Mayor Bloomberg, Part II – The Blanding of New York City

Mayor Bloomberg "Dead End"
Mayor Bloomberg at a "Dead End"

Chinatown and Lower Manhattan residents protested on Tuesday in front of the Municipal Building bearing 10,000 signatures signaling their opposition to the City Planning Commission’s new rezoning proposal which omits their neighborhood. This omission signals open season for developers, endless construction and the displacement of long-time residents and businesses leading to the further homogenization of another of the city’s unique neighborhoods.

The International Herald Tribune reported in June that Mayor Bloomberg “has rezoned vast swaths of the city to accommodate bigger, more densely populated buildings, encouraging the construction of millions of square feet of office space, hotel rooms and housing. Over all, the number of construction permits for new buildings or major renovations issued by the Department of Buildings has soared 23.3 percent over the past five years.”

The result of all this is a construction boom, signaled by large signs on virtually every block blaring the same two words: “luxury housing.” Existing tenants in smaller, quaint buildings get displaced, the buildings are torn down, diversity and any resemblance to the ‘past’ is bulldozed over, and neighborhood after neighborhood starts to look the same.

As these changes go on around them, long-time landlords with long-time small business tenants start to raise rents, doubling, tripling the figures and those tenants are soon gone and replaced. As if they’re expendable. As if they never existed. The fabric of one too many neighborhoods is frayed, coming apart at the seams.

Yet, this is the climate Mayor Bloomberg’s New York promotes and encourages.

Juan Gonzalez writes about the “Lower East Side rezone plan another Mike Bloomberg boondoggle” in today’s New York Daily News:

“Theirs [Chinatown/Lower East Side residents] is a story that has become all-too familiar during the Bloomberg era: another stable neighborhood turned upside down by a massive rezoning. The sheer number of these rezonings – from Columbia University to Hudson Yards to Greenpoint-Williamsburg (Brooklyn) to Willets Point – boggles the mind.”

Gonzalez continues, “City officials routinely claim it’s for the good of the neighborhoods, but in the end a handful of well-connected developers and Big Box stores end up the big winners. Small businesses and low-income New Yorkers keep getting pushed out.”

It’s no coincidence that our city is vanishing at such a quick pace. It’s the blanding of our city, put into place in neighborhood after neighborhood, public space after public space, to create the City that Mayor Bloomberg, a billionaire, envisions. It’s a less interesting one but the billionaires and their friends are happy. That’s what matters, right?

What’s the answer?


Photo: RS Eanes

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