Thursday, January 04, 2007

On The Yards And Volubility

This post was going to wait until tomorrow, but then the talented Mr. Guskind went ahead and touched on it anyway. He's referring to the debates that have cropped up on Gothamist and particularly the Park Slope Forum regarding a celebrity mugging.

No doubt without the presence of world culture guru Douglas Rushkoff the subject of class, race, and criminality in northwest Brooklyn would recede into background noise. But it's worth noting again how peculiar such agonizing is to this corner of Brooklyn.

You don't get this in the East Village to anywhere near the same extent, and I'm not certain that anywhere else in Manhattan had it to the same extent, although it's also worth noting that the gentrification of these neighborhoods did not involve questions of race to the same extent as some of the present debates in Brooklyn.

So what else is different? The first is that a huge number of the new arrivals, have broadband and, um, a sense that they deserve to be heard. The second is that Park Slope is seriously underweight in alpha males (and alpha females for that matter). The amount of soul-searching that goes on in online discussions about schools, housing, crime and so forth, and the amount of flaming that goes on at the bottom of any discussion where a poster cops to being a recent arrival, is pretty astonishing.

People who can be incredibly assertive when going after a restaurant with poor service become incredibly guarded and defensive whenever race or class comes into play. You could see this dance taking place fairly clearly on the Rushkoff thread.

This is not to urge people to become more callous, racist, stuck-up, mean-spirited or awful than they are. Lord knows the Slope and its environs needs less, rather than more, attitude.

But (and you knew this was coming), I can't help but see in every single self-conscious bulletin board scribble a blueprint for the public relations and political strategy that Bruce Ratner used in pushing the Atlantic Yards project. It's all there - nervousness about gentrification, racial code words, relentless repetition of "affordable". That the developer was able to brush aside most meaningful criticism of the project, including some from from pretty powerful local pols, says a lot about how precarious the position of some of the louder of the recent arrivals are.

But maybe I'm just projecting.

I have not missed the recent reports of a curse-laden interview from our buffoonish Borough President Marty Markowitz. I'm not going to be as censorious as No Land Grab, because the episode is real gift. Particularly for those of us that hope that Marty does not attain another office where he can do yet more damage to the Borough of his birth.

Firstly, it highlights how much the Atlantic Yards project has dented the cheerful persona with which Marty has wafted up through the ranks of the city's elected offices. He was, by all accounts, worse than useless as head of a tenants' association in 70's Flatbush, but a cheery demeanor and a knack for self-promotion have served him well in advancing his career, and have served as acceptable substitutes for a lack of talent or an ability to complete a coherent sentence. But in the interview we get a snarling, defensive Marty, a man so consumed with worry over what the project does to his image that he barely remembers to unleash his trademark mindless boosterism to the interviewer.

But let's assume that he's trying to be pugnacious. The fact that he was happy to let a transcript of his interview get out suggests that the man really isn't ready for prime time. Let's hope that our kids' TV Borough President has stopped himself getting a better slot.


At 1:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You left out two decades of learning bad habits in the State Senate and pleading to a misdemeanor for campaing fraud. The man should be breaking rocks on a chain gang.


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