Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unintentionally hilarious, self-coronating interview in New York Magazine this week included this insane sentence:
“I think people all over this city, of every background, would like to have the city government be able to determine which building goes where, how high it will be, who gets to live in it, what the rent will be.”
Ahem — leave aside for the moment the Marxist-Leninist malarkey behind the mayor’s lust for “central planning” that might as well be a Soviet-style Five-Year Plan.
Let’s instead take de Blasio’s statement on its own, laugh-riot terms. So, people all over town want City Hall to micromanage land and property use, do they?
As any newcomer off the bus from Tulsa quickly learns, people “all over this city” go bananas whenever city government attempts any of this. Each and every time the city sets out to tinker with neighborhood density, building sizes and shapes and permissible uses, the “people” recoil and revolt. The right says de Blasio’s doing the bidding of minority voters who are his political base, while the left calls him a stealth stooge of the real estate industry.
De Blasio took it on the nose this year for trying to mess with the traditional DNA of the Garment District. The idea was to relocate apparel-making shops and showrooms from myriad locations in the West 30s to one big, new facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Their old spaces would be used for offices paying higher rents.
Everybody hated it — so much that the Department of City Planning in August was forced to indefinitely postpone a hearing on it. Resistance came mostly from left-leaning constituencies that voted en masse for de Blasio in the last election — fashion designers and unionized garment-industry factory workers.
It sure sounds like everyone’s clamoring for the mayor to take on dictatorial powers! If he can’t impose his will even on his own “people,” how much better could he do with those who can’t stand him?
Neighborhood opposition has stymied city efforts to allow new apartments to be built inside the white-elephant Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx and the Bedford-Union Armory in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, rezoning east Midtown so a few taller buildings could go up took three years of exhausting struggle, first by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then by de Blasio. “City government” had to appease scores of special interests. The resulting rules are so complex, it could take the lawyers years to sort them out.
Team de Blasio’s attempts to create more affordable housing have run into brick walls of opposition all over town — from Brooklyn’s East New York (not enough cheap units!) to Bay Street on Staten Island’s north shore (not enough infrastructure improvements!).
De Blasio also told New York Magazine, “If I had my druthers, the city government would determine every single plot of land, how development would proceed.”
How scary is this? City Hall’s backstage “determinations” under de Blasio have included improperly lifting a Rivington Street nursing-home deed restriction to allow a politically connected developer to demolish it for luxury condos and helping a Queens restaurateur who contributed to de Blasio’s campaign in a dispute with the city over rent payments.
New York is an immensely better place than it was just 20 years ago. And it isn’t that way because any mayor laid down the law about land use. It’s thanks to the contentious scrimmage between public and private interests and state and city agencies to make hard decisions about our precious land and air.
The system requires much give-and-take, but it’s worked remarkably well. For all its flaws, it has brought forth wonderful results such as the new World Trade Center, the High Line Park and fast-rising Hudson Yards.
None came easily. But thanks to public wariness of planning by diktat, we’ll never again see the scorched-earth ravages of “Big Builder” Robert Moses, whose unchecked power helped set the South Bronx and the Brooklyn waterfront on the roads to ruin.
The collaborative process that de Blasio fears so much entails risk, compromise and often delay. One-man rule might speed things up to serve his “progressive” goals. But planning that respects diverse, often conflicting views is ingrained in our bricks and mortar and better for “people all over this city.”
Sorry, Mr. Mayor — it’s called the American way.
Original Article: http://New Yorkers will always resist a mayor who acts like a dictator