FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

As Cranes Fall and People Die

Let’s keep this in perspective, implied New York mayor Mike Bloomberg the day two construction workers died in the crane collapse on East 91st Street in Manhattan. Yes, the accident was “unacceptable,” he said. Still, “construction is a dangerous business and you will always have fatalities.”

Governor David Paterson was equally unapologetic. No, no, he told a TV reporter. The pace of building is not too fast.

Both men suggested that the 23 percent building increase in the last five years was not related to the 83 percent rise in construction accidents, accounting for 15 deaths this year alone.

Hey, risks must be taken. Sacrifices must be made. Fourteen-million-dollar condos must go up.

“If [Bloomberg] shuts down all activity until cranes are proven safe, he’s going to shut down billions of dollars of economic activity in New York,” the dean of the Baruch School of Public Affairs told the Times Sunday. “He can’t do that and nobody would want him to.”

Nobody would want him to?

Funny. I’ve yet to meet anyone who does not want him to. I have no friend who can afford to live or rent in any of the new buildings. I have spoken to no neighbor or local shopkeeper who does not regard with sadness and dread the city filling up with luxury housing, mega-office complexes, and sports stadiums.

In rent-stabilized buildings around the city, tenants are up in arms as landlords harass them to make room for market-rate residents. At hearings to impose building moratoria and downzone communities it is standing room only.

“The mayor doesn’t do anything,” a neighbor of the East 91st Street crash told the New York Observer. “They don’t care about the working-class people. Nobody cares about the tenants.” Said another: “We are furious.”

Not to worry, we’re told, as applications to restrict building heights and densities languish at City Planning and finding a parking space becomes a strategic feat, or a miracle. Economic development is an unmitigated boon.

Why, then, does it seem that the windfall of economic development is mitigating nothing more than the effects of economic development?

Public school classrooms are so packed now there’s no place for kids to sit, much less learn. A few of the new buildings are slated to have schools in them—for instance, Frank Gehry’s Beekman Towers in Tribeca. But the city issued almost 9,500 permits for new apartments in 2007. Where will all those new kids go to school?

New construction is supposed to solve the housing crisis. But as costs soar, the lower end of the mix of “mixed-income” housing falls off the agenda. Developers—like Forest City Ratner, preparing for Brooklyn Atlantic Yards—demolish affordable housing to build “sub-market-rate” housing, which is unaffordable to most New Yorkers. Meanwhile, the City announces that budget cuts will force 15% rent rises in public housing and the closing of community centers and programs.

New development brings jobs and new enterprise, say its promoters. What jobs? Selling hotdogs at the new football and baseball stadiums? Or dishes at Pottery Barn, when rising commercial rents force out the local designer furniture makers and shoe repairmen in the developing neighborhoods?

Developers of high rises must provide green spaces, the Administration crows. But don’t those spaces (when they actually materialize) open up the same ground and sky blotted out by the high rises? Bryant Park in midtown—already wall-to-wall bodies during any sunny lunch hour—will soon have to accommodate 13,600 new workers in two immense towers going up on its periphery. How?

Perhaps City Hall has always been a wholly owned subsidiary of the equivalent of Forest City Ratner. Perhaps there’s never been a time when New Yorkers didn’t wake up to the sound of jackhammers, when life here was not noisy, crowded, and chaotic. When workers did not fall to their deaths from skyscrapers and cranes.

But the question is always the same: who benefits?

The job of public officials is to ensure that the answer is the public—not just developers, but the rest of us.

Most New Yorkers don’t want their city transformed into a cross between Dubai and Alphaville. We do not want every New Yorker to be displaced by an emir or a Tokyo billionaire. We work here, go to school, ride the subways, pay taxes, and vote here now. We live here and would like to keep doing so—decently.

Economic growth is not worth the loss of our quality of life—or a single worker’s life.

JUDITH LEVINE grew up in Queens and has lived in Brooklyn for 35 years. She is the author of Harmful to Minors, My Enemy, My Love, and, most recently, Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping. She can be reached at Judith@judithlevine.com

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail