Thursday, March 13, 2014

Development and the Social Conscience

by Dick Mac

The Chelsea neighborhood of New York City is home to many famous people:  actors, singers, television personalities, writers, etc.  And it is home to many people not quite so powerful and affluent.

The more socially-conscious of these celebrities often speak-up when something unsavory is happening in their neighborhood.  In fact, in the not-too-distant past, one famous couple (actor and actress) attended public meetings held to consider if a financially-strapped hospital could use its air rights to build luxury condos that would save the institution.

St. Vincent's was the only hospital on the West Side of lower Manhattan, it had an important legacy of charity, and pretty-much invented the protocol for treating people with AIDS.  It was part of the fabric of the city and its loss would be devastating.

It was a relief to hear that Mr. & Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star Couple would be attending the meeting.  They could bring a powerful voice to the needs of the community.

Well, oddly, they were taking a stand AGAINST the hospital!

She said the hospital was dreadful, that SHE would never bring HER children there.  And he mocked pro-hospital demonstrators by agreeing that the neighborhood deserved a world-class hospital, but he would only go there if it was life-or-death (implying it was not a world-class hospital and never could be).

The chapel inside St Vincent's Hospital
For those who do not know:  St. Vincent's went bankrupt, closed, has been demolished and luxury condos are being erected.  There is no hospital on the west side of lower Manhattan.

A few years after that world-altering, earth-shattering event, Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star had the ovarian fortitude to stand in front of the now-dead hospital to endorse a mayoral candidate and decry the loss of the hospital!  Yes!  She gathered with a group of people upset about the hospital closing!

She spoke against the hospital five years earlier, and now she was upset that it was gone.

The only word that comes to mind to describe this amnesiac is a word that today I will not type.

Fast forward to 2014.

Less than a block, in throwing distance of the lovely Chelsea home owned by Mr. & Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Stars (now-separated), at 124 W. 16th Street, a developer has purchased the air-rights above a church of questionable business repute, and is erecting an 11-story luxury condominium building nestled in a neighborhood of 6-story buildings.  (See picture here where the developer's artist has drawn the adjacent six-story building out-of-proportion so it looks taller than it really is and the new building looks smaller.)

I don't know if Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star still owns that nearby home, but she still lives in New York and I can't imagine a good reason for her to have moved from that lovely neighborhood.  If she does still live in the neighborhood, she has failed to use her considerable clout to fight this development, which unlike the hospital plan, IS a blight on the community.

A building like this could diminish the value of her property.  Sadly, the diminished value of her property would mean diminished value of the property owned by people not quite as affluent and powerful as she.

In the big picture, with friends like her, that neighborhood doesn't need enemies.

The construction of this building destroys the character of the neighborhood (which I know means nothing to America anymore); but, it diminishes the value of taxpayers' homes (and even a Tea Party supporter should be un-in-arms about that).  This development is bad for everyone but the developers.

Yet, the development goes on and those who own property on that street have no recourse.

I hope the community stages daily walking pickets outside the building when prospective buyers come to shop.  Let them know they are complicit in this debacle.

Nobody like Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star has come to their aid, and nobody of any importance will.

Read about the new development:

In case you hadn't paid attention to the St. Vincent's debacle, read here:

Ms. Socially-Conscious Movie Star is so concerned in 2013:

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