This is wonderful. And a very clever satire on an important issue.
I’m not a big expert on NYC’s big development controversies (the West Side Stadium and the Williamsburg/Greenpoint rezoning) but I have friends opposing each, and from what I can tell they seem like really bad ideas (official site and opposition site for the stadium; official site and opposition site for Williamsburg/Greenpoint).
The City Council recently voted to approve the West Side plan, while the Bloomberg administration made a secret sweetheart deal to sell a whole block on 42nd Street for $100,000. This happens to be the very block containing The Tank, site of many Cosmopolity events. The Tank always expected to get kicked out of its space but never that the city would get so little benefit in return.
It’s sad that we seem to still be repeating the same mistakes of the Robert Moses era. Moses built huge, monolithic single-use buildings instead of the better mixed-use, street-level neighborhoods - just as many parts of these plans would. Moses operated in secret with scant public oversight, just as the mayor’s office has. And most importantly, Moses strongarmed the Board of Estimate into approving his plans through a variety of tactics, and the Board’s members were politically too weak and cowardly to stop it - just like the City Council today.
So here we are in 2005, and the City Council responds to an obviously bad plan (bad for everyone except for real estate lobbying interests, that is) by merely getting a concession to include more low-income housing. And many call it a victory. Our elected representatives should not be relegated to simply making marginal improvements to a bad plan. They should be able to simply say, no, you may not create another urban planning fiasco that we’ll look back upon as a colossal wasted opportunity. Come back with a better plan, but to this one, no.
Opponents of the West Side Stadium now are hoping to use legal tactics to delay, and to block the plan due to environmental impact problems. That reminds me of the fight over the Brookyn-Battery Bridge, chronicled in The Power Broker. Moses wanted to build a bridge from Battery Park to Brooklyn instead of the tunnel that we have instead, because he wanted a grand monument to his legacy. The bridge approaches would have completely destroyed Battery Park. But Moses insisted it was the only way, and the city government was powerless to stop him.
In the end, reason only won out because President Roosevelt, a longtime nemesis of Moses’, had the Navy declare that the bridge would interfere with access to the Brooklyn Navy Yard (which was probably not true, since there were already two existing bridges in the same area). So only the President of the United States, using a technicality, could stop this awful project. Today, we are just as powerless against a mayor who listens only to real estate interests, while ignoring decades of urban planning lessons gleaned from hard experience with similar travesties.