|the lovely space that is Tafari Cafe last night
Despite enduring a mean-spirited personal attack, I quite enjoyed the tone and message from last night's zoning workshop/info session with Tom Angotti. I hadn't intended to speak as a rep for the Community Board but was happy to. With more than 20 new members, there's not a lot of "institutional memory" at CB9 anyway, other than D.M. Pearl Miles and deposed chair Jake Goldstein, maybe Mike Cetera who was (is?) the ULURP chair that heads up zoning issues. Here's hoping the new leadership assigns committees ASAP. I put my hat in the ring, but haven't heard so I'm doubtful.
Bottom line: folks are mad. Folks want to organize, and they're looking for common ground. Folks want to know what the City really has in mind, and they want their elected officials to take a stand in keeping with their flapping gums. Or, if those power-brokers got an idea that goes against the grain, they need to articulate it and let the people know that they're taking their stand for the "greater good" or whatever. I liked the speeches at the end, for folks talked of the need for unity. Would have been nice if those speeches started off every community meeting, before they heat up.
Look folks, I'm not gonna lie. I don't care for shouting matches and people hogging the spotlight when they should be raising their hand and waiting their turn. I like passion, I really do, but it's gotta be FOR your cause, not to character assassinate. I like raking politicians through the coals as much as the next guy, but I'm also not into distorting or exaggerating people's words for personal gain. The Borough President may have mentioned, as many of us have, that Empire Boulevard could stand for some apartments. Right here on this blog I imagined a vision along Empire for truly middle class housing, you know the kind for households making less than a hundred grand? Turns out we're living in a city where six figures is not a hell of a lot of money to raise a family on, and we need to keep these folks in NYC every bit as much as the working poor. If that offends your sensibility, then I would ask that you disagree with me with a wee bit of gentility! Ah hell, do whatever you want, I can take it. I may be a "fat white fuck," but I'm a FWF with a thick skin (that easily burns in the summer mind you). And I've got all kinds of thoughts about how to better keep people in rent-stabilized apartments, if you want to hear them. Actually, you probably don't, but then you can always go back to Youtube when you get bored.
What is emerging, if I may be so bold as to call the play-by-play, is that folks around Empire are very leery of any rezoning or zoning study. They imagine a worst-case scenario, as those who live on or just-off Flatbush have, where tall market-rate apartments ruin their quality of life (one already is). Of course, the ironic part is that all this building is raising home values. And let's face it, an awful lot of the folks at this meeting are home or apartment owners, all of whom have profited greatly (at least on paper, myself included). So what drives all this anti-development anger?
I would argue that for many it's a combination of one or more of the following: a sense of powerlessness, a sense of betrayal, a lifetime of experienced racism, and/or a sense of fear of the unknown. No one can really see the future. We draw conjecture, we hypothesize and we create doomsday scenarios or utopian visions. Humans are notoriously bad at forecasting the future. And that's why this whole zoning thing is a bit of a crapshoot - we may THINK we're doing right by the community, but we might end up like Park Slope, with a 4th Avenue-like corridor that feels Dystopian and unfriendly, that accomplishes goals by bulldozing through communities that have little or no say in the process. When I entered into the fray, I thought it seemed pretty simple. Downzone, or even just get a text change, so you can't build anymore towers over a certain height. But now, after engaging the powers-that-be and tapping into anger and resentment over myriad other issues, we may have done ourselves a disservice in that regard. Maybe it WAS better not to have the CIty looking at this neighborhood holistically. Because frankly, as Tom Angotti noted last night, once the "plan" is hatched, the Mayor won't even let the study happen til he has his ducks in a row. And who are the ducks? The big-pocketed folks and the power brokers. The Q's been the guy saying from the beginning that it's really only the Mayor who could stop 626 or any other building or planning scenario. He has the key, the lock and the tools to the shed. All we get is a couple of coffee cans full of rusty bolts and screws. If I'm to take the metaphor to the next level, the BP gets to use the lawn mower. Sometimes.
|The Borough President gets the mower Mondays, Thursday and alternate weekends
Someone asked about zoning maps. Here they all are.
Below is the district-wide one, but if you click through the above link you get juicy details. I actually don't even remember what I wrote back then. I wonder if I've evolved?