You can almost hear our local NIMBYs saying --
"Ah, remember the good old days. We could assemble a handful of folks at the Hyde Park NIMBY Club and agitate against any proposed development in Hyde Park. The Herald would print whatever we wrote for them and write editorials to support us.
"No More" sayeth the residents of Hyde Park. New groups and new voices have stolen our thunder. The members of the Co-Op voted it out of existence in spite of our screams. The 53rd Street Vision workshop voted for mixed development and mid-rises. Even the ideas of our charismatic leaders are regularly lampooned in fearsome blogs. Now we have to come up with alternative plans and pretend we are in favor of progress.
Like Hillary, let's not abandon the ship yet. All we have to do is gum up the works and scare away any sensible developer by throwing up a smokescreen and increasing costs.
We can stand by our tried and true tactics. Our leaders will smile in the Herald and applaud the devils- 'we thought the workshop was very good, very enthusiastic, a good discussion.' But be careful not to cite or endorse any specifics. In the background, we will get our henchmen to spread conspiracy theories, mis-represent the facts, and invoke association with the evil University where necessary.
There are only a chosen few who should lead our community. Let's face it, we are wiser and more important than anyone else."
There Rossi goes again, you think. He's ranting. After all, our local NIMBYs are just hardworking and earnest altruists. Are they not? You can disagree with them, but they are entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
I beg to differ.
Below I reproduce an email from the remarkable Mr. Jay Mulberry to the NIMBY faithful (well, not all of them!) who he calls the "Good Neighbors." The purpose of Mr. Mulberry's email is to wage guerrilla warfare against the 53rd Street Vision Workshop and spread rose petals in the path of his NIMBY hero.
According to Mr. Mulberry, the 53rd Street workshop was a clever manipulation of the "people" by the wily Irene Sherr and the dictatorial Toni Preckwinkle. Lured by the prospect of free food, the workshop participants were bamboozled by slick tricks. The alderman "surprised" the gathering with a vote on mid-rises. Dazed by a myriad of issues and drunk on Pizza Capri swill, those lovable but dumb residents voted for development.
Who is Mr. Mulberry kidding? His own rag has been fear-mongering about looming high rises on 53rd Street for years. It turns out that those folks, God love 'em, actually want more housing and retail and would be happy to have another mid-rise building join the many others in Hyde Park.
Mr. Mulberry would have Toni tied down and forced to read ten issues worth of Letters to the Editor in the Herald. This will keep her hand on the pulse of the community. The idea of educating citizens about alternatives and having an actual vote is too radical for him.
Wait, Mr. Mulberry's friend and leader has a better way! Let's convene a group of half a dozen or so of the really important intellectual leaders at Valois. Even better, let's high-jack the discussion by proposing absurd "design concepts" which should send any self-respecting developer back to the north side. We don't even need an architect, we can just say that we have one.*
Does Mr. Mulberry seriously think Harper Court can be designed without considering the economics of retail, parking, and housing or consulting the would-be owner of the property? Some might argue that Mr. Mulberry is just charmingly naive. But, as Mr. Mulberry himself admits, there is a deep cynicism here. This is all about getting nothing done.
Mr. Mulberry calls his teacher - "frighteningly devoted to change." He is right, frightening is the word. Let's consider the record:
1. Seven years of opposition to repair of the Point and restoration of the historic landscaping.
2. Opposition to the development of St. Stephens
3. Opposition to the hotel proposal on the site of the abandoned Doctor's Hospital
4. Opposition to a mid-rise on the McMobil site.
Mr. Mulberry concludes on a chilling note: "the concept need not stop with Harper Court but can and should be used in planning throughout the neighborhood." We might as well drop a war surplus Ukrainian H bomb on our neighborhood.
*It has been pointed out in this blog, that the "architect" Mr. Mulberry refers to is not actually a licensed architect.
From: "Jay F. Mulberry"
Date: February 28, 2008 6:57:24 AM CST
To: "Good Neighbors"
Subject: [Good Neighbors] Community Development
In December there was a meeting a "Vision for 53rd Street" organized mainly by Alderman Preckwinkle's office. It was successful from the point of view of attendance (large) and lunch (good, provided by Pizza Capri.) And it was extremely well organized by the SECC's remarkable Irene Sherr . Otherwise, I think it was unsuccessful -- though it is being touted a great breakthrough into the future and a tremendous example of democracy in action.
It was fated, even willed, to be unsuccessful. Groups at tables who didn't know what they were in for were asked to discuss issues for short periods of time and then throw out suggestions "Vision of 53rd Street." "Wider sidewalks" one would say; "more bars" would throw in another; "better stores", "better restaurants", "invisible parking", "mixed use", "clean", "mixture of historical and modern". . .. You name it, you got it. And you also got the Alderman's opening salvo pushing for greater density and her ending surprise asking for a vote on building a mid-range high rise somewhere in the area.
The result was a hodge-podge with no basis in theory or economics and no sense of the need for overall planning vs. random improvement. My guess, biased, unfair and cynical, is that the effort gives Alderman Preckwinkle a chance to do anything she already wants to do and say the community asked for it.
There is a better way and it is well represented by the group formed to come up with proposals for Harper Court. It is the brain child of Jack Spicer who got a rather marvelous young architect to work with community in drawing plans for a new Harper Court. I have been attending the meetings and am just thrilled by them ; They represent the best approach to community growth I have seen -- using real, not rigged, community input; real, not staged, professional advice; and no self-interest, political interest or developer interest in sight. The concept need not stop with Harper Court but can and should be used in planning throughout the neighborhood.
[Jack Spicer is frighteningly devoted to change in Hyde Park, but he knows how to do it right!]
The next meeting of the group is on Wednesday, March 5 at the Neighborhood Club at 7:00 p.m. I think many Good Neighbors would love it. So come if you can.