20 years later: Things change
Twenty years ago, at the end of the first major Tompkins Square Park riots in recent history, East Village anti-gentrification activists wound up the harrowing night by trashing the lobby of the Christodora House. Protesters threw police sawhorses into the lobby while tossing potted plants out.
Back then, Christodora was the target. Anti-gentrification activists correctly saw the edge of the upscaling wave coming. Christodora, as real-estate brokers will vouch, as such a large luxury redevelopment, clearly was a huge linchpin in the neighborhoods transformation.
Today, Christodora is home to some members of the East Village Community Coalition, a group formed by Michael Rosen and others several years ago to battle Gregg Singers plan to tear down the neighboring old P.S. 64 and build a towering university dormitory. Despite valiant efforts, CHARAS/El Bohio the old school buildings previous tenant and its supporters were unable to save the building from Singers takeover. It took E.V.C.C. admittedly a latecomer to the struggle to get the old P.S. 64 landmarked, stymieing Singers dorm plan.
Recent protest marches led by a group dubbed the L.E.S. Slacktivists started out focusing on the Bowery Wine Club, a new bar, because it held a Young Republicans mixer. The Slacktivists have also decried the Economakises, the landlords at 47 E. Third St., for their plans to mass-evict the five-story buildings tenants to create a personal mansion.
Including many veteran squatters and activists from 1988, its not surprising that the Slacktivists conclude all their marches outside Christodora House with chants of Die Yuppie Scum!
But their targeting of Rosen is, we feel, misguided. Rosen has bristled at their chants he recently went over to See Sqwat and went toe to toe with Slacktivist Jerry The Peddler, telling him to cut it out with the Die Yuppie Scum! chants. But, then last week, large Kill Yuppies and Eat the Rich graffiti appeared on Christodoras wall.
Although he did develop Red Square on E. Houston St., Rosen says hes not technically a yuppie, since, well, for starters, hes no longer young. As would anyone, he objects to his family members being called scum, especially the three young men from local housing projects who he virtually adopted as his own sons, who lived in his house and who he is now putting through college.
Not only did Rosen and E.V.C.C. succeed in landmarking the old P.S. 64, that fight, in turn, led to the push to rezone the East Village and Lower East Side to cap building heights and stop oversized towers. Rosen and E.V.C.C. are also backing a novel initiative to rezone the area to limit the incursion of so-called formula chain stores. (The Slacktivists note there are chain retail stores in Red Square, but Rosen says he has no control over those spaces and that he learned from that example, leading him to the anti-formula idea.)
Some of the Slacktivists charge that Rosen has had an inordinate influence on Community Board 3 and local elected officials, namely former Councilmember Margarita Lopez and current Councilmember Rosie Mendez. For his part, David McWater, past chairperson of C.B. 3, noted hes never even seen the Slacktivists most vocal leader, and that he ought to come to a C.B. 3 meeting once in a while.
Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, things can get personal. Sometimes people may resent others who have the connections and the wherewithal to get things done. But it would be more constructive if people who care about their community people like the Slacktivists and people like Rosen could get together and work together.
Sure, some might get a rush in shouting Die Yuppie Scum! But to yell it at a guy whos trying to make a difference, well, its just plain wrong.