Sunday, June 26, 2011

Main Street Ribbon Walk

Last Thursday, June 23rd, West Orange notables, and ordinary citizens like me, walked around Valley Road for three ribbon cuttings! The first was at Mazzi Dogz, the hot dog place around the corner from my house. The second was at Planet Wings, up at shopping plaza on South Valley Road. They had a person dressed as a chicken and truly outstanding face painting. The third was Suzy BBQ, just south of the plaza on Valley Road. The Mayor's Office has brought a pair of giant scissors for the ceremonies--I mean giant! It was a lot of fun. I look forward to many more.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn

Councilmember Leticia James, Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and others convened a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the creation of new unity plan for the Atlantic Yards site. I got to Brooklyn Commons, at 388 Atlantic Avenue, early and got a seat up front, which turned out to be a good idea as the place was overflowing with people. As one audience member put it, "We have been kicked to the curb on two issues -- stopping the abuse of eminent domain and putting an arena at Atlantic and Flatbush -- but we can still win on the issues that are in front of us." Those issues have to do with the site that adjoins the Barclays Arena, much of which has been cleared of homes and historic buildings and awaits the next thing. Ratner's original plans have been shelved, which opens up room for the community to propose something better. This is vitally important to future of Brooklyn, and even the future of the Greater New York region. One of the principles of urban restoration that I've identified in my Main Street travels is the open creation of a vision that represents the aspirations of the people. This is a great moment to go all over Brooklyn -- indeed, I'd say go all over New York City -- and find out what people need and want. Then let's consider how those needs and wants relate to the massive Atlantic Yards site. This critically important process will help us build the kind of consensus that can win the next round of the fight.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Main Street Fete

Friday night. Main Street, Brooklyn. DUMBO seems too cool to have a Main Street, but there it is. I'm going to 37, Powerhouse Arena, a bookstore/event space, for a party celebrating the New York premier of "Battle for Brooklyn," at the Brooklyn Film Festival. I had seen cuts of the film, but the final version, with diagrams and music and storyline, starts off very hard and never lets up. It tells the story of Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn and its 7 year fight to stop Bruce Ratner's ill-conceived Atlantic yards project. "It's like David and Goliath," says attorney Norman Siegel, "but you know, sometimes David wins." At the end of the film, Mayor Michael Bloomberg is chortling, "No one will remember how long it took." But we are watching the film, and we remember. I finger the leaflet in my pocket inviting me to a meeting June 15th to see the Unity Plan for the area. I plan to go. I want to see what Marshall Brown, Ron Shiffman and the other collaborating urban planners are proposing. The film's wonderful hero, Dan Goldstein, and brilliant heroine, Shabnam Merchant, are tenacious, ethical and beautiful. I learned a lot and look forward to seeing it over and over. In the meantime, at 37 Main Street, the activists and the film crowd rub shoulders in one of the moments of festivity in which we catch our breath and refuel for the next round in the fight.