The dog walk down on Marcy Ave here in Bed-Stuy (the other are the bodegas and, curiously, the Tiny Cup cafe on Nostrand) is one of those places where the old and new Bed-Stuy meet – and clash. The other weekend was a good example.
A crowd had gathered by the dog walk in the corner of the park. I heard some yelling, and at first I figured it was just kids hanging, but as I got closer I saw it was mostly adults. Mostly women in fact, with two guys at the centre doing the yelling.
The smaller guy was holding back a medium sized dog. I couldn’t make out what kind. It wasn’t a killer, but it was one of those dogs that could be vicious in the care of a bad owner. Anyway, he was yelling at a much bigger guy in the dog walk, who was holding back a big, if benign looking, pit bull. The big guy had a big jacket with a hood and with his dog he looked pretty much ghetto but he seemed more outraged than out and out angry as the smaller guy yelled at him.
“Motherfucka you can’t even control your dog. I told you to control him, and you wouldn’t control him and that’s why people don’t like to come to this dog walk and I got a right to come here and walk my dog without . . . ”
And so on. The small guy was really steamed. Most people in the crowd seemed to be on his side. He was a buppie looking dude, with nice clothes, and well-trimmed facial. He was so angry the veins were bulging out of his neck. The other guy seemed a little more calm. Or perhaps more defensive.
“It was YOUR dog bit my dog . … ”
“That’s because YOUR dog threatened mine . . . and I told you to keep him on a leash and you wouldn’t do it . . . ”
This went back and forth.. The crowd watched dispassionately, and from the way a lot of people murmured along when the smaller guy talked, they seemed to feel the dog walk WAS being unfairly monopolized by people like the big guy with the big pit bull. Then a middle aged lady with a West Indian accent said to some people murmuring around her: “Don’t be fooling yourself just because he’s got a smaller dog. His dog bit the other one . . . ” And the crowd seemed divided again. A few women chimed in, telling first the smaller guy then the bigger guy to leave it alone, it wasn’t worth it. But they kept on yelling at each other until, finally, the smaller guy started to walk away.
“It’s people like you give black people a bad name . . . ”
“What about you?”
“Me? I got a PHD! I ain’t worryin’ about ME!”
The smaller guy kept yelling back over his shoulder as he was walking but the crowd was losing interest. A white guy came up to a young black woman in the crowd and they greeted each other warmly. “Hey, I got a dog walking group next week – are you going to come?” “Sure!”
What was remarkable to me was how different the fight was from how a fight would have been in this area even a few years ago, when there was still visible crack use, gunfire at night and so on. I doubt anyone would have kept it to words then.
The eternal question: does gentrification bring the violence level down, or does the violence level going down bring about gentrification?