Gentrification is usually no laughing matter.
But Park Slope native Jay Cusato’s “A Box Came to Brooklyn,” is making the rounds at film festivals, and getting audiences to laugh at the absurdities that follow when new folks move in to tight-knit neighborhoods.
The short film is inspired by a classic episode of "The Twilight Zone," called “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” and a real-life strange encounter on Cusato’s 11th Street block.
“I walked outside one morning and found six of my neighbors standing around a garbage can on the side of the street,” Cusato said. “Everyone was asking where it came from, there was no address on it, and I overheard everyone talking, and it was one of the most ridiculous conversations I’ve ever heard.”
In “A Box Came to Brooklyn,” a mysterious package shows up in the middle of the street, and neighbors point fingers, blame terrorists and ultimately seem like they’re ready to move out of the quaint neighborhood.
The film was shot in Bay Ridge — one of three New York City neighborhoods that aren't gentrifying, according to a recent study by the Community Service Society of New York — and Cusato said neighbors on Madeline Court welcomed their crew, even cooking for them and lending them a vacant apartment for the shoot. Like "Old Brooklyn," Cusato said.
When asked if there are any positives to gentrification, Cusato, 40, who still lives in the same Park Slope building he grew up in, said he can’t deny some aspects of the neighborhood have changed for the better.
“Without a doubt, Park Slope was not a great neighborhood growing up,” Cusato said. “I don’t want to say it was Compton, but it was a neighborhood that literally nobody cared about, there were no cool bars or restaurants … the neighborhood has turned around a whole bunch. It’s just the people, there’s more of a disconnect. Growing up, everybody knew each other.”
“Now, it’s more important that you live in Park Slope, instead of being a part of a neighborhood,” Cusato said.
“A Box Came to Brooklyn” has two screenings this week, at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday at The Chain NYC Film Festival in Long Island City and 4:45 p.m. on Sunday at the Upstairs Theater at the BrightSide Tavern Film Festival in Jersey City.
The film be screened at The Boonies International Film Festival in Pennsylvania later this month.
“I think 'The Twilight Zone' connection alone brings interest to the film,” Cusato said. “And no matter where it screens, any community can relate, where you grow up will look different 25 years later.”