On a Tuesday afternoon, you won’t find actor John Turturro traveling between boroughs via limousine or horse-drawn carriage. You’ll find him riding the B train, absorbed in a copy of the New York Times.
“Here you go right here,” Turturro says, pointing to the paper. “It’s hard to be a kid and study, living in a shelter.”
Although the initial question was about demographic changes in northwest Brooklyn over the past 20 or 30 years, homelessness seemed to be at the forefront of the Brooklyn-native’s mind.
“Just sitting here reading about public school kids living in shelters … this is terrible,” he said.
Turturro graciously agreed to an on-the-spot interview for amNewYork, and, not surprisingly, rent was the first thing to come up. The actor, 60, has lived in Park Slope since 1988 when he bought his first house in the neighborhood. Though Fort Greene has felt the brunt of gentrification in the area, he said, Park Slope has not been immune.
“Park Slope used to be a little funkier,” Turturro said. “There used to be more affordable housing. And a lot of the old shops and stores on Seventh Avenue are closed. Fifth Avenue has taken over.”
He acknowledged, however, that there are upsides to the changes that Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Prospect Heights and Park Slope have seen since the 1980s.
“You used to just get mugged. Anywhere. It just happened,” Turturro said. “I think it’s a balance. It’s hard to tell the direction things are going unless you’re really studying it, pinpointing what’s going on.”
In the meantime, he’s doing what he can to help the neighborhood that he calls home.
“The rents are astronomical,” he said. “But me and others are trying to help, do what we can to keep local shops and bookstores open.”