The NY Times is a great place if you want to learn about the not-so-secret lives of Millennials or read made-up trend pieces about monocles. It's also the perfect forum for a 2,628 word piece detailing how irritating people can be about pieces of land which they have no real ownership, or control, over. This weekend, Sauron's Grey Eye lands upon Brooklyn Bridge Park, where condo owners and local residents are going full-NIMBY and waging war over the scourge of affordable housing.
Mind you, we're not talking about low-income housing—rather, housing "for moderate- to middle-income residents." Thus began the great Brooklyn Bridge Park NIMBY Complainying Of 2014. Their battlefield, as might be expected, was a luxury condominium message board.
The messages expressed outrage over how the two new buildings would increase crowds in the park and cramp the already oversubscribed local public school, P.S. 8. Other residents were angry that a 31-story tower would block their views. When some people intimated that affordable housing could bring down property values, the debate took a tone that was offensive to Nina Lorez Collins, a writer and former literary agent.
“It felt very Nimby, like ‘We don’t want poor people in the backyard,’ ” she said recently.
“After two months of those comments, I sent out an email to everyone. I said, ‘You are making me ashamed to be your neighbor, please stop.’ ”
Great generals stepped up to lead their troops over the long months of trench commenting in Spring 2014:
“The bleeding-heart liberals, of which many of my great friends are, say we need affordable housing,” said Judi Francis, 59, who lives in Cobble Hill and is the president of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, an advocacy group that fought any kind of housing in the park.
“Affordable housing is a noble and fine thing. But a park that has to pay for itself is not supposed to pay for the ills of the city.”
Some argued that the park is just too beautiful for more human riff raff:
Michael Tobman, 41, a Brooklyn-born political consultant, takes the long view. “Nobody’s wrong here,” he said. “However, nobody’s entirely right. That includes the mayor. The rest of the city, which is struggling with issues of affordable housing and poor people’s entrances and Sandy recovery, really doesn’t care what shape housing takes in what is a beautifully manicured, gorgeous city park.”
There were infantry who intellectualized the debate, using rhetorical arguments like skilled chess players:
They make an odd couple of litigants — Ms. Schomp, who wants her view of the water on her frequent runs preserved, and Mr. Merz, who lectures softly on social theory, insisting on separating parkland from development.
“There will be those maybe pointing at us, saying, ‘Aha, you don’t want low-income housing,’ ” Mr. Merz said from his sunken living room overlooking a Zen garden.
He and his late wife developed senior housing in Buffalo, he said, and served as conservationists for Prospect Park.
“That’s an old game because you know very well we do prefer low-income housing,” Mr. Merz continued. “But we don’t want it in the wrong place, meaning there’s a right way to build it.”
Ms. Schomp added: “It has a higher calling as a park than as a place for a few people to live.”
And then there were the gladiators, who relied on brute arguments rather than any self-awareness:
Blair Guppy, 40, a Vancouver native and landscape architect who lives in the building with his wife and children, posted his reaction on a Change.org petition sponsored by Save Pier 6: “With the mayor’s new agenda, not only did the current owners of one brooklyn get a bait & switch, but we would probably never have made the purchase had we known there would be 100% subsidized housing immediately next door.”
In a recent interview, Mr. Guppy said: “By no means am I looking to come across as an elitist. I’m not worried about the influence on property values, but sometimes things need to be looked at.”
Seeing them flourish in the heat of battle was truly an incandescent sight:
On a recent Friday night, David Dunne, 48, a resident of Brooklyn Heights and the founder of a digital marketing company in Manhattan, stood on the park’s Pier 2, which looks out onto Lower Manhattan, watching his children play a pickup soccer game. He was concerned that the administration was being opportunistic and was not planning for the best place for affordable housing. Mr. Dunne said he had not heard the community outrage or seen any protest fliers.
“I don’t think there should be a 31-story tower, or park development of any magnitude,” he said. “I renovated a 19th-century house in Brooklyn Heights. My objective was to leave Brooklyn better than it was before.”
Aren't we all, in our hearts, just hard-working people trying to leave Brooklyn better than it was before (by renovating 19th century houses)? Who among us can truly say they know "the right way" (or the right place) to build low-income housing? We certainly can't, but thankfully, we can rest easy tonight knowing there are plenty of people who can definitively, unequivocally point out the wrong way, and the wrong place.