I saw a show tonight that kind of turned a mirror on me. I love social theater and this one happened to be about a controversial urban development in Brooklyn, NY called Atlantic Yards. The play is at Arts Emerson in the new Paramount Black Box Theatre and was called In the Footprint: The Battle for Atlantic Yards.
As we were walking out of the theatre, Sarah turned to me and said, "You should have been in this show." I said, "I was."
Phelan, Clancy, Potter, McGrail... You were all in this play too.
Lynn Item, Lynn Journal... you made a few appearances.
Sasaki... You guys were in this play....
Now, I don't mean any of this literally as none of you were in Brooklyn during Atlantic Yards and the players there were larger than life with names such as Bloomberg, Jay-Z and Gehry in the mix (no offense). But... you were in this play. Some of the mannerisms, speeches, non-action, action, writings... were played out almost like someone was playing a recording of some of our meetings and city council sessions.
It's one of those things you typically read about in a history book and try not to repeat it, but in this case, the mistakes and horrifying actions basically happened yesterday.
In the play, a whole neighborhood is pretty much handed over to a developer along with an unrestricted ability to take whatever they needed by eminent domain. This of course took years and lots of court time, but it eventually got done. Of course, the project was not anything like what was originally planned and the city government never took ONE SINGLE VOTE on the project. They basically had no control. No city planner. Sound familiar?
The bloggers were in the show. We are an annoying bunch. There is an incredibly funny scene where they present the bloggers as a "greek chorus" of sorts all dressed in their pajamas. Some of us (me) have end goals where we don't truly understand what they mean for the neighborhood we've entered. I've never been shy about wanting increased property value, but you know what... I need some re-thinking there. We often complain about not being able to mix well with corners of Munroe Street near Turbine or the Fenix Discotech or Union Street as a whole, but do we ever really think about why that is?
Who was here first and what was in these buildings before us? If increased property value is a goal, how do we bring up the rest of the neighborhood so that they can afford the new market rate? Is that even possible? I like the mission of SPIN's Financial Stability Center for this reason, but we're going to need a lot more than that.
As we build out the Downtown and start on our new Waterfront I really hope we can learn from projects like Atlantic Yards. Bring everyone to the table early and often. Don't let developers run hogwild with anything. Even if they are incredible supporters of everything we live and breath. If the project is wrong, it is wrong. Period. Inspect and make sure it's right for the people in the footprint. I'm talking to the elected officials, but I'm also talking to all of us. We need to do a lot more to understand where everyone is coming from and then work together to get where we all want to go next.
I'm sure I sound completely naive and I don't care. After all, I'm just a blogger in my pajamas.