Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Letting the city get away with it again

For the last three months I've been asking Community Board 3 to demand that the Department of City Planning (DCP) state publicly its intentions for the Bowery so that
a) all the the people of New York will know what DCP has planned for the Bowery, and, by extension, Chinatown, and
b) DCP can face public scrutiny.

In response, the CB has written a letter to the Department of City Planning telling them that the community wants DCP to preserve the context of the Bowery.

While it is great to see the CB go on record in support of preserving the Bowery, it's hard to see what this letter is intended to accomplish:

1. DCP already knows the CB wants to preserve the Bowery: the CB included the Bowery in its original contextual rezoning plan two years ago.

2. DCP clearly doesn't care what the CB wants: it removed the Bowery from the rezoning area.

3. The letter was neither public nor demanded a public response.

This letter, though well-intentioned, doesn't say anything new or compel any response from DCP.

It's like calling up your landlord, telling him you want heat, after he's purposely cut off your heat to harass you out of your apartment. Why call him? He already knows you want heat. Calling him doesn't help you. You need outside help -- from HPD, from the courts, from the media.

So, once again, I ask the CB to push this issue into the public realm. The current city administration has been supporting development, gentrification and displacement throughout the city. All the old communities where real New Yorkers live, all the ethnic neighborhoods that make New York interesting and beautiful are threatened, from Harlem to Williamsburg to Fort Greene to Chinatown. This is an issue for ALL New Yorkers. It is not a local issue.


Anonymous said...

Just thought you might be interested in this:

I'm a city planning student at Berkeley, and a longtime resident of the LES (I grew up there). Just wondering what there can be done to strike a balance between healthy economic revitalization and downright gentrification.

rob said...

A solution should include preservation protections -- rent regulations, zoning restrictions -- along with economic incentives that lean towards small local businesses and away from chain stores. The situation is complicated when universities begin to expand. Students are wonderful as people, but a student demographic is by nature transient and without community roots, tends to raise rents and real estate values, is less familiar with local mom and pops and so tends to bring chain stores as well as non local, youth-oriented bars that push out the local resident-oriented economy. It's tough figuring out how to protect a neighborhood from a university.