Friday, June 14, 2013

Trickle Down Economics Without the Trickle- Thoughts on the Proposed Closing of PS 191 Near Lincoln Center

Yesterday, when I went to join the protest against the closing of PS 191 on 61st Street and 10th Avenue, two blocks from Fordham's Lincoln Center campus, I had a chance to walk around the area and I was stunned at how rapidly it was changing.  West of, and along 10th Avenue, it seemed that every inch of space, including the sites of what had once been  warehouses and garages, was being transformed into luxury apartment towers. The  PS 161 Schoolyard stood out for being the only flat area amidst the apartment towers, except for one small private park. No wonder developers coveted it! It was the only possible space to put up a new building, unless one knocked down the one public housing project left in the neighborhood, the Amsterdam Houses.

But as I walked around the neighborhood, I was stunned to find that such a densely populated place was almost completely devoid of people. Given the sheer number of apartments, I would have expected the streets to be crowded with bikers, walkers, people with strollers, folks going to and from work, or hanging out at cafes with their computers- the scene you could find any day in my own neighborhood of Park Slope, which was now a pretty rich area

But then I remember something I had been told about  the percentage of Manhattan apartments - one sixth -used as pied a terres ( second or third residences) by the global rich an thought- "What if no one is living in most of those apartments?" What if folks come to them two or three weeks out of the year to shop, sightsee, go to events at Lincoln Center? Would that explain the empty streets?

If that is true, and my gut instinct tells me it is, it makes the attempt to close PS 191 all the more pernicious. You are going to knock down a public school that served three generations of neighborhood residents, many of them living in the Amsterdam Houses, for people who aren't going to even LIVE in the apartment complex you are building! That 
is, to use the vernacular, foul!!! 

Middle class and working class families are now expendable in the globalizing city, be it Chicago, New York, or Washington, as are the institutions that serve them.

This is trickle down economics without the trickle

1 comment:

Michael Fiorillo said...

You make an important observation, Mark: NYC is a magnet for global moeny laundering and capital flight, and much of that capital goes into luxury - though often shoddily constructed - housing.

On a historical note, this real estate grab is part of a attempt to get people out of the Amsterdam Houses. Many of people living there are descendants of residents of the original neighborhood, San Juan Hill - birthplace of Thelonious Monk - which was displaced by Lincoln Center, and itself developed when African Americans were terrorized out of lower Manhattan during the 1863 Draft Riots.

As David Harvey says, it's accumulation by dispossession.