15 November 2011

Dilworth Plaza renovation supporters: tools, fascists, or the 1%?

If I'm a person who lives and works in Center City Philadelphia, and I support the proposed renovations to Dilworth Plaza, does that make me a tool, a fascist, or a member of the 1%?

The proposed renovations seek to address some real problems with the current space. Right now, it's a paved wasteland with pedestrian barriers, blocked views, and multiple elevations that break up the space into many unattractive, unmaintained areas. The plan is to transform it into an open greenspace with a lawn area, water features, and improved access to the underground hub where the Broad Street Line, the Market-Frankford El, and the subway-surface trolleys intersect (67-page PDF). The suggested glass-enclosed stairways will bring to mind transit entrances in such cities as London, Tokyo, and Paris, and the concourse below will see sunlight for the first time since it was created and capped, making it more inviting and probably increasing its perceived safety. The proposed changes will make the space a workers' lunch oasis in the very noisy traffic junction around City Hall, and a more likely weekend destination for residents and tourists. For crying out loud, they want to put in rain gardens!

But Occupy Philly characterizes the plan thus:
The renovation, in its most general significance, is a privatization of public space, an enclosure of the commons in favor of a falsely sterilized, for-profit, private park of amusements for the privileged.
Really? Because what I see in the proposal is a re-imagining of the Plaza that benefits transit users, serves city residents and workers, and brings in tourists who spend money and support jobs in places around Philly that aren't only the historic district around Independence Hall. Also, "in its most general significance" (whatever that means), the plan keeps the Plaza open to the public; it doesn't make it private at all.

Why does Occupy Philly characterize the plan so inaccurately? And why take the stupid ad hominem pot-shot at the people who will use the Plaza when it's turned into more of a welcoming, green public park?

Occupy Philly could have found the proposal and read it easily -- the document I found is dated 2009 but I figure it's close to the final proposal, and it turned up when I simply googled "dilworth plaza proposal." And if they were really supporting the non-1% of Philadelphians who walk in and around the Plaza every day as they go to work or school, or do business in City Hall, or use the concourse to access SEPTA, Occupy Philly would cooperate and move across the street to the space at the Municipal Services Building.

But they aren't, and that's a big reason why I think that they are infiltrated, and that they've been infiltrated for weeks. And I'll quit thinking that as soon as they quit calling me the 1% for being a person who's really looking forward to having Dilworth Plaza brought into the 21st century.

Or back to the 17th, as the space where City Hall sits right now was one of the city's 5 original public squares:
Let every house be placed, if the person pleases, in the middle of its plat, as to the breadthway of it, so that there may be ground on each side for gardens or orchards, or fields, that it may be a greene country towne, which will never be burnt & always wholesome.
William Penn's Instructions to his Commissioners, William Crispin, John Bezar, & Nathaniel Allen, 1681


Anonymous said...

that quote about dilworth is one specific person's opinion. occupy philly has not put out a collective statement about the renovation plan. so please be careful to be clear about that.

Glomarization said...

The paragraph surrounding that quote, numbered "5" on the page I linked to, uses the plural pronoun throughout. It is clear to me that the document speaks for quite a few people at Occupy Philly, which itself is governed by General Assembly and has announced its decision to remain at Dilworth Plaza. Nowhere in the document is the statement I quoted presented as one specific person's opinion. Rather, it is presented very clearly as the consensus of the group.

Glomarization said...

Further commenters are advised of my blog's comment policy:

Spam, abusive comments, anonymous comments, and trolls are subject to removal at Glomarization's sole discretion. Thank you!

I re-allowed anonymous commenting a few months ago but I'll be happy to restrict the blog to moderated comments only if I get more comments telling me to be "careful."

Jesse Kudler, Occupy Philly said...

Sure, i'm no longer anonymous. Sorry if that made you uncomfortable, and sorry if that didn't appear polite. I was endeavoring to be respectful. I do want to be clear I didn't "tell" you to be careful, I asked using the word "please."

You are correct that "we" is used throughout as a common rhetorical device. However, the piece is bylined to a single person, and this sentence comes near the beginning:
" I trust that friends in OP are working right now to release a more truthful narrative of our relationship with the city and a rejoinder to Nutter's portrayals of us. But since we don't have paid staffers, I think it necessary to post something very quickly to balance the rather aggressively dishonest press conference we just heard this morning."

It is also simply a fact that OP's general assembly has not released a statement with respect to the Dilworth renovation, and that the proposal to stay passed last Friday contained no language taking a position on the Dilworth project itself. As someone who is very involved in Occupy Philly, I can also correct you that, despite how the piece may seem to you to be presented, it does not represent a consensus.

It's also worth noting that even the Mayor's office is today saying the 11/15 date is based on nothing.


Jesse Kudler said...

For what it's worth, I also personally agree with your overall assessment of the Dilworth renovation.

Glomarization said...

Jesse, I appreciate your comments.

brendancalling said...

a little late to the game here (i've been much more active in FB world than blogging lately), but jesse is right about the multitude of opinions. i know some occupiers who very strongly supported moving, and others who wanted a fight.