films, challenging Scott’s assertion with a neighborhood-by-neighborhood breakdown of his own films. “Let’s just say Mr. Scott, we follow your ill thought out, half developed argument that I’m a Hypocrite. Since you are a New York Times Film Critic this should be very easy for you,” the filmmaker wrote. “According to your logic I should not have Written and Directed Jungle  Fever because I have never lived in Harlem and Bensonhurst. I should not have Directed Clockers because I have never lived in Boerum Hill and the Gowanus Projects. I should have not Written and Directed He Got Game because I have never lived in Coney Island. I should have never Directed my two Epic Documentaries on Hurricane Katrina - When the Levees Broke and If God is Willing and Da Creek Don’t Rise because I have never lived in New Orleans. Or maybe, perhaps I should have never WRITTEN and Directed Do The Right Thing because I have never, ever, ever lived in Bed-Stuy (Do or Die). Do you see where this is going?” Lee continued his long response with a list of celebrities with Brooklyn still living within their soul, including Sandy Koufax, Darren Aronofsky, Woody Allen and Barbra Streisand.

The mayor and other Miami officials are calling for the end of the annual Ultra electronic dance music festival after a security guard was trampled and rushed to the hospital with brain injuries when gate-crashers broke through a security fence during the three-day event. The 28-year-old woman, who worked for a security firm, remained in critical condition Monday, according to Miami police spokesman Freddie Cruz. “I think we should not have Ultra next year here,” Miami mayor Tomas Regalado told the Miami Herald over the weekend. “We don’t want to be showcased as the city of chaos.” He said festival organizers “acted irresponsibly” by failing to provide enough security at downtown Bayfront Park. More than 160,000 people attended the festival, now in its 16th year, according to Ultra spokeswoman Alexandra Greenberg. Police arrested 84 people and made more than 150 rescue runs. “The event coordinators are cooperating fully with investigative authorities,” Greenberg said. At last year’s festival, a 20-year-old woman died following a drug overdose.

Authorities are also investigating the death of a 21-year-old man who collapsed after attending the Ultra festival on Saturday, according to a Miami police spokesman. Electronic music festivals across the country have come under increased scrutiny in recent years. Los Angeles in 2010 forced Insomniac Events’ Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) to move to Las Vegas after a 15-year-old girl overdosed on MDMA, a popular stimulant also known as as “Molly.” In 2013, EDC attracted 345,000 people to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway for an all-night dance party headlined by superstar DJs like Tiesto, Avicii and Armin Van Buuren. Miami’s mayor and a city commissioner say they plan to introduce a resolution to prevent Ultra from receiving a permit next year to stage the event downtown. “About 77,000 people are in a place where there’s only one way in and one way out,” said Miami commissioner Marc Sarnoff. He also said drug use at the event, and the deafening noise was disrupting sleep for Miami’s downtown condo residents. “They have to leave for the weekend to get a night’s sleep,” he said. “Nobody puts anything of this nature in their downtown,” he added.

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