Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A lesson for developers in what not to do

I was talking with some architects last week about the ongoing Perez APC debacle in the lower ninth ward.  I wish someone had been documenting this wreck from the beginning, because it would be a great teaching film for would-be developers: do not try any of the tactics you see here! And the professionals I was speaking too agreed--they had been forwarding coverage to their colleagues in other cities, in awe at the stubborn, clumsy disrespect Perez continues to demonstrate in a community they claim to aspire to be a part of.

More remarkable than their missteps is their refusal to backtrack when being called on their BS.  For example, after meeting with the community and learning that we have, historically, fought against development of the kind they were proposing, they announced that they had no intention of negotiating.  Then, when the community collaborated on three alternative plans with Tulane City Center, Perez complained that they hadn't been included, while refusing to incorporate any of the community's needs into their own plan.  The result: instead of having 800 people working to support their effort to develop the former Holy Cross school property, they have 800 people fighting against them.  When news coverage criticized the efforts made by Perez to bypass the community, they admitted that perhaps instead of a PR company they should have invested in community outreach; and then they continued to dismiss the community rather than reaching out to them.

Here are some of the highlights, or lowlights, of their failed campaign:

Here are the four testimonials that they featured in their glossy mailing to members of the affected community.  None of these four people live in the Lower Ninth Ward.  Two have been promised businesses in the development.  One has stated that she was manipulated into participating in the promotion.  Yet Perez continues to circulate their images and statements.

The benefits of height, according to Perez, is that it will solve common problems such as obesity.  Huh?  The same promotional mailing features a statement that the only people who have opposed the project are people who requested inappropriate "favors" from Angela O'Byrne.  This, of course, is an outright lie.  O'Byrne clearly has a different goal than the community, but it has nothing to do with favors, and it is a particularly clumsy claim to make when Perez itself has been offering favors in exchange for support.

This lead me to post this (I think) rather funny graphic on my Twitter feed:

The response?  Angela's daughter, a self-proclaimed "entertainer," began Tweeting and posting on Facebook calling me a troll who was trying to "stop her mother."

To be continued...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Sentimentality in the East Village

Sunday afternoon I walked around the old neighborhood, much of which is unrecognizable, leaving me, and even some of my friends who still live there, to wonder what used to be in that spot.  "I think all of this just opened last week," my friend said of a strip of shops on Avenue B.  And she wasn't completely joking.  It was a relief to find some things still remain.

This the building I used to live in.  Apartment 3D.  I had a choice of 2D and 3D and even though it meant walking up an extra flight of stairs, it seemed worth it to be able to live in 3D.  I somehow managed to live there alone for four years before adopting Brando; now the only things I can remember involve him, stuffed alongside me in our tiny one room apartment and bounding out the front door.

 This little corner park is on C and 5th, I think.  I never noticed until Brando lead me there on a walk to check out the flock of chickens which, at night, slept in the trees.  I had no idea chickens could actually fly into trees and it seemed funny that I would have learned this while living in New York City.
 6th Street and Ave. C.  For the longest time this was a junk yard where a little Frenchman lived with his guard dog, a brindle pit mix named Tigre.  When I came by with Brando, Tigre would slip under the fence while his owner shouted to be careful, because he was coming to fight.  But he wasn't really coming to fight, he was coming to play.  Eventually the man was arrested and Tigre was adopted by a woman up the street.  They cleared out the lot and more than ten years later, all that is left is a crater.

7th and C.  Former bank converted into artist lofts with standard poodles.  The married artists who lived there often split their time in a place upstate, so they alternated one black standard poodle in the country with one in the city.  Brando would play with whichever one was in town.  And then, one day, they were both in town together and Brando freaked out at the sight of the two of them, ran and hid behind a park bench, refusing to come out.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

On Maggie, Money and the blogger tip jar

For the past few years I've been writing a lot about death.  And grief.  And it hasn't been by choice really, although as I get older it does seem, in a way, that that is what this world is all about: figuring out how to deal with the fact that people are going to die before us and before we are ready to let them go.  Last night, sitting in a bar with a friend I hadn't seen in ten years, we were talking about losing our parents, and how unprepared we are for it.  My friend said, "I wanted to call all my friends who had lost their parents and apologize to them for having thought I understood."

I was in New York for a memorial of my friend Maggie Estep who died in February.  It was, for everyone, the kind of loss that causes you to rethink your steps.  It was the kind of loss that feels distinctly personal, because Maggie was the kind of person who connected with a great number of people on a uniquely personal and individual level.  And so I've been wanting to write about it, but unable to write about it, a state that has contribute to some inconsistent blogging over the past five years.  Do I want to write again about the deaths of both of my parents, several dogs, several friends and, almost, myself as well?  Not really, but what else do I have to say?  So I keep hitting "pause."

Is there such a thing as a memorial that is not emotionally intense?  Probably not.  Yet, I have to say yesterday was intense.  It was intense because of Maggie, and everyone's love for her.  And it was intense because it brought us all back to the Nyorican Cafe.  And it was intense because we have all gotten shockingly older but at the same time haven't changed.  Yet what was most striking, in hearing people talk about Maggie, read from her work, and from work that she admired, is that we all knew the same person.  More than one person spoke about how Maggie had always been a pacer, the first to be on MTV, or go on tour or get a book deal.  But no one expected her to be the first at this.  She made us feel that we weren't quite doing as much as we should, not in a shameful way, but in way that gave us a good kick in the butt to get moving.

This is a big kick.

After we both left New York, we seemed to get closer in many ways, in particular over our love of dogs.  She genuinely thought my writing about dogs was an incredible accomplishment, and when she told me so it meant a lot, because she wasn't a bullshitter.  A compliment from her was gold.  She also was indignant at the fact that, even with my success, I had to work a crummy, ordinary day job to pay my bills.  She was far more upset by this than I was.  Last September, after I took a full-time phone bank job, she sent me this message on Facebook:

I was mortified to learn you have to have a day job. You shoudl not.  
If blow hard Jon Katz (I used to like him but he's a numbnuts about 
rescue and pits) can earn a healthy living preaching about labs and 
border collies, it is absurd that you are not rich. You have a LOT of 
FB followers, can't you do a daily blog the way Katz does and get 
paid subscribers? It's bad enough that I have to get a day job, but 
a total fucking indignity that you do.

So, here's the button Maggie wanted me to add to my blog posts.  Now I have some writing to do.