Thursday, January 29, 2009

What to do?

This sign, which appeared a week ago, points to a political hot-potato best described by my own warring consciousness:

An hour ago: It's about time they tore out that awful parking lot and installed the plaza they've been promising for years. We're the second-most underserved community in the city in terms of green space, and it is possible to clean up a mess without sanitizing it or inviting the brushstrokes of gentrification. Sure, the MegaMall (that building exactly centered in the background) was successful in its day, but it's a proven safety hazard for vendors -- there was a fire, and the roof almost collapsed! -- and it now amounts to little more than a glorified swap meet: a bunch of crummy, labor-unfriendly goods you could find at any dollar store across the neighborhood. Why do they need all that parking anyway? And think of how nice that corner would look with trees, shrubs, and native perennials.

An hour from now: This is just the City saying the neighborhood has "arrived," and its infrastructure needs to serve the latest transplants. Why not make improvements in the interest of the MegaMall itself, which continues to attract more business than any of the hipster boutiques that have tried, and failed, to take root in the area? Does it have to be green space vs. MegaMall, one vs. the other? With the MegaMall goes the vendors' livelihoods, and along with it an option to buy affordable goods on the part of local working families. This is the age-old story of the strong pushing out the weak, all in the name of neighborhood improvement.

In this case, paradoxically, the mall is the underdog and the green space the goliath. It can boggle the mind if you let it.

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