BY MIKE MCLAUGHLIN     Tuesday, February 2, 2010, 3:43 PM

THREE BROOKLYN friends discovered art in affordable housing.

A photographer and two filmmakers from Tivoli Towers, a huge Crown Heights building, pointed their cameras on daily life in the close-knit Mitchell-Lama complex confronting deteriorating conditions and gentrification, and produced a real picture of the community.

“What we have can be lost and is something to fight for,” said documentarian Scott Brathwaite, 28, about the strong bonds among the neighbors.” “That was definitely something to record.”

The Brooklyn Historical Society will exhibit the film by Brathwaite and Anthony Clouden and 80 portraits by Delphine Fawundu-Buford in a show opening Feb. 11 called “Tivoli: A Place We Call Home.”

The 30 minutes of color footage captured slices of life like tenants griping together about the chronically broken elevators in the 33-story building.

“That has a lot to do with the character of the building – everybody squeezing into one elevator or bringing chairs down to the lobby for the elderly people to wait,” Brathwaite said.

Tivoli residents have faced problems like mold and vermin, but the biggest jolt came when landlord Donald Lentneck tried to convert their apartments to market rate during the real estate boom.

A 2006 court ruling thwarted him, but a panic gripped the residents that they might lose their affordable, but rundown, oasis if Crown Heights continued to gentrify.

The battle made the exhibit’s creators decide to record the pros and cons of Tivoli Towers: “There was always a community atmosphere. We’d play madeup games and have sleepovers and eat dinner at each other’s houses,” said Clouden, 32.

But “physical conditions are so bad that it has taken a toll on people,” he added.

A sale of Tivoli Towers to developer Laurence Gluck is almost complete.

Gluck and officials from the city Housing Development Corp. said the building will remain in Mitchell-Lama for 30 years, and they promised extensive renovations.

Fawundu-Buford, who took photos of individuals and families in the towers, said Brooklyn residents will relate to the visual saga.

“Our building is an example of what’s happening in so many different neighborhoods,” said Fawundu-Buford, 38.

The historical society picked the exhibit because it’s a loving insider’s look at a building at a crossroads.

“It’s being told by the people who live there,” said society Vice President Kate Fermoile.

“Often, you go to an exhibit and you’re looking at someone else’s perspective on a community, but that’s not the case here.”

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