Thursday, August 02, 2007

The New Reggie Bar: Chewing on Sprayregen

In a continuation of our commentary on the attempts by Bill Lynch to generate grass roots support for Columbia's expansion, we want to take a look today at the attempt by the Lynchites to make Nick Sprayregen into a poster child for rich white privilege. These smear tactics might make some sense if it was Nick who was trying to evict low-income tenants and gentrify a large swath of West Harlem real estate.

It is of course Columbia that is trying to do all of these things-while using the power of the state to take away peoples' property. The tactics in play are therefore in the service of of a multi-billion dollar expansion effort and their very nature serves to underscore the lack of integrity of Columbia-which should be called on to denounce them in no uncertain terms. They are also useful to deflect attention away from the actual impacts that the university's expansion will have on the West Harlem community.

There is no coalition that Bill Lynch could form that could in any way defend the lack of affordable housing in the Columbia plan, or the gentrifying tsunami that the plan will certainly unleash-at least according to BP Stringer's incisive analysis of the situation. The solution? Ignore the plan's negative features, focus on the jobs (that Lynch will dole out to the faithful), and target Sparayregen for his race and class.

Which brings us to the Reverend Williams, a man who has stepped up to become the public face of the effort to tarnish Sprayregen. We take you back to his Village Voice letter of last week where the Reverend said the following: "Sprayregen is using his personal wealth and business interests to make himself the public face of those opposing the plan, many, including other religious leaders, question who and what he really represents."

Sounds quite sinister, doesn't it? Sprayregen, the front for some kind of cabal? As Williams continues in his tawdry innuendo: "But he's not a resident; he's a businessman. A businessman negotiating commercial development and luxury condo deals in Yonkers...Columbia University's proposal is a chance to revitalize our neighborhood. If Sprayregen actually lived here, or really cared about it, maybe he could see that."

Sprayregen, bad! Columbia, good! Why didn't we see that? Columbia's revitalization will uplift all of the neighborhood and only the rich white interloper is standing in the way. Doesn't this remind you of the Marx Brothers line?- "Who're going to believe, me or your own lying eyes?

Which brings us to the inconvenient fact that Nick Sprayregen is part of a racially and economically diverse grass roots coalition that thinks the Columbia plan stinks; and this coalition, in turn, is reflective of the unanimous sentiment of CB#9 that has an entirely different vision for the area than does the benevolent university.

So, Reverend Williams, who are the ones who really care about the community? Not the folks who are part of the paid army of astro-turf soldiers, looking to score off of the expansion drive. These booty capitalists are nothing but opportunists who are not representing the community-at least not the community as it is currently constitutes. After the gentrifying tsunami's cleansing effect, who knows, maybe it will become representative at that point?

So, in answer to the Williams slander, it is Sprayregen who is representing the community's interests, and using his personal resources to advance them. What Williams, and by extension Lynch, wants to do is to de-legitimize Nick so that the opposition to the gravy train will be diminished and everyone in line to eat can do so undisturbed.