Public Scope

UPDATE 3-11-11 State Senator Carl Kruger, whose district includes Four Sparrow Marsh, has been indicted. About time. According to today’s Daily News, it’s alleged that Kruger’s “no big box stores” demand at the meeting detailed below supported his developer buddy Aaron Malinsky (who has paid Kruger’s shell operation $472,500 in the past), who wants smaller stores there.

No surprise, really that development is rotten to the core: ecologically, morally, politically, economically.

I attended the Four Sparrow Marsh “retail center” public scope meeting last night.

How sweet, the community room at King’s Plaza Mall — was it a requirement of the project’s approval long ago or a goodwill gesture on the part of management? — is located under the parking garage. It’s symptomatic of our degraded democracy that private spaces — malls — are the preeminent agoras of our nation, but they are agoras only in one sense, the market place of things. Not the market place of ideas, mind you. Consumption – our reigning religion, formerly a name for a disease, which consumed — burnt up — the body of the victim, as consumption now does the planet — is a such a fallen idol; predicated on creating desires that can never be met, lest we only go shopping once.

The turnout was well over the 60 allowed in the room. The proposal, a private taking of public land, was revealed as something of a shell game: it’s all speculation right now, with no named commercial tenants, and two vague renderings. Yet the machinery of Economic Development grinds on; this meeting is the precursor to the Environmental Impact Statement. The project architect – actual architects put their names on these commercial boxes? – kept referring to a “view corridor” towards the marsh, until somebody asked him if he meant the, uh, four-lane road. He did. (This was a better euphemism than “fill of unknown origin” which describes a lot of the littoral edge of the city.) A trio of slick politicals – Council, Assembly, Senate – spoke, mostly against, sort of. A community board type suggested that something classy like Lord & Taylor would be welcome. Representatives from park advocacy and environmental groups were rightly and decidedly against this folly, but the real joy of the evening was seeing the non-affiliated public in action. Some real voices of Brooklyn on display. A couple were clearly gadflies of long standing – you go, ladies. Two construction union reps, invested in such projects, unfortunately, both had the message that mega-developer and long-time benefactor of public-giveaways (socialism-for-the-rich) Forest-City Ratner cared about communities. Oy!

The public comment period is open to 2/28. The comment I’ll be submitting goes something like this:

Four Sparrow Marsh is a small piece of wildness in the city. It’s not a park – you mostly sink into the goo if you try walking there, and you have to watch where your feet go because the place is crawling with fiddler crabs in season. The birds, both residents and migrants passing through during the spring and fall, get most of the attention, but the marsh is also home to much invertebrate life, and fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. Musk rat, for instance. There are also, of course, plants, and lichens, and fungi, components of the whole web of life that we humans are also a part of. As part of the larger ecosystem and life web of Jamaica Bay, which is part of the vast estuary that surrounds New York City, the marsh is vital to the future of the city. As a water filter; as a buffer against the rising waters of global warming; as an incubator of new life, fresh air, rich soil, the miracle of a small bird seen by someone otherwise surrounded by concrete. It’s a place, even with the highway howling nearby, you can hear the wind in the reeds. Why do we still have to defend the obvious, vital need for such things? It certainly shouldn’t be diminished and threatened by another mall and vast parking lot, a speculative project of short-term (and short-sighted) profit, indicative of a development ethos – transferring the commonwealth to private power – that has proved a failure over and over again.

1 Response to “Public Scope”

  1. 1 dumpsterkitty February 20, 2011 at 11:54 am

    One sentence says it all. Why do we still have to defend the obvious, vital need for such things? Thank you.

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