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2006-06-08 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

The Rezoning Dilemma: Let The Professionals Take Over
By Charles Rogers

None of us knows where the downzoning or upzoning of Canarsie is going to end. Some would have it stop right where it is, retaining at least some of the essence that has made Canarsie stand out as a place of history, from the Canarsee Indians to the earliest traces of fishing boats and catching shellfish. At the same time there are those who want to go full speed ahead in redeveloping the community, not necessarily ruthlessly, but revamping nevertheless.

What we do know is that there are many people who don't like the idea of change, especially change that will take away precious parts of Canarsie and replace them with what is expected to be big, flashy, bright, state-of-the-art buildings that, in essence, seem to "take away" a plethora of sights and sounds of history; just plain history. It could tear your heart out to see, within the past few years, some of the magnificent Victorian-type houses - with a history dating back to Queen Victoria herself - being leveled, to eventually be replaced by three-story brick structures that, well, let's face it: stylish they ain't. Oh, it is surmised they're functional , with a front yard and green grass and even some trees out front that are, uh, real trees (grown somewhere else, but, hey, that's the kind of world we live in).

Years ago, when it seemed some developers were taking a hard look at our community, I balked, along with Ira Kluger, co-president of the Canarsie Historical Society, at the thought of it, and we cried in our beers about it (his was Pilsner, mine, Stout).

How dare they do this to Little Old Canarsie, we complained. It doesn't deserve to die such a death. There's too much history being destroyed!

But, frankly, I've changed a bit lately. And it's not just because of the physical changes taking place. First, it's more a result of the haphazard way those who want to save those homes from developers are handling it. Second, there is some kind of progress being made (Don't deny it, a falling down Seaview Diner is now a condo complex that's not hard on the eyes). Third, who is selling these magnificent mansions to the developers? Your neighbors, of course! The very people who own the historic homes are being offered so much that they can't refuse the offer. In this case "can't" does not necessarily mean "won't." They just can't ! And don't blame them. Those offers don't come around very frequently.

But bless those who oppose the developers. They're intentions are wonderful. Bless 'em again, though, but they're hitting a diamond-encrusted steel plate with a small hammer and they'll never make a dent in their proposals the way they're going at it. Finesse and subtlety are obviously not in their vocabulary.

It's obvious they have alienated their own elected representatives, who flatly refuse to come to their meetings because all they get is yelled at and nothing constructive is ever accomplished. Nothing.

So what do the anti-developers do? They get hold of a self-proclaimed "zoning specialist" from Queens and a City Councilman from Queens to work with them!!! Both consultants from Queens!

Now, if the United States was in a territorial discussion with another country, say, Belgium, why would we involve an ambassador from Paraguay???

Wait! There's more! At their last meeting, they enlisted the services of two "expert" consultants. Both were from Art & Design High School. With all due respect to specialized secondary schools everywhere, one would think they might not know quite as much as A PROFESSIONAL DESIGN OR ZONING SPECIALIST. It's obvious they are listening only to their hearts. Or they're too stubborn to listen to anyone else.

It does make you wonder how Seaview Village ever got built. Zoning might or might not have been a problem, but those nice houses on East 105 Street and Avenue M and Flatlands 1st through Flatlands 10th streets do say a lot about what new developments will do to a community. I am an advocate for things historic, but there is a point where we have to let go of many of the antiques - not all - and look to the future.

The developers are doing that capitalistic thing called making money . If you protest their tactics or policies, at least do it correctly and with the right professionals. Bringing in outsiders is counterproductive and, frankly, outright amateurish.

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