Thursday, January 07, 2016

The consequences of unaccountability

The Parks Department closed the basketball court all summer to resurface it even though there were no complaints about the old court and there was no community need for a resurfaced court. The Community Board did not request a resurfacing. Calling it a "repair," the Department proceeded without consultation, consent, or process.

The Department also renovated the nearest basketball court on Avenue D at the same time, closing out basketball to the community youth for nearly the entire summer.

The placement of ping pong tables in the park was also done without process beyond finding a space. The installation of a police surveillance station: also without process or consultation. Both of these targeted the homeless in Tompkins Square Park who've been part of the park community for decades.

The police station was installed after an article appeared in which a new young white person complained about the homeless in the park. The article appeared in the New York Observer, owned by Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, who owns at least 36 buildings in the neighborhood. The homeless are clearly an obstacle to financial appreciation of his holdings and his vision for the neighborhood, one that is cleansed of anything but wealth and whiteness.

The park is the center of the Alphabet City neighborhood and community. It is being transformed without any accountability. I often hear the simplistic analysis that gentrification is the inevitable the result of global capital accumulation seeking a place to develop new markets. But gentrification doesn't happen without government complicity. Parks, development, real estate taxes, zoning restrictions, housing availability and regulation, services -- all these are within government purview. Gentrification is as much a policy choice as a pressure from capital.

The government in a democracy purports to be us. But when a government agency -- whether it's Parks and Recreation or the NYPD -- or the mayor himself changes the landscape without process, that's where gentrification gets in the door.

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