life in NYC

alec ramsdell a_ramsdell at
Fri Jul 17 08:50:45 PDT 1998

>Date: Fri, 17 Jul 1998 10:58:50 -0400
>From: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at>
>I had the New York City street artist Robert Lederman on my radio show
>night. Lederman has been arrested 33 times for such grave offenses as
>selling paintings on the sidewalk, handing out leaflets, holding up
>organizing demos, and, perhaps the gravest offense of all, drawing
>of Rudy Giuliani with a Hitler moustache. Lederman is rightly obsesed
>the privatization of public space and the corporatization of everything
- a
>worldwide phenomenon, for sure, but which is very advanced here in
>New York. Giuliani, for example, has essentially privatized Central
>turning it over to a foundation led by right-wing hedge fund hotshot
>Richard Gilder (a major contributor to Gingrich's Progress & Freedom
>Foundation, and a large stockholder in the ill-fated ValuJet airline).
>According to Lederman, hundreds of people are arrested in Central Park
>every week now for "quality of life" infractions, which include,
>apparently, the crime of having black or brown skin. It is now illegal
>give a speech in Central Park without a permit, to have a gathering of
>than 20 people without a permit, and even to carry a protest sign
without a
>permit. Rudy has also banned demos in front of City Hall - despite the
>that he himself led a near-riot of drunken cops making racist noises
>ex-Mayor David Dinkins in City Hall Park when he was first running
>Also, big chunks of the city have been turned over to Business
>Districts (BIDs) - private quasi-governments run by capital, who handle
>sanitation and "security." Lots of the folks arrested for QOL
>end up sentenced to community service, which often means sweeping and
>painting for the BIDs. Rudy's been steadily replacing unionized city
>workers with various forms of low- and unpaid workers - workfare people
>clean the parks and sweep the streets, a private foundation (the Doe
>has been putting ex-druggies to work emptying trashcans on the Upper
>Side (they're paid, but not much, and required to enroll in a forced
>savings program to teach the bourgeois virtues), and the QOL folks are
>slaving away for the BIDs in a way that would make a Mississippi jailer
>Though there's been a bit more grumbling over the last few months about
>Disneyfication of New York, the broad nature of this crackdown hasn't
>provoked all that much notice, much less opposition. Lederman's trying
>hard, and the ACLU has been filing some lawsuits, but the ruling class
>been solidly behind Rudy. Of course there was some embarrassment when
>workfare guy said on TV the other week that "work makes you free";
>the slogan over the entrance to Auschwitz is not a way to make friends
>New York.
>Is anything like this going on elsewhere in the country?

In San Francisco there's Presidio Park and Treasure Island. I havn't kept up with developments over the past few months, though. There was lobbying to have the old army barracks in Presido Park converted into shelter for the homeless. But it looks like privatization into a nice, clean, consumer-resident compound is what's happening. Something similar with Treasure Island, which was (is?) a subject of the public/private debate.

Is anyone up on this more than I am?


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