Thursday, November 16, 2006

wasn’t yesterday’s post enough for you greedy bastards?

Technically, these are different greedy bastards—but the folks that run this city remain the same.

I just received an e-mail from Andrew Berman at the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation that starts like this:


Closed-Door Decision Threatens to Undo Zoning Protections, Could Make Sweeping Changes to Landscape of Neighborhoods Across the City Without Any Public Hearing or Approval Process

Breaking News: GVSHP was shocked to learn today that the City has agreed to approve permits for a 45-story condo-hotel to be built by Donald Trump and his development partners.

This 45-story Trump atrocity is slated to go up at the corner of Spring and Varick Streets, in a neighborhood where the next tallest building would be 15 stories, and most buildings in the area are six stories or under. It would be the tallest building between midtown and the financial district.

Worse, this decision allows Trump to skirt zoning restrictions that were designed to prevent the overdevelopment of many neighborhoods throughout the five boroughs. It essentially allows Trump, and any developer that follows his lead, to re-zone an area at will without a public hearing by renaming residential developments “condo-hotels.”

Residents and elected representatives alike have condemned this charade, and yet—and yet—the Mayor doesn’t care. Mike Bloomberg and his appointees, in an insane drive to turn New York into a giant Wonder Bread and Cool Whip sandwich, are going to lie down for another developer.

OK, I don’t know about the sandwich, but I do know that, be it this Trump scam, or an “undulating glass tower” smack in the middle of the West Village, or the destruction of a gothic revival stable on the Upper West Side, or the demolition of a late arts-and-crafts garage in SoHo, or a wholly unacceptable boondoggle over at the Atlantic Yards site, developers have been allowed to pretty much make up the rules as they go, destroy the old and build the new without any respect for the people that currently live and work in the city, transform neighborhoods to meet their own megalomaniacal needs, and so, make money hand over fist.

And the more money that developers get to make, the more they have to shower on the politicians and bureaucrats that help them. It’s a vicious, ego-driven, greed-filled cycle that seems to be accelerating with each passing year.

Sure, there are small victories for individual neighborhoods along the way, but they are never permanent. The last year has proven that landmarks designation isn’t carved in stone, and that the city will overturn or ignore its own rulings when effectively tempted. And while the history of New York is filled with jerks and starts, and horrendous development mistakes, and land grabs that became landmarks, the current overall trend, style, tone, and pace of redevelopment is crasser, blander, meaner, and faster than New York has ever seen.

Without an intervention, I don’t see how this is going to stop (or, at least, slow down)—but I don’t see who is going to do the intervention. I applaud the work of dedicated groups like GVSHP and Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, but unless the money is taken out of the system, I see more battles and fewer victories in our future.

Yes, New York City developers, like Big Oil and Big Pharma, are another argument for clean election laws—or, more to the point, for full public financing of political campaigns. Perhaps then, with elected representatives not beholden to developers and their money, we can say to fat-cats and pols that love them something kulture killers like Trump would easily understand [WARNING: cliché coming], “You’re fired!”


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