Friday, January 15, 2010

Up and Down, "Blight" Is Everywhere: Just Glance Down “At Any Point” and Find “Blight” Smiling Back to You

(Above: Sidewalk disrepair on Montague Street in Brooklyn Heights. Click on any photo in this post to enlarge.)

Blight, Blight: Blight
is everywhere. Blight from the top down, blight from head down to every typical toe.

Borough Hall, where the Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz is blighted, and in Manhattan “glance down at any point” and you are likely to find blight though, according to the Times, this is really just the occasion for lighthearted amusement.

Why is there "blight" everywhere? Because those are the new rules being used by government agencies (as represented by the Empire State Development Corporation- our leading imaginer of “blight”): “Blight” is anywhere where there is a crack in the sidewalk (and property perhaps not yet built to the full percentage of its currently permitted zoning- which is almost everywhere and potentially anywhere.)

Where do ESDC’s crack eminent domain arguments take us? According to pictures published Wednesday in stories that respectively appeared in both the Brooklyn Paper and the New York Times they lead just about anywhere and everywhere one might go in this city.

Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn pointed out Wednesday’s Brooklyn Paper article, with documenting photos, about cracks in the sidewalk outside Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. (See the Brooklyn Paper story, A salt on Borough Hall, by Andy Campbell, January 13, 2010 and DDDB’s story Brooklyn Borough Hall Is Blighted and Needs To Be Condemned By Eminent Domain, 1.13.10 as picked up also in No Land Grab.)
The documenting picture above is from the Brooklyn Paper story from which we provide a few excerpts below:
Walk safely, Marty! The plaza around your Borough Hall office is now an obstacle course of disaster!

* * * *
Some . . . like . . .Lawrence Fiffer, are so fed up with the dangerous mess that they keep calling 311.

* * * *
Lawrence Fiffer has been complaining for years about neglected sidewalks in front of Borough Hall.
(Should we also speculate whether the unmentioned but perpetual wads of chewing gum that surround the Borough Hall, infrequently steamed cleaned off, constitute blight as well?)

The admonition to Borough President Marty Markowitz is freighted with extra weight as the article also points out:
It’s also ironic, given that Markowitz made his personal fortune in part from a $225,000 slip-and-fall settlement in 2003 after he took a spill on an icy Albany parking lot in 2001.
Showing that you can’t get away from the new concept of “blight” Markowitz just used his settlement to buy a home in Windsor Terrace that is also “blighted.” (Photo available via links.)

In sarcastic reference to what is ESDC’s actual approach when it is able to find the sidewalk cracks it looks for in order to seize private property for developers, DDDB suggests since our government officials assume the option of fixing cracks is beyond possibility, the only way to remove the cracks in the Borough Hall sidewalk will be “by removing the whole block and everything along it?!?!”

Translating the sarcasm, we believe that what DDDB really means is not that the whole block should be removed but that all the blockhead politicians that support this kind trumped-up finding of blight (Markowitz, Bloomberg, Paterson, Senator Charles Schumer, etc.) should be removed from office.

Atlantic Yards Report followed up on the cracked sidewalk story asking with a supplied visual (see below) whether those Brooklyn Borough Hall cracks (that are simply supposed to be “fixed”) aren’t actually:
worse than the "cracked and uneven" sidewalk (below) cited by blight-seeking consultant AKRF in the Atlantic Yards Blight Study?
(See: Thursday, January 14, 2010, Blight vs. blight: a battle of the sidewalk cracks.)

The same Wednesday that the Brooklyn Paper wrote its story on sidewalk cracks the New York Times used about a third of page to feature a photo of a city sidewalk crack (probably also less pronounced than the cracks in the AKRF Atlantic Yards Blight Study) as a cause for amusement. See below:
(See: January 13, 2010, Showcase: Pounded Pavement, by Ruth Fremson.)

What struck us in the Times Story was the reference to the fact that these were “typical” sidewalk conditions in Manhattan that can be found “at any point along the way”as one goes on a trip through the city’s theoretically preeminent borough; that plus the suggestion one should only be bemused by rather than mobilizing eminent domain (plus multiple billions of developer subsidy) to fight.

(Below: The Times sidewalk crack article beside some Brooklyn Heights “blight” cracks. As we walked from the elite promenade properties to the Borough Hall along Montague Street and back again on Remsen Street, we found we could not go more than a few yards or feet without another opportunity to take such documenting photos.)
Here is what the Times’ commentary caption on the crack photo (also accompanied by another photo of an oblivious crowd walking above.) said:
In a typical trip along the sidewalks of Manhattan, a pedestrian peering ahead can quickly take in a variety of expressions. Faces in the crowd inevitably reflect concentration and consternation, amusement and bewilderment, determination and aggravation. But glance down at any point along the way, and you may be surprised to see yet another face returning your gaze, like this one, with its faintly reptilian grin.
“Faintly reptilian grin”?: Maybe that grin is what was on the Times editorial board’s face when it recently wrote a fact-starved editorial supporting these current silly “blight” finding pretexts that ESDC is using to hand monopoly development rights over to Forest City Ratner and Columbia University respectively for the proposed Atlantic Yards and Columbia West Harlem expansion. (See: Eminent Domain in New York, December 13, 2009.) - - The New York Times’ uncritical support for eminent domain is apparently new, something that kicked in after eminent domain was used to give the New York Times the Eighth Avenue site (between 40th and 41st) for its new tower (joint venturing with Atlantic Yards Developer Forest City Ratner).

1 comment:

Chris said...

Yes, citizens and property owners are dealing with more than cracked sidewalks.

From Kelo to Atlantic Yards to Columbia University, property owners are getting an education on how the notion of "public good" is corrupted in today's interpretation of eminent domain; plus the fact that there is a lot of play in the "just" of just compensation.

New York and Pennsylvania, among other states, will see more eminent domain "takings" thanks to the rising interest in natural gas drilling in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale. With more drilling comes more pipelines and more underground gas storage fields -- and that (pipelines & storage fields) always means eminent domain.

The excellent Institute for Justice (of Kelo fame) declines to intervene in energy/utility "takings" because, they told me, of the "public good" premise.

But property owners can fight back. Our two-year battle against Houston-based Spectra Energy which seized our property rights for an underground gas storage field led to the development of a website which has begun to attract whistle blowers inside the energy industry. We are collaborating and helping property owners in many states. For info, visit the site:
Spectra Energy

By the way, our new neighbor, Spectra Energy, has received two Notice of Violations for "unlawful conduct" related to emergency shutdowns and emissions at its storage field in Bedford County, PA. Reports of contaminated water supplies are on the rise since they began operations.

The ripple effects of government "takings" are never over.