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Graffiti vandal hits Spike Lee's old block

By Haimy Assefa, Ross Levitt and Ray Sanchez, CNN
updated 8:37 PM EST, Fri February 28, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Broken glass, spray-paint mark Spike Lee's father's house and a neighbor's house
  • Spike Lee ranted about New York gentrification and hipsters
  • The neighbor whose home was vandalized believes it's connected to Lee's rant

New York (CNN) -- A graffiti vandal hit the home owned by Spike Lee's father and a neighboring home in Brooklyn Friday -- days after the filmmaker's curse-filled rant against the gentrification enveloping his old neighborhood.

The glass was shattered on the front door of the neighbor's home on Washington Park in the Fort Greene section, and "Do the Right Thing," the title of Lee's controversial 1989 film about racial tension in Brooklyn, was spray-painted on the wall along with the Circle-A, the symbol for anarchy.

Three words -- "Do the Right" -- were scrawled on stairs leading to jazz artist Bill Lee's brownstone next door. A police spokesman said the home was spray-painted early Friday. The act of vandalism is being investigated.

Dianne Mackenzie, who has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years, said she discovered the vandalism on her Washington Park home Friday morning. She believes the damage is connected to Spike Lee's now-infamous anti-gentrification rant during an African-American History Month lecture on Tuesday.

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"All I know is that he made a lot of comments that went viral, the next day my house is vandalized," Mackenzie told CNN. "There is probably some kind of connection in the mind of whoever did this ... There is no reasonable reason for it. If this person has got something to say, fine say it. Don't damage my property."

Arnold Lee, who lives with his father, defended his half-brother's right to rant about gentrification but took issue with Spike Lee's reference to the family's Fort Greene home.

"Say what you want but leave the personal stuff out of it," he told CNN Friday. "The moment you start going, 'Well, I live here,' and he doesn't live here. You know he lives in Manhattan so ... this is my dad's house, and it's kind of personal."

He added, "Leave us out of it. Because I feel bad ... my neighbor, she is a good friend.

In his rant, in which Lee mentioned that he once lived at 165 Washington Park, Lee also said his father, "a great jazz musician," bought the brownstone 46 years ago.

"And the mother******' people moved in last year and called the cops on my father," Lee said. He's not — he doesn't even play electric bass. It's acoustic. We bought the mother******' house in 1968, and now you call the cops? In 2013?"

According to a New York Times article, police have received 17 noise complaints. The Times said a woman who lived next door had called most.

Arnold Lee doesn't believe the vandalism was connected to the noise complaints.

"If it came from what he said, then it came from that," he said "But there hasn't been a noise complaint in months."

Mackenzie, a retired computer programmer, said she was not behind the noise complaints.

"They are professional musicians next door," she said. "They practice. They jam and their music is very good. I never had problems with the noise at all. And I was quoted in the paper saying that, and I never brought complaints. Maybe this has something to do with that. If it does, they got the wrong house."

Mackenzie, a retired computer programmer, said she is not concerned for her safety.

"We don't have this kind of thing happening in this neighborhood," she said. "And that is upsetting in a way ... I don't think it's necessarily going to happen again."

Mackenzie said Fort Greene has always been vibrant and diverse, with many longtime home owners.

"It's always been a very mixed neighborhood, racially, culturally, socially," she said. "It's retained that identity. It's also been a neighborhood that attracts a lot of people from the arts. And it still does. I don't think that the flavor of the neighborhood has changed. The people in it have changed, and where they come from maybe. A lot of people from Europe, people from Africa, we have people from all over in Fort Greene."

In his speech Tuesday at Brooklyn's Pratt Institute, Lee vented his feelings about newcomers now inhabiting once-blighted parts of America's most populous city.

"And why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn't picked up every mother******* day when I was living in 165 Washington Park. ... The police weren't around. When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o'clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something."

On Wednesday, Lee told "Anderson Cooper 360" that he's not against new people moving into areas that were once predominantly poor and predominantly African-American.

"My problem is that when you move into a neighborhood, have some respect for the history, for the culture," Lee said.

Not just Spike Lee's Brooklyn

CNN's Rande Iaboni contributed to this report.

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