Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Save Our Market, Save Our Park, Save Our Community

We met yesterday with the Save Our Parks coalition and came away with the indelible impression that the folks worried about losing their parks and the BTM merchants are really conjoined twins. The Gateway Mall project and the Yankee Stadium development are both characterized by a total lack of community input, concomitant accountable development and the abdication of responsibility by elected officials who should be fronting for the interests of the impacted neighborhoods but seem more interested in representing the developers.

What is also clear is that these two mega-projects need to be analyzed together since their contiguity and reliance on shared parking facilities will have an unwanted synergy with decidedly negative impact. This is especially true if we examine the elimination of 19 acres of parkland along with the huge increase of vehicular and truck traffic that accompanies any suburban-style mall.

All of this, of course, in an area that has been called "asthma alley." What this means is that the same elected officials who stridently and righteously came out against Gifford Miller's solid waste plan are supporting a pair of proposals that will seriously exacerbate the air quality of the South Bronx community.

What's missing from the parks perspective is the weighing in on the issue from the kinds of "Friends of the Parks" groups that come out when parkland is threatened in the more chic areas of the city. Also missing, although we plan to try to rectify the situation, are the environmental groups such as NRDC (fighting the valiant fight against watershed-threatening casinos in the Catskills) and the Environmental Justice Alliance (a group that needs to transcend the waste transfer issue). Can you imagine taking away 19 acres of parkland in any other part of the city?

Groups to Come Together

Given the confluence of interest between the BTM merchants and Save Our Parks it should be no surprise to find the beginning of the development of a common front. This is particularly true since the two controversial developments seem to have a protean quality that shifts with the political winds. No one really knows just where the "replacement" parkland will be sited and no one's really sure just how much square footage will eventually be ceded to the Related Companies when the dust settles.

We are hoping that Save Our Parks will join with the merchants, labor, business and community groups at a rally later this month to demand the preservation of valuable Bronx resources. We plan to appeal to a larger audience, one that transcends the machinations of certain elected officials who wouldn't know community well-being if it bit them on the you know what.