1:00 pm Oct. 23, 2012
Mayor Michael Bloomberg this morning said the controversy surrounding redevelopment plans for Chelsea Market were kind of like the early controversy surrounding the creation of Central Park. Then he referred all questions on the matter to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in whose district Chelsea Market is located.
Following an announcement that hedge fund king John Paulson would donate $100 million to the Central Park Conservancy, a reporter from the New York Post asked the mayor about the controversy attending a new plan to build a tower atop Chelsea Market.
The mayor began by talking about a recent breakfast he'd attended in Bushwick, where people were both "pleased that Bushwick is getting better, safer, more economically viable" and "worried about change."
"You don't want a precipitous change overnight, but evolving to recognize what made that neighborhood great, recognize the people that made it great, but also, keep adding to what is there," said Bloomberg. "If you ever want a good example, read the history of where we are right now."
The mayor was speaking on a temporary dais set up in front of Bethesda Fountain.
"A lot of people did not want to build Central Park. My recollection, and before you write the story, go back and look at the history, but I vaguely remember, somebody wanted to cut the size by a third, and that was a compromise that was made in the City Council and then they didn't do it or something. There were a lot of squatters here. This was a sort of shantytown. And nobdy thought anybody would live this far north ... Chris [Quinn] would be the one I'd address the question to. She'd probably give you the most balanced perspective on it."
Asking Quinn's perspective on the market probably won't yield much.
Quinn has been reluctant to take a position on the controversial issue in her own backyard, saying that she doesn't comment on "pending land-use matters."
Because the project would require a rezoning, and the rezoning would be in Quinn's district, the speaker's vote will determine whether or not the project can move forward.
The Chelsea Market redevelopment puts Quinn, who is running for mayor next year, in a tricky position.
Neighborhood activists and her own political club oppose the project, while the real estate community, to whom Quinn has grown closer in recent years, support it.
As far as the mayor's historical commentary is concerned, the conservancy's website describes "three years of debate over the park site and cost," before the state legislature, in 1853, approved the use of eminent domain to make way for the park.
Recent historical research has indicated that the park's former occupants, who lived in what was then known as Seneca Village, were not squatters, but rather "working- and middle-class property owners," of largely African-American and Irish-American descent.
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