Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Manning the Barricades

Last year we made reference to the pamphleteers who ultimately cost Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI their heads. The pre-Revolutionary writers of that period were irresponsible and, for the most part, had their facts wrong. Marie Antoinette, for example, was widely quoted as saying "Let them eat cake" when food shortages erupted during the 1780's and she was rumored to have participated in illicit sexual debauches. Most of this was the product of the active collective imagination of self-styled revolutionaries who simply hated all authority -- many of whom had access to a printing press. They camped at the gates of the palace and handed out pamphlets, which says a lot for the laissez-faire attitude of Louis XVI. Ultimately, the number of periodicals and the venomous quality of their message contributed to the downfall of the monarchy, despite Louis' Citizen-King reputation.

No matter that the debauchery rumors were more attributable to the King's phymosis than to the Queens sexual appetite and imagined debauchery.

So what does this have to do with SoHo and Hudson Square?

When the hoi polloi (Greek derivation), the Bourgeoisie (French), or the regular working slobs (the Honeymooners) get annoyed - even Truth can take on new meaning. It no longer matters that rules or laws dictate that things must be done a certain way or, as in this case, that zoning regulations must permit a travesty.

At some point, the rules or the laws, and even the politicians, become dispensible.

Take the Trump SoHo project, which, again, is located in SoHo not in Hudson Square. This Sunday a demonstration took place at Spring Street just off Varick -- with several hundred residents from block associations, arts organizations, neighborhood organizations and political groups all banding together to voice their objections to the edifice euphemistically known as Trump Godzilla. Or, if you visit a NYC, Bloomberg approved website: Trump SoHo.

Speaker Quinn had a scheduling conflict, Councilman Gerson didn't appear and Mayor Bloomberg may have been too busy meeting with Doctoroff trying to figure out what else to try to sell the public. There's Trump SoHo, Cirque Du Soleil for Pier 40 and, oh, yes, the Sanitation Garage for Hudson Square. It appears that the loss of the Stadium was more than the Bloomberg/Doctoroff development team could swallow and retaliation is in the air.

Deborah Glick
, however, showed up at the demonstration, as did Tony Avella of the City Council. Glick spoke to Lincoln Anderson of the Villager and was overheard as she commented upon Bloomberg pro-development stance - no, actually, she spoke of Bloomberg's "pro-Overdevelopment" stance. And, the Trump project truly is an example of the over-the-top over-development permissiveness.

Rather than correct the zoning imbalances downtown which allow almost anything to be built (as long as its called a hotel), the politicians are allowing Trump's 45 story hotel-condo monstrosity in an area that is seeing 8 or 9 story condominiums only, when anything that is not Manufacturing is being built. Everyone knows that the Trump building is being billed as a hotel to get 45 stories, only to be sold as condos for the multi-million dollar take.

Contextual zoning is the answer to the selling out of Hudson Square and the Western SoHo manufacturing districts. Glick sees the problem; Councilman Tony Avella sees the problem, why can't Speaker Quinn see it. Or does she see but cannot act? Contextual zoning. That's the "act" for this area. But, now, not later.

Avella is from Queens, is Chair of Zoning and a member of Land Use on the City Council - and he sees the problem. He was at the demonstration showing his support. What is an important member of the City Council who is from Queens doing in Hudson Square - why does he see the relevance of this issue and our own local politicians don't even show up?

When the "rules" (whether they emanate from City Planning or Department of Buildings) dictate that the multitude must sit back and allow the destruction of a neighborhood - when the promise of favors or contributions from corporate coffers blind the eyes of our leaders - extraordinary efforts become the response.

Don Lucchesi
said: Finance is a gun. Politics is knowing when to pull the trigger.

With the help of leaders such as Sean Sweeney of SoHo Alliance, David Reck of Friends of Hudson Square and Andrew Berman of Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, there were several hundred protestors with placards and words.

The people were not happy with what they have been hearing from the elected officials and want action.

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