Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card #28: Observes the Goal of Creating Political Access (Inc. Goal of Countering Public Money Expenditures

This is evaluation item #28 (of 47) of the Jane Jacobs Atlantic Yards Report Card

Jane Jacobs was concerned with cities as working organisms. As one part of this concern, she wrote about consciously creating communities within cities that will have political access and effective influence to represent the interests of neighborhoods. Rather than respecting this as a goal, Atlantic Yards has progressed in the opposite fashion, stripping communities of their say-so about the project. When Community Board 6 voted 35-4 to disapprove of the project as proposed in the July 18, 2006 General Project Plan and Draft Environmental Impact Statement “because it will cause irreparable damage to the quality of life in the borough of Brooklyn,” the Brooklyn Borough President who stands apart in supporting Atlantic Yards removed members from that board on a wholesale basis. Jane Jacobs was also critical of the way that expenditures of public money were also sometimes used as a distracting sort of candy to try and nullify the political rights of voters. Expenditures of public funds have been waived around by the Atlantic Yards megadeveloper in a distracting way creating a misimpression that the same money would not be better spent elsewhere by others, were it not given to the megadeveloper. One obvious example is the way that Atlantic Yards would concentrate public resources available for the “public benefit” of more affordable housing preferentially on the Atlantic Yards megadevelopment even though Atlantic Yards will inefficiently absorb more subsidy per affordable unit than alternative projects. (Taking the distracting use of money probably one step further than Jacobs thought about, developer Forest City Ratner provides funds to all of the signatories of the "Community Benefits Agreement" in return for their uncritical support of the megaproject.)

JJ Cites: [A city’s very wholesomeness in bringing together people with communities of interests is one of its greatest assets, possibly the greatest. And, in turn, one of the assets a city district needs is people with access to the political, the administrative, and the special-interest communities of the city as a whole. P. 119 . .wherever they work best, street neighborhoods have no beginnings and ends setting them apart as distinct units. . . . It is part of a set of interweaving neighborhoods containing great diversity, not a strip. P.120 A district has to be big and powerful enough to fight city hall. (E)ffective neighborhood physical planning for cities should aim at these purposes: First to foster lively and interesting streets, second, to make the fabric of these streets as continuous a network as possible through a district of potential subcity size and power. Third, to use parks and squares and public buildings as part of this street fabric; use them to intensify and knit together the street fabric’s complexity and multiple use. They should not be used to island off subdistrict neighborhoods. P. 129 There are only two ultimate public powers in shaping and running American cities: votes and control of public money. . . . Robert Moses, whose genius as getting things done largely consists of understanding this, has made an art of using control of public money . . . The art of negating the power of votes with the power of money . . . (S)eduction or subversion of the elected is easiest when the electorate is fragmented into ineffective units of power.” P. 13]

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