life in NYC

dmaddox at dmaddox at
Sat Jul 18 19:11:41 PDT 1998

I'm pretty sure Business Improvement Districts are a common item in

the urban planner's tool kit these days (planners seem to have these

toolkits of things to try, like alternating one-way streets in the

70s--"here, this will solve all your CBD problems. What I'll do is

send cars barreling through your downtown at 50 mph." I think these

ideas come in the mail every month from the Urban Land Institute, like

those Time-Life books that we got when I was a kid). They were trying

to set one up in Hyde Park in Chicago a few years ago that would work

just like the ones described below. Hyde Park, home of the University

of Chicago, has of course been the scene of intense public/private

"cooperation" to regulate public space for decades. There were hold

ups with installing it in Hyde Park. I think the strongest resistance

came from business owners who had been thrown into the district, and

who would therefore be subject to a special tax to support the special

district's operations--some of them perceived the program to be

designed to solve problems that were more the concern of different

kinds of businesses located in other parts of the special district, so

they didn't want to pay the tax. There were relatively few people who

opposed the idea of bringing in more people to make arrests or issue


In another posting Peter describes Daley well. He truly is

self-parodying, which I suppose is a desirable characteristic in a

governmental leader. It represents an efficiency of some sort.

David Maddox

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________ Subject: life in NYC Author: Doug Henwood <dhenwood at> at INTERNET Date: 7/17/98 10:58 AM

I had the New York City street artist Robert Lederman on my radio show last night. Lederman has been arrested 33 times for such grave offenses as selling paintings on the sidewalk, handing out leaflets, holding up signs, organizing demos, and, perhaps the gravest offense of all, drawing pictures of Rudy Giuliani with a Hitler moustache. Lederman is rightly obsesed with the privatization of public space and the corporatization of everything - a worldwide phenomenon, for sure, but which is very advanced here in Rudy's New York. Giuliani, for example, has essentially privatized Central Park, 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 to give a speech in Central Park without a permit, to have a gathering of more 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 fact that he himself led a near-riot of drunken cops making racist noises about ex-Mayor David Dinkins in City Hall Park when he was first running against Dinkins.

Also, big chunks of the city have been turned over to Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) - private quasi-governments run by capital, who handle sanitation and "security." Lots of the folks arrested for QOL violations 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 Fund) has been putting ex-druggies to work emptying trashcans on the Upper West 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 proud.

Though there's been a bit more grumbling over the last few months about the 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 has been solidly behind Rudy. Of course there was some embarrassment when his workfare guy said on TV the other week that "work makes you free"; evoking the slogan over the entrance to Auschwitz is not a way to make friends in New York.

Is anything like this going on elsewhere in the country?


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