CROWN HEIGHTS — Since Alicia Atterberry moved to Crown Heights in 2012, she’s seen a lot of changes in her neighborhood. But, for her, gentrification in the area didn’t sink in until last fall when a very familiar name popped up on Franklin Avenue.
“I think it really hit me when the Starbucks opened,” she said, speaking of the coffee chain’s new outpost at the corner of Eastern Parkway. “I turned to my friend ... We just looked at each other like, ‘What is going on?’ We totally didn’t expect that.”
The moment led indirectly to the creation of “Crown Heights in Color,” an online photographic repository of people and places Atterberry sees during long strolls she takes almost every Sunday all over the neighborhood.
“I just walk and walk and walk until I’m tired or it gets too dark and I need to go back home,” she said with a laugh. “If something interests me, if I see a cool building, I’ll walk further down and see what’s going on there.”
It’s something the amateur photographer has been doing for more than a year, at first as a way to get to know the streets around her apartment. But now, she wants to share her photos online with a larger purpose in mind.
“I just wanted to document what the neighborhood looks like and the people who live there before it completely changed,” she said.
The resulting photos are an arresting glimpse of Crown Heights street life, including kids caught mid-sprint on sidewalks, couples smooching on a stoop and old friends ribbing each other at a block party.
Though the photos are shown without commentary, Atterberry said the project has stirred up a lot of conversation during her photo-taking sessions — and gentrification is a hot topic, she said.
“It’s interesting what people have to say. Some people definitely like the new blood and the new residents who are coming in, while others are dealing with more grave matters,” like evictions and rent hikes, she said.
Though she herself wrestles with being “part of the problem” — as a new resident, as a “millennial,” she said — she hardly ever feels hostility from those she meets while taking photos, something she attributes partly to her race; she is black, like many of her subjects.
“I look like them and identify with them,” she said.
And even more importantly, she thinks people understand that she’s not trying to change the neighborhood — quite the opposite, in fact.
“The only thing I would want for Crown Heights is for it to be a great community and I feel like the foundation of that is already there,” she said.
Check out the photo project at crownheightsincolor.com.