Community: Journal of Power Politics and Democracy in Hell’s Kitchen is now 50% off until March 13, 2021. Limited time offer on Smashwords’ Read an Ebook Week.
Here’s an excerpt:
The city and state proposed a complete makeover of Times Square, the world-famous intersection of Broadway and Seventh Avenue with 42nd Street. The redevelopment would run from that crossroads along West 42nd Street to Eighth Avenue. The project rode on the back of eminent domain, along the way razing the Times Tower and raising office towers on 42nd Street. The blighted, crime-filled area would be transformed into a shining mecca of entertainment and corporate wealth.
In our view, the massive project was a spear aimed at our neighborhood.
It would drive up real estate values, increase tenant harassment, and potentially force out low, moderate, and middle-income residents. Even though there was a specific zoning district, the Special Clinton District, restricting high-rise development in most of Hell’s Kitchen north of West 42nd Street, speculators and unscrupulous landlords would seize this opportunity to turn the neighborhood into towers of condo-heaven.
Barbara Glasser, Rob Neuwirth, and a few others started the Clinton Coalition of Concern. Jim Condeelis and I were at the first brainstorming meeting at HCC.
The Times Square project, we agreed, would place a great deal of pressure on our low-rise, working-class, and middle-class neighborhood.
“They won’t stop at Eighth Avenue. Developers will want to build here in our neighborhood.”
“Landlords will harass people out of their apartments so they can sell their buildings unoccupied.”
“They’ll try to change the zoning and get rid of the Special District.”
Our objections to the redevelopment project itself went down different avenues. We agreed that eminent domain should be used for the general good, but what is “the good” in this case? The people who would benefit were the already wealthy. Property was being taken from one group of private owners and given to another. Perhaps in several ways this was an illegal use of eminent domain.
The group decided to hold a public rally to inform people about the project and its impact on the neighborhood.
On June 27th, the Clinton Coalition of Concern held a speakout and 150 people came, as well as Ruth Messinger, Councilwoman for our district, and Andrew Stein, the Manhattan Borough President. The state’s Urban Development Company (UDC), one of the lead agencies, sent people. I took charge of the sign-in table, handing out literature and asking people to sign a petition opposing the project.