BUSHWICK — An art gallery's plan to create a list of the 200 most influential people in the neighborhood triggered a racially charged debate about who should be included.
Fuchs Projects at 56 Bogart St. plans on hosting "Bushwick 200" Friday night, where influential Bushwick residents working in the arts, restaurants, bars and real estate — among other categories — will be celebrated as the first inductees are announced, according to the invitation.
The list aims to showcase innovative "men and women who have been transforming the conventional," the invite reads.
But soon after the event went live on Jan. 2, its Facebook page was clogged with posts from a handful of frustrated residents who wondered what criteria was involved in the selection process.
The discussion quickly morphed into a racially charged conversation about gentrification in the neighborhood.
"Just because some white guy concocts some app, or some white girl vandalizes homes with crochet, does not mean they transform the conventional," wrote Anthony Rosado, 24, a lifelong Bushwick resident and activist.
"Real estate developers are using art to evict my family."
The owner of a Park Slope gallery Ethan Pettit came to Fuchs' defense with racially charged words of his own.
"Lighten up y'all. In the real world out there beyond the borders of ethnocentric barrio you seek to preserve, these kinds of "200" lists are routine, healthy and illuminating," Pettit wrote. "Latino gangs were shooting each other in the streets... artists were the first wave of gentrifiers who turned this mess around."
"Just because I don’t have some breeder family that talks in tongues on Sundays does not mean I am not rock solid with my bohemian pees in the hood," he wrote, to the outrage of many involved in the conversation.
By Tuesday morning, all the posts to the event page had been erased and Rafael Fuchs — an Israeli-born photographer who moved to New York in 1985 and founded Fuchs Projects in 2012 — begged for peace in a posting.
"I am an ARTIST !!! I am not considering myself a community leader....I am more concerned with art, expression, reaction, colors, layers, concept, and yes: community as well, when it's a part of my artwork," he wrote in a comment on the page and offered to meet with the parties involved in the debate.
"We are taking very seriously the concerns and comments that were raised on the Facebook discussion. We are open to listen to comments and advisors, and educate ourselves, but won’t tolerate negativity and aggression," he wrote.
"For the sake of peace we are not allowing comments between people on this platform."
"Bushwick 200" is the latest in a series of contentious instances that have touched a nerve among community members who feel the impact of gentrification first-hand — like the crocheted mural that Bushwick Flea slung up on a neighbor's house without asking or a controversial luxury rental named "Colony 120."
"Everything here is just so sensitive... the gentrification, displacement, whitewashing, however people [want to call it]. It's at a point of no control and no stop." said Yazmin Colon, 35, who grew up in Brownsville and has lived in Bushwick with her son since 2005.
"It's crazy for you not to expect this backlash."