The Newtown Pentacle

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Failure is often the only option, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One has been on a holy tear of late on the real estate development and gentrification situation here in Western Queens. I’ve been pissing off a bunch of people I know in government by doing so, and have received the usual “who do you think you are?” accusations and chides. My standard response is “I’m a citizen, and how dare you act like some sort of landed gentry towards me when ultimately all you’ve got is a government job.” It was common sense when I was growing up that taking a government job (as opposed to working for a corporation) was all about the security and pension benefits. What you didn’t get in terms of annual salary today, you’d get back in the long term during retirement. In my neighborhood – DSNY was considered a good career bet, as well as becoming a teacher, as they had the strongest Unions with the best “bennys.” My pal “Special Ed”‘s dad told us all that we should seriously consider becoming court bailiffs.

Of course, that’s my “working class” outlook at work, and back then the gub’mint wasn’t the pathway one took in pursuance of eventually securing a high paid corporate consultancy job.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something happened during the Bloomberg era, however. “Gubmint” jobs suddenly accrued a new status and the suits from corporate America began to talk about “service.” They took the pay cut, accepted a position at this agency or that, and began applying the rules of business to government policy. Now, don’t get me wrong, these are pretty clever folks and the amount of brain (and Rolodex) power they brought with them to lower Manhattan is impressive. Problem being, they have an inherently profit based modus operandi due to their experiences in the “real world.” The “Gubmint” ain’t supposed to turn a profit.

Thing is, most of these “Gubmint” people aren’t from “here,” and they seem to regard New York City with a thinly veiled disgust.

For example – remember when Dan Doctoroff described the Sunnyside Yards as “a scar” he saw from his office window in Manhattan a couple of years ago? Mr. Doctoroff was born in Newark, but grew up in Birmingham, Michigan and then attended Harvard University. A suburb of Detroit, the demographics of Birmingham are 96% Caucasian (according to the 2000 census), and a mere 1.6% of the population of Birmingham lives below the poverty line. The median income for a household in that city in 2000 was $80,861, and the median income for a family was $110,627. Not exactly East New York, or the South Bronx, or Astoria. Mr. Doctoroff is famously Michael Bloomberg’s right hand man and the fellow who ran Bloomberg LLC while his boss was Mayor, and is accordingly quite affluent. He’s the very definition of the “one percent” and a leading member of the “elite.” I don’t imagine Mr. Doctoroff goes fishing in his penny jar for bagel money when it’s the Thursday before payday, has never had to “borrow from Peter to pay Paul,” or lived in financial fear that the City DOB might impoverish him with an unexpected order to repair or replace his concrete sidewalk.

In other words, what in hell does Dan Doctoroff know about life in working class Queens?

Doctoroff and his cohorts created the term “affordable housing” which the current Mayor has made his own. The question often asked is “affordable by who”? The Citizens Budget Commission boiled that down in this post from last year. The upshot of it is that in order to create this so called “affordable” apartment stock, which is unaffordable to the low income people it’s meant to serve, the rent on “market” rate apartments actually has to go up to cover the cost. This redistribution of wealth hits the middle and working class on two fronts – higher monthly rents, and the application of their tax dollars to subsidize the real estate development which reluctantly includes the so called “affordable” units.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Personal experience from having actually grown up in NYC suggests that whomever the politicians and planners set out to “help” end up getting hurt.

Having grown up in what would be considered a “low income” family under modern terms, we members of the Waxman clan migrated to the outer edges of the City (Brooklyn’s Canarsie section) where housing was found that we could afford. That’s where relative affluence and dire poverty comingled, and created a culture. This was possible due to a preexisting infrastructure of subways and highways that allowed egress to and from the commercial center in Manhattan, but there were still plenty of jobs to be had locally. Manufacturing, commercial, shops. If you played your cards right, you could earn a living and never once have to go into the City. That’s changed, and the ongoing loss of this manufacturing and commercial side of the working class economy is excaberated by this affordable housing craze which perceives any large footprint lot as being a potential development site.

If a building went up in the 1970’s or 80’s, which included low income housing, that had a separate entrance or “poor door” there would have been bloody riots.

The reason for that is the City planners and “Gubmint” officialdom were mostly native New Yorkers who lived in and were loyal to the neighborhoods they oversaw, and who understood that “it’s not all about Manhattan.” Doctoroff and his acolytes see the City as the solution and not the problem. The looming infrastructure crisis this rapid development is causing will impoverish the City. A century ago, when the newly consolidated City of Greater New York was being similarly developed – the politicians built the subways and sewers first, then they sold off or awarded the adjoining properties at bargain prices to their cronies like Cord Meyer and Fred Trump.

The infrastructure investments made between 1898 and 1940 allowed NYC to grow beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. Unfortunately, these days we are doing the opposite, and allowing the buildings to be erected first. The bill for all of the municipal machinery will come after the population loading is finished.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle


2 Responses

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  1. YES YES YES! EXCELLENT article, Mitch—spot on! Same thing is happening here in Frisco, where rents have shot up to $2500and over for a tiny one bedroom. What they call “affordable” is a real joke.

    Fiesta Cranberry

    November 2, 2016 at 2:45 pm

  2. Ever the Charming Revanchist unaware the the America of “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington”, We The People rhetorical tropes no longer exists. The U.S. Constitution has been long since been overthrown (it’s dead, Jim!) with the majority of We The People’s willing and often enthusiastic approval- in return for the security blanket of the Nanny State, social safety nets and some free stuff. The American people sold their asses into de facto slavery and cheap too. People were just too simple to manipulate through their basest emotions with pretty lies, too short-sighted and self-centered to understand that chains around one’s neck and wrist, no matter how bright and shiny, are still chains.
    Humans are such easy prey. But pay no attention to be. Don’t worry, be happy. Everything is wonderful.

    I’ve made a few good predictions such as how the Maspeth shelter imbroglio would end and it’s not because I’m psychic or have inside information it is because all this was predicted through models formulated by the likes of G.K. Chesterton and James Burnham. But do not read them as they’re just right wing anti-gubbermint hater conspiracy nut stuff and Racisbigothomophobicxenophobicmisocgynisticismbigmeaniepoopyhead bad and wrong thinkerz.

    It’ll never happen that way, our electeds would never lie to us and our technocrats are all honest public servants who honor and revere the citizenry and the constitution. But wait…

    ” …I’ve been pissing off a bunch of people I know in government by doing so, and have received the usual “who do you think you are?” accusations and chides…”

    Careful Mitch, someone might call you a rightwing anti-gubbermint scruffy malcontent nut or….racist.

    Heh, But like I’ve been saying about us proles being slaves all along and will say one last time to all who dwell in this city: So what the fuck are you going to do about it? And the answer as always will be not a goddamned thing because I am wrong and crazy. Everything is wonderful.
    So pay no attention to me, I’m just making all this managerial state stuff up. Racist badthinkz! Everything is wonderful.

    Oh, and do not read or pay any mind to these right-wing nutter meanie conspiracies at The Grauniad

    But maybe I am wrong. You and everybody else is right- everything is just wonderful in the “new normal” so I should just pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Just do as you’re told, speak only when spoken to, say only officially approved things and believe in the magic of globalist progressivism and everything will be wonderful.

    Ah well, these matters that really do not concern me anymore anyway. I shall speak no more about this subject. I shouldn’t shouldn’t want to be called a Nazicisgenderedwhitechristianmaleracistbigothomophobicxenophobicmisogynisiticalhaterwongthinker-that’s-not-who-we-are naughty person. Oh noes!

    Don Cavaioli


    November 2, 2016 at 2:50 pm

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