Saturday, May 03, 2008

We met with City Planning

Friends and neighbors,

We met with City Planning:

a) They want hotels to line the Bowery and they want to develop Chinatown.
b) They are completely, stubbornly and adamantly dedicated to the EV/LES rezoning.

(a) is bad, but (b) presents an opportunity for our community and office holders to play hardball. Now is the moment to leverage (b) against (a). Alan Gerson has stated he will oppose the plan unless it is improved. That's the right strategy.

Now is the moment to demand that Chinatown and the Bowery be included in the plan. There will be no protection for Chinatown and the Bowery unless this moment is seized. Even if Chinatown and the Bowery don't get into the plan, only the firm demand that they be included will yield any progress towards a deal to protect Chinatown.

The community and office holders must unite behind this strategy, otherwise there will be no Bowery and no Chinatown sooner than you think. Gentrification is a self-propelling process. Once a couple of hotels go up in a neighborhood, upscale bars and clubs displace local business, real estate value rises, landlords harass, empty apartments, warehouse them and then sell to developers. There is no road back.

Some on the Community Board have urged us to accept the plan without dissent or question, for fear that DCP would abandon the rezoning. This was alarmist fear then and is absurd now that the city has spent millions on the Environmental Impact Statement (yes, millions -- these are hugely expensive studies) and is even more committed than ever. Frightened acceptance is completely unnecessary.

Let me repeat that for those who have been listening to the alarmist fear mongers:

Frightened acceptance is completely unnecessary because the city is completely committed to carrying this rezoning forward.

Our community board members must set aside the divisions and squabbles of the past, hear the people of Chinatown and the Bowery, shed the mode of desperate fear and step up to the plate. Let's not see the community board throw the game to DCP. Let's watch the community board play hardball for the people of Bowery & Chinatown.

Monday, May 12, 6:30pm,
Public School 20,
166 Essex Street
(btwn Houston & Stanton)


Victoria said...

I think there's a good side to gentrification too that a lot of people ignore in order to pursue a cause, and being from San Francisco, I see redevelopment and gentrification happening every day as well.

First of all, gentrification doesn't necessarily assume that members lower income communities are going to disappear when their communities are redeveloped. Instead, these populations with higher rates of crime and poverty are diluted, and they can seek low-income housing in other communities where they won't be so concentrated.

Because there is no longer any "poor" community that is easy to cut funds from, and instead a lot of communities that have approximately equal rates of income or crime, or other socioeconomic factors, funding and resources will be allotted to communities more evenly by the city or county.

It's a matter of dialectical materialism - poor communities ripe for gentrification are the thesis, the possibility of new, developped communities is the antithesis. Therefore, the synthesis is the integration of the lower income community into better communities. It's a gradual process, but let's face it. Lower income communities that are often targets for gentrification usually are less educated and receive fewer services or resources, because it's considered a waste of money from the budget. So, by gentrifying communities and causing lower income citizens to be members of communities instead of a community in and of themselves, they're more likely to receive what they need.

rob said...

Your observations do not apply to Chinatown. You don't distinguish between a depressed neighborhood (a slum) and thriving, successful low-income neighborhoods.

Your prognosis of integration into higher income neighborhoods ignores two important issues: the upscaling does not benefit the displaced forced from viable low-income neighborhoods into depressed neighborhoods where they lack their community support system.

Hegelian a priorism doesn't make good, empirical urban planning. Communities, especially ethnic communities, are unique cultural enclaves offering cultural riches to the city. Upscale neighborhoods, which are often less community-oriented, are far more uniform. It's not synthesis; it's loss.

This is more a matter of fundamental values over which it is pointless to debate. You either value the richness of human diversity, and aim public policy towards encouraging it, or you don't value it. The world is losing its linguistic diversity, for example. There's a practical advantage to having the entire world speaking one language, but for anyone sensitive to the beauty of human language, that'd be a major human disaster on the scale of the loss of biodiversity. Much of what makes life worth living is not practical at all.

No doubt we could get along well without many species and many languages. The question is, do we have to, and if we don't have to, do we want to?

We see the direction of upscale neighborhoods: Duane Reades, banks, Rite Aids, banks -- that's the impoverished culture of the uniform upscale future. Even Chinatown's cheapest, seediest soup dump on Henry Street is preferable -- where else can you get truly authentic, exotic dumplings in a superb soup stock with fresh baby bok choy leaves only lightly steamed? Not in upscale Americanized Chinese restaurants. And on Henry Street it's only $3.25, so both you and the locals can enjoy it.

A synthesized world? No thanks. Who needs it? Chinatown doesn't.

Anonymous said...

I need the address of the that soup place on Henry Street. It sounds really good. I think you'll bring more people over to your way of thinking with gustatory arguments.