Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Overdevelopment and underdevelopment

Monday night, July 20th, I attended a birthday party for contractor Mark Miller and developer Patrick Morrissy. It was held at an old industrial building that Morrissy's organization, HANDS, Inc., is redeveloping into a restaurant, apartment, and artist studios. The party was held in the unfinished artist studios, with their roof still open to the sky and trees. The sound and hearty core of the building is still visible. Coquelle's Bakery used to occupy the site, and Jeannie Morrissy shared memories of what a lively place it was, and what delicious brownies they made there. Miller and Morrissy are giving new life to the building and to the corner of Scotland Road and Central Avenue, which looks down on its luck. That perception will change this week when Anthony Wood, the proprietor of Daily Soup, opens for business. He has a keen sense of fun and a bright, spacious restaurant which shades from casual in the front to more formal in the rear. Last night he delighted the partygoers with frozen yogurt mixed with outrageous toppings. The young Morrissys, Claire and Tim, promised to try all the combinations of three and write about their findings in their food blog. Food is fun in Orange, and the air is full of possibility. This photo of me withmy daughter Molly and mother Maggie was taken by Herb Way, who graduated with me from Orange High School back in 1967.

Today -- the 21st -- I had lunch on Palisades Avenue with Bob Stern, who lived in Englewood for many years before moving to Montauk. When asked what he was up to, he confessed, rather sheepishly, that he was the president of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk and was fighting developers who want to do irresponsible building. As this is exactly what he was doing in Englewood, he wanted to be the first to admit "plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose"!

Bob believes in democracy and makes it work by doing his part to hold people accountable to the larger society. He recounted lots of stories of confronting people who's irresponsible building poses a threat to the area's charm and sustainability. In listening to his stories of fighting of developers and their money, I was reminded of how hard Morrissy and his colleagues work to bring investors' dollars to Orange. In a reasonable world, the dollars that are poised to destroy Montauk would be redirected to Orange. Overdevelopment will wreck one beautiful and precious natural treasure, while underdevelopment is ruining a charming and creative little city. But the struggles of the two places are not yet linked, however much they need to be. Overdevelopment and underdevelopment are two sides of one coin: making a fast buck in real estate. Can we ease the greed and create places for people?

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