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Advocating for the Future

Source CBS News

You may have seen 60 Minutes last night with a segment about the impact of the mortgage crisis on neighborhoods in Cleveland, Ohio.  With owners and banks abandoning homes the city has decided to demolish them as a means to prevent blight and crime.  The reporter, Scott Pelley, walked down the street with a former city official counting the number of abandoned homes on a block of a once stable middle class neighborhood, “that one, that one, that one, those three….”

Also, this weekend The New York Times Magazine did a cover story on a similar theme — the effort to turn Benton Harbor, Michigan a struggling factory town into a resort town.  Unfortunately these stories from the Rust Belt are all too common.

(Disclosure:  I proudly hail from the Midwest.  I know its cities well and their struggles in the post-industrial era deeply sadden me.)

The challenges these cities face started decades before the current economic crisis, and I could see the signs as a child.  I wondered what went wrong on the path to trying to get it right.  Were these cities so crippled by the problems of the present that they couldn’t adequately plan for the future?

We are living in very difficult times and while by no means belittling those travails I could not help but think about the neighborhoods we work in and the value of preservation

We live in the present.  Nothing is more important than the problems we face today but what about the future?

Preservation is about the future.

Yes, you read that correctly.  Preservation is about the future.

Some think it is about irrationally clinging to the past.  That’s not true.  Certainly we have an appreciation for the architectural and cultural heritage and history of the neighborhoods we work in but the reason GVSHP advocates to protect these neighborhoods is to ensure that they persist into the future.

In many ways in New York City we are fortunate.   Our neighborhoods are vital, desirable and vibrant.  While depressed our real estate market is nowhere near the dire straits of some American cities.  Cities that did not or could not make plans for the future.

That is why we preserve.  At GVSHP we work to address the issues of the day.  Our advocacy is also very much about ensuring quality of life and an appreciation of our heritage in the future – tomorrow, five years from now, 20 years from now.  We understand that yesterday was great, today is good and we want tomorrow to be even better.

If you’ve been wondering what we’ve been working on this year here’s just a glimpse.  And, the new year may be a few weeks away but we are already planning on ways to protect our neighborhoods in 2012 including holding a public meeting about NYU’s expansion plan on January 4, continuing to advocate for landmark protections in the East Village and urging the LPC to landmark the remaining 2/3 of the South Village. And we’re just getting started.

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