graying new york
BY BETTE DEWING
Just home from the hospital — and all I needed to see was scaffolding going up around the building at 81st and East End Avenue. You probably know the one — it houses several dozen rental tenants and a Gristedes grocery store and East End Kitchen.
Call it like it is, an unnatural disaster and premeditated murder of affordable homes and above all places that serve the entire community’s needs. An 18-story luxury condo replaces all that after several years of bombarding the neighborhood (the environment!) with air, noise pollution and enormous energy use.
Of course, natural disasters are so horrific and now such terrible losses and suffering on our own east coast from Hurricane Matthew. And let’s not let the election take our minds off that, and all the desperately needed help when it comes to rebuilding. Just unimaginable. But natural disasters are not preventable except for working to cool down the climate and of course, preparation. Again, what does all this massive construction do to the environment?
Unfortunately, I have a view of this particular destruction site and it seems there should be some sort of protesting or maybe weeping by the neighbors out there. But taking photos of this destruction of places we need — getting them in cyberspace or in regular media — would help the cause. Photos and stories of how the community suffers from the loss of these public places needs to get out there. Attention must be paid. And that’s really an understatement.
And, of course, these man-made disasters are happening all over the city — have been happening for decades really, but until recently there’s been no real protest, which is mostly online. But I am so grateful that some members of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church are now actively concerned. That’s in part because of Our Town and my column’s frequent coverage, but this group will need all the advice and help possible. Maybe other faith group members will join them.
And I’m remanded of some biblical warnings — “What does it profit a man when he gains the whole world and loses his soul?” Or in this case, “What does it profit a city, when there’s no affordable or accessible place to buy or break bread?” And there’s also “Where there’s no vision, the people perish.”
Well, the people surely do languish without neighborhood places which meet everyday needs.
It can be done it enough of us try — and at least “talk about it,” as Mayor Ed Koch used to say during the water shortage.
The small neighborhood business shortage must become a top concern for New York to remain a great a democratic place to live — and not only to visit.
Bette Dewing can be reached by email at email@example.com