Meanwhile, east and north of here, members of the ULURP committee met at the CB9 clubhouse last night to discuss the major new Text Amendment for Quality and Affordability, which, if you actually read it and absorb its innards, then you probably have a degree in City Planning. The gist is intended to spur the creation of affordable housing and senior housing, and yeah give builders a bit of flexibility in their construction and layouts, adding a few feet to height. These hardly revolutionary changes, designed as they are to incentivize the creation of permanent means-tested housing, were met with predictable scorn by the usual players, and not a wee bit of misinformation was tossed about to boot. Richard Bearak of the BP's office held his own, responding to questions and trying, sometimes in vain, to correct gross misreadings of the proposal. That is, when he wasn't politely allowing the increasingly bizarre mispronunciation of his name. Local activist Suki Cheong's has mastered a lot of the zoning language, and this makes me wonder whether she'll be the person able to cobble together a coherent response for us, meaning the ULURP committee, not that it'll make a whole hell of a lot of difference. It would be nice to have an intelligent, well-written document to refer to though. Unlike the upcoming Zoning Study, our voice here is severely limited, and from what I've seen, thank goodness. We're not exactly the Municipal Art Society, which, along with senior advocacy groups has come out in support, with slight modifications. I look forward to Suki's draft. I hope it will be fair. Somehow I doubt that many folks in the community will do more at the public hearing than scream about how they don't want Brooklyn to become the Bronx. For the record, I don't want Brooklyn to become the Bronx either. But this Text Amendment is not a Bronxifier. It's a modest attempt to address some of the things that deter developers from building what we want them to build. Or at least, I THOUGHT what we wanted them to build - as much affordable housing as possible. Apparently some people would prefer to punt it all forward, to a time far in the future when we put the finishing touches on a community led proposal that goes absolutely nowhere. But it'll look nice on the coffee table!
All over NYC folks have been looking at this stuff, and when their eyes aren't glazing over with Letters, Numbers, FARs and Lot Coverage, they're rejecting policy changes that would create and promote positive economic diversity, not now but in the future, like prioritizing the building of apartments over the building of parking spaces. To which CB9 predictably counters with the tired concerns of car owners who are needlessly forced to search for parking into the wee hours (cue the tiny violins) because they somehow chose to live close to the subway and downtown Manhattan while at the same time expecting free parking and clog-free driving for life. Want to hear how in denial some people are about their own selfishness? Just come down and hear full grown million-dollar home owners actually argue that their parking privileges trump a home for a poor senior citizen. A senior citizen who, the numbers tell us, is HIGHLY unlikely to own a car. Try owning and maintaining and fueling and insuring a car in this City on Social Security alone. (Someone actually said "but that senior citizen may have sold their house to their children and that's why they need housing but they still have a car but they have no money." Huh?) That person needs a parking space! Give me a break. Access-a-ride exists for a reason. I'm getting really sick of this shit. Most New Yorker DON'T own cars, and therefore aren't so damn uptight all the time about parking and traffic. Maybe road rage enters into the blood stream and creates some sort of weird hostile reflex to anything remotely cognizant of the world we're heading into, one hurricane and melted glacier at a time. And the complaint that people come and park in OUR neighborhood to take the train, stealing OUR parking? Did anyone bother telling y'all that they are PUBLIC PARKING SPACES, like for the public? First come first serve baby. You don't own them, and there is no City Charter guarantee to parking. Wait I'm checking...nope. No guarantee. Zilch. Ditch the car, or quityerbitchin'. Actually I like that. For a bumper sticker, natch. On an SUV.
In East New York the rhetoric has ratcheted up considerably beyond even ours, in no small part because of the Barrons, not Robber, but rather Charles and Inez. Longtime defenders of the City's underclass, they've made quite a name for themselves decrying the tactics of just about anyone foolish enough to try to sell them a policy solution. In an article in DNAInfo Charles Barron is quoted thusly, regarding the Text Thingy:
I have no problem with the substance of what he says there. Diversifying East New York's income is almost assuredly going to bring white people to the area because it's very hard to cherry pick your new arrivals on the basis of race, and if you don't want white people, you might want to do whatever you think you can to keep them out. Which would mean, probably, in this City anyway, keeping it poor. Fact is, you don't need this Text Amendment for white people to move in. Look all over the City. It is happening already. What boggles the mind though is that while admitting that the jargon and figures are "hard to absorb" for everyday citizens, Charles Barron wants to tell you what to think and how to vote. Don't decide what you think is best based on your "intelligence." Say no. Just say no. Don't bother finding out what those "hard to absorb" details are. Just trust Papa Chuck to tell you what's what.
Attendees at the Brooklyn Community Board 16 meeting expressed distaste with the language used in the city’s presentation, with many saying the jargon and figures were “hard to absorb” for everyday citizens.
“You know what they’re going to tell you? ‘We need a diversity of income.’ You know what that means? ‘We need more white people,’” Charles Barron told residents. “We don’t need more white people moving in to have a prosperous economy...Let them know you’re intelligent enough to determine what is affordable for your neighborhood. Say no.”
The saddest part of his political ego nonsense is that he's got some folks convinced that they can actually protect the blackness and affordability by saying no to this text amendment. Or that by saying no to the big ENY rezoning they'll hang on to their current quality of life. This City does not work that way. It changes, changes fast sometimes, and if you're not prepared for it, you will be bulldozed by capitalism, racism, classism, and in some cases by actual bulldozers. And if you think I'm exaggerating, I've got two dozen other neighborhood histories in NYC to tell you about. Neighborhood that never thought they'd go white and middle-to-upper class.
It's hard for me to imagine something more patronizing. "Let them know you're intelligent enough..." to do EXACTLY WHAT I SAY.
The fact is, and Barron knows this of course, you can't have a prosperous economy in a poor neighborhood. Because...it's poor, silly. Stores and jobs and industry aren't going to magically appear. There's no anti-capitalist pill you can take to keep down housing costs. That's fantasy, unless of course there's a planned takeover of City Hall, Albany and Washington D.C. by a bunch of anti-business socialists. Not gonna happen. Not saying it would be a bad thing, but in a country where Trump can lead polls, it's not bloody likely.
And so, another common sense plan to build more affordable housing the only way the City can seem to afford - which is by having other people build and maintain it - is about to succumb to the worst excesses of anger towards anything associated with the Government or Developers. We will continue to get nothing, the City will continue to get denser without affordability, and the wealthy builder will continue to scratch his head at why small changes to the code that might give working people a fighting chance to live here can't survive. I don't think they're necessarily laughing at us; some of them are undoubtedly decent human beings. Some. But they are certainly not being encouraged to do anything civic-minded that will still make them a profit. Which is kinda what they're into. You know, businesses that build buildings, buildings that cost millions of dollars to build, millions of dollars we apparently don't want to spend building them ourselves. Apparently though, we don't want them to be civic-minded. We want them to keep on doing things exactly as they have been. Tearing down houses, building shit buildings that have crazy expensive apartments, moving on to the next "desirable" neighborhood. Meanwhile, someone will be writing a community-led zoning study that will be read by no one, collecting dust as the City moves on to a neighborhood that actually wants its help.