No one learns from Alice. She almost loses her head by climbing through doors and drinking mysterious elixir. Yet, D. W. Young finds a hole in a fence and decides to poke on through. There he finds a concrete world in constant flux; sometimes it has residents and sometimes it’s barren. Graffiti marks up the walls and old shipping containers. In the middle of Red Hook, population 10,000, a part of Brooklyn where a car is necessary because public transportation is not accessible, what seems to be a deserted skate park or forgotten dumping ground lies behind a fence that sometimes has a hole and sometimes is boarded up. The graffitti artists call it Bums’ Manor.
Homelessness is one problem in Red Hook. Others include wild dogs running amok and some drug activity. One of the biggest problems some residents face is the government housing becoming cooperative residences, which means its current tentants would no longer be able to afford the living expenses. This change shows the division between public housing and private housing.
The commentary in A Hole In A Fence describes a division between the people of the projects and the bohemians. Some artists are somewhat snobbish from some perspectives; that may be a misconception, mistaking love of hidden treasures for elitism. The spark for the most recent debate is IKEA, this colossal representation of all that is commercial and material coming smack dab in the middle of an otherwise low-key quiet off-the-beaten-path neighborhood. The people of the projects among many others think the move is beneficial because it will create local jobs for Red Hook residents. Others are upset at the gentrification, citing that the lack of infrastructure would cause traffic chaos and would also diminish the quirky flavor of their home.
Added Value Community Farm promotes sustainability within a community. It offers students the opportunity to learn by doing. They run a farm. While the group sees the downside of IKEA moving in being that of the traffic jams, they also see opportunity; they can team up with IKEA in endeavors like composting and gardening.
The ship owners who use the graving docks have a different take. IKEA’s plans include taking over the graving dock land. This dock would cost over 100 billion dollars to rebuild elsewhere. It is a working dock. Ships use it. IKEA’s plans to “maintain” the graving dock were simply to mark in the parking lot where it used to be after razing it. That is not preservation; it is indeed destruction.
The Waterfront Museum is a refurbished barge that shows the history of the waterfront in the area. Its director explains that IKEA should take the approach that Fairway Marktet did. “Treat [them] like a neighbor.” Indicating the the Revere Sugar Refinery had already been torn down, he remarks, “You can’t resist change because you’ll break.” Very true.
So instead of resistance, working for the greatest balance of happiness on all sides is the best way to approach such changes. Preserving the important parts and integrating new into old develops a new sense of community that offers opportunities as well as history.
The film’s postnote indicates that indeed the IKEA went up in 2008 while the graving docks were gone in 2007. Change happened. It always does unless you live in Wonderland. Alice finds her way back home and finds things as they were. Not so in the real world. The trick is to find a balance between development and identity in a city that constantly reconfigures itself.
A Hole In A Fence. Dir. D. W. Young. First Run Features 2008. DVD.