What would I have spent my career doing if I had stayed at the New York City Department of City Planning, instead of leaving 21 years ago? Nothing good, based on what I know, and it’s a good thing I got out when I did. New York City is gradually becoming a giant co-op board, with different rules based on who you are, and who you pay. There are plenty of obsolete and unjustifyable restrictions and exclusions on the books, many dating from the early 1960s when city planners decided the city would have to become a second-rate suburb to survive. And as I increasingly discover, any rules at all are optional for those on the political inside.
In fairness, New York City has never been a place of simple, fair rules strongly enforced against everyone. The trend of pretending to be tolerant and open because you only oppose the businesses and buildings the lesser people might patronize, not the people themselves, not only pre-dates the DeBlasio Administration, it goes back hundreds of years. In the 1850s, according to the book Gotham, snobs wanted to prohibit the sale of alcohol on Sunday, the only day off for working class Irish and German immigrants to gather in their pubs and beer gardens for a beer. “Reform” mayor Fernando Wood gave them the rules they wanted, then used selective enforcement as a source of graft. Astute reformers noted that Wood’s anti-vice crusades were highly selective. His men rounded up streetwalkers but left brothels alone, raided the grubbier gambling dens but not the fashionable establishments, and bypassed Sunday saloonkeepers who voted the right way.
Still, the trend toward regulation by special deals for the special people got worse under special interest-backed Mayor Bill DeBlasio, and based on who is contributing money to whom, and what even 21st century “progressives” are like, the trend toward different rules for different people is likely to continue to get worse.Continue reading