Friday, September 16, 2005


this is not the civil rights movement, people

I'm aware that I used this space yesterday to irritate everybody on both sides of Newark Avenue. I wouldn't have done so if everybody on both sides of Newark Avenue hadn't been irritating me. Not just this last week, mind you; the whole two years I've spent in Jersey City. That there has been a debate at all around this issue is positively bewildering to me. I'm aware that in New Jersey there needs to be a fight over everything, and I have contributed to plenty of those fights, but this one just seems bananas, and I don't mean in that nice, Gwen Stefani way.

There are people in this town who really don't want to give an inch on Newark Avenue. They'd rather see the steel loading grates come down every night than allow the natural course of neighborhood development to seed the block with new bars and restaurants. I've also heard from some people who won't give LITM credit for anything; they refuse to acknowledge that Jelynne and her staff have brought a new life to the SID and created a de facto neighborhood center there. Most of these folks are anonymous, and they have been slipping me hate notes ever since I made my first post to the Tris McCall Report in favor of relaxing restrictions on Restaurant Row.

But over the past few weeks, the pro-relaxation folks have annoyed me more than the atavists ever have. The attempt to push through an ordinance without getting approval from neighborhood groups seemed designed to do nothing but create rancor and divisiveness. There have been community activists working on restoration and reconstruction plans for Newark Avenue for years -- now all of their work has to get shoved aside so that some makeshift task force can reimagine Restaurant Row in a fortnight? And all the self-righteousness and lofty rhetoric from the late-night crowd has really become embarrassing to me. Let me put my feelings to you as plain as I can: I do not see you fighting for any grand cultural vision here or for any sweeping rehabilitation of the Downtown. I see you fighting for the right to get drunk later at night. Period.

So yes, you bet I'm irritated with everybody. What should have been a simple negotiation between old line neighborhood activists and responsible businesspeople has turned into a grudge match between those who believe it is justifiable to move glacially at a time of whirlwind change and those who mistake their desire for inebriation and stimulation for some kind of liberation ideology. If I gave the impression yesterday that I believed that Tuesday's council meeting meant that change on Newark Avenue was bound to be forestalled, then I was being misleading: change on Newark Avenue is as inevitable as the turn of the seasons. But because of the rhetoric and those hardlines -- and because of the unwillingness of some of the major players to communicate -- there are going to be hard feelings Downtown that persist long after the current Restaurant Row ordinance has found its rightful place in the rubbish bin. It didn't have to be that way. But somehow, in Jersey City, it is always that way.

I love it when you get irritated.
Well put! All of these folks on both sides including Councilman Fulop need to put their freakin egos aside and work this out.
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