The Fair Way Next to Fairway

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New parks! New restaurants! The future of Manhattanville organizing! Bwogger-about-town Lydia DePillis reports (with apologies for the sub-par cell phone photos).

gholsonIt’s taken 20 years and $20 million, and the Harlem Piers waterfront park still isn’t quite open. But a troupe of students got a surprise sneak peek today, as part of a tour featuring expansion from a north-of-125th-St. perspective.

Those who skidded through the rain to the shore near Fairway got through the chain-link fence with the help of Savona Bailey-McClain, chair of Community Board 9‘s Waterfront Economic Development committee, who fielded questions about what exactly people will be able to do there.

“This is really not a park. It’s a wharf,” she said, explaining the absence of typical park features, like stages and athletic fields. “It will feel like a park, it will look like a park, but it’s not.”

The wharf-park is a slender 1000 feet by 80 feet, part of an extension of the circum-Manhattan bike path that now stops at 125th and picks up again about 10 blocks later. There’s a fishing pier, a revenue-generating “excursion boat”, a small squirty fountain, and plenty of benches for meditating on the distant Jersey shores.

Bailey-McClain, a short woman gazing out from behind gray Versace glasses — and still wearing stickers from campaigning for Obama in south Philadelphia — is one of a corps of organizers who have been working to gain access to the waterfront for normal people. One reminder of dogged neighborhood involvement loomed in the background as she spoke: Riverbank State Park, built in the late 1980s on top of a sewage treatment plant on the insistence of community activists.

The rest of the tour was led by an activist on the slightly less politic, more rhetorical end of things. CB9 member Vicky Gholson — Dr. G., as she introduced herself — made it clear that she would be telling it like it is.

“We keep it as real as possible,” she said, cutting a distinctive figure in her oversized Nickelodeon polo shirt and unlaced white tennis shoes. Gholson theorized that the city had gotten Columbia to serve as its development agent for West Harlem, rather than doing the dirty work itself, while reminding the assembled students to follow the money, remember the children, and don’t trust the Man.

parkDespite the sermonizing, the tour was a useful counterpoint to Columbis’s chipper PR gloss. Gholson told us about the thousands of tenants being forced out of large low-income housing complexes, as landlords work to flip rent-stabilized units, and the sky-high asthma rates brought on by a disproportionate number of bus storage facilities sited in the area.

“The area was desolate. Nothing was going on here,” Gholson said of the 12th st. corridor, echoing one of the Columbia administration’s lines about the larger development area. But the new “restaurant row,” including a brick-oven pizzeria and the Thai-Latin Talay, keeps jobs and business lunches in the area.

The tour was organized by the Student Coalition on Expansion and Gentrification, in the process of reinventing itself now that its original leaders have graduated and the community board’s planning blueprint — the group’s main vehicle for activism — is no more. CCSC VP Policy Adil Ahmed has been enthusiastic about working with the SCEG, and the College Dems say they’ll be getting involved post-election. Meanwhile, they tour, and send emails.

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  1. tip  

    you know that if you paste in unicode text format you won't get those ugly symbols from all the autoformatting that word does....

    cuz that shit's ugly.

  2. btw  

    word is that if you shop with flex at fairway you get 5% off

  3. lol  

    What does the CCSC VP Policy have to do with this exactly?

  4. lie patrol

    thousands of tenants being forced out = bull.

    Know your sources, and yours certainly isn't unbiased.

  5. The King of Spain

    Dr G: There are too many bus depots in the area.

    The Man: Columbia will bury the Manhattanville Bus Depot in the bathtub and convert it to plug-in hybrid electric and CNG fueling.

    Dr. G: This is unacceptable. I almost drowned in a bathtub once.

  6. The King of Spain

    Dr. G: You want to develop this area.

    The Man: I am so greedy that I will donate 17 acres to a non-taxpaying institution because that is the best way to get taxes.

  7. The King of Spain

    The Man: I wish I could develop Harlem. Let me call my friend the Jewish developer.

    Developer: I do not wish to develop this area. Its zoning is unfavorable to me and the land is not valuable.

    [The Man initiates a massive real estate bubble that exacerbates market conditions across New York City.]

    Dr. G: Columbia's expansion is the sole cause of economic decline in West Harlem. The expulsion of residents from buildings is due to grad students with sweet six-figure philosophy salaries and flipping rental units.

    The Man: Ha-ha! I have already expelled tens of thousands of people from Harlem this year while you were worrying about 3000 people possibly being kicked out over 35 years.

    [The Man high-fives the Developer.]

  8. The King of Spain

    Student: Something seems awfully strange about Columbia's presentation of these plans.

    SCEGer: Do not believe everything you are told.

    Student: I will believe everything you tell me.

  9. The Queen of Spain  

    Shut the fuck up and go to bed. You have a country to rule tomorrow morning.

  10. Prince of Spain  

    Don't curse mom, cuz then I'll be dirty.

  11. The King of Queens  

    Fuck Spain

  12. Princess of Spain  

    Oh look, I can see Morocco from my house!

  13. The Moor of Spain  

    Can you spare some change?

  14. The Boor of Spain  


  15. Francisco Franco  

    I'll eat all of you liberals! Alive!

  16. roflmao, no really

    I actually laughed out loud reading this. And according to post tracker, these aren't all the same person talking to him or herself.

    Well played, clerks, well played.

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