Saturday, August 25, 2007

A tale of two Jamaicas

When Gloria Black looks into Jamaica’s future, she sees a grand restoration: Department stores will move into spaces where discount jewelers sell removable gold teeth; vacant storefronts, their windows taped up with yellowing newspaper, will fill one by one. The prosperous downtown of the 1960s — the one that drew families from Harlem and Brooklyn and South Carolina — will return to southeast Queens.

Southeast Queens Is Split Over Makeover Proposal

Crystal Ervin sees something different. If Jamaica is reshaped by the city’s rezoning, she fears, the single-family home her parents bought in 1953 will be jammed up against a six-story building. Parking, already a headache, will become a nightmare. And the modest middle-class dream of her mother, who is now 85, will be taken away.

Still, to many of the neighborhood’s residents and business owners, the rezoning remains abstract and distant. Dr. Barry Eisenkraft, a veterinarian who practices on Hillside Avenue, said he tried to organize some of the neighboring businesspeople around the issue and received no response. Ms. Black sympathized; only about a third of the people in her neighborhood, she estimated, have focused their attention on rezoning.

“You get people who seemingly just can’t generate the interest,” she said, “until it smacks them in the eyes.”

Most precious quote: “There’s no CVS, no Rite Aid. As it stands right now, people have no reason to come to Hillside Avenue.” (I'll be happy to send you mine since I have both of those plus a Duane Reade.)

Photo from NY Times


Anonymous said...

The passiveness of Queens is legendary and could be topic of a thread:

1. Most residents are workers, not managers, and are used to taking orders and keeping their mouth shut

2. An increasing number of residents are immigrants who, unless given the green light by the machine to satisfy some narrow ethnic issue, are not involved in community affairs

3. The machine controls every function in the boro: the community boards, the press, now even the blogs (you know who!) People get only one side of the argument, dissenting voices get the mike taken away.

4. The machine is a past master at divide and conquer. They will find a way to split the community making any effort at united action all but impossible.

5. As the preservation community has been feasting for decades on Queens share of grants and the like, its in their best interest not to help us but keep us as peasants under the watchful eye of our minders. So you can write off any public education program. If a community wakes up to urban problems, they are not encouraged to work with others but to shift their problems on them instead (eastern Queens pushing development pressures on western Queens, for example).

Anonymous said...

The preservationists in NYC need to start to talk to each other and to organize.

Individual communities do not stand a chance against the citywide juggernaut of development.

Anonymous said...

Most "preservationists" are concerned solely with the preservation of their own preservation organization!

They won't bite the hand that feeds them.....
be it Queens Boro Hall or NYC.

If they start making waves then they won't get paid.
That's how the grant writing Gavotte goes!

Peter said...

Yes, but there's absolutely nothing on Hillside Avenue (and precious little in the rest of Jamaica) worth preserving.