To the Editor:
In "Development in the Spotlight: Beacon" [which ran in the May issue], the author frames his story with a timeline which happens to coincide with his arrival in town. This is human nature, but it leaves out a lot. He writes about "other forces [that] have been at work transforming Beacon." Here he is referring to a number of large apartment and retail building projects around town, projects that "were drawn up and granted variances for height, parking, and other things years ago, when Beacon was still trying to attract developers and happy to let projects sail through with minimal attention. People are paying attention now."
The implication is clear, but not correct. People were paying attention before, too. Starting around the turn of the century, when citizens updated and revitalized the woefully outdated comprehensive plan, and then later that decade when a citizen's group fought the MTA's plan for a large development project at the waterfront train station (a project that was attempting to pass as TOD—transportation-oriented development, a favorite term of urban planners that has been co-opted by developers to include anything built near railroad tracks.)
One of the arguments put forth in that fight came from Main Street business owners, who felt a big stand-alone development at the waterfront, along with the Dia museum, would keep many potential customers from ever coming up to Main Street. Their position was, we have an underutilized center of town, let's concentrate on in-fill instead of developing the waterfront.
So the current mayor, at the beginning of his first term, appointed a committee to rework both the central business zone and what is called the linkage zone, between Main Street and the waterfront, to bring these more in line with the two historic districts on either end of town—i.e., commercial space with residential above. Much of the new construction that people are now reacting to falls in one of these two zones. The current city planner was on the committee, and an urban planning consultant was hired, and several well-attended public forums were held to get community input on the work as it progressed. (Disclosure: I was a member both of Beacon Deserves Better, the citizens group that fought the MTA project, and on the rezoning committee.)
But once the tangible threat had been thwarted for the time being (and I would say looking back, in the case of stopping the TOD, this had as much to do with the recession as any other factor) it is hard to keep people focused. Until the foundations start to get poured, lots of people don't pay attention. And even then, it often needs to be front and center. For example, few said anything about the large development on Liberty Street, tucked away behind The Roundhouse. Zoning variances and the land sale that made that possible were the work of one of the developers cast as "good" in the article. But those new residents will be taxing the 100-year-old sewer pipes the author mentions just as much as the more visible projects around town.
Like our health care, food, and educational systems, the task of building has become industrialized and financialized.
To try to see more clearly what is happening requires pulling back in time and space, well beyond the last few years, beyond our five-mile plot of earth bordered by the little mountain and the big river. Presenting the interrelated forces acting upon it as a simple morality play featuring speculative development (bad; out-of-towners) versus grassroots community improvement (good; special guest appearance by the spirit of Pete Seeger) might make for a nice opinion piece, but it doesn't begin to explain how we got here. Or, now that the cake is more or less baked, how we begin to adapt to the change. Parking meters, anyone?
Mark Roland, Beacon
Just a brief note to say I am very sorry for the loss of Larry Beinhart's column.
Although I don't usually agree with his political views, I always turn to him first when I open your magazine. I respect his intellect and writing skill. (Love his rhyming.)
I had read his first three novels before I ever saw his column. I actually got to shake his hand at a ski instructor clinic at Windham and found out my boss ski instructor has skied with him. (She said don't try to keep up with him.)
Perhaps he will have more time now to write some more books. I just looked him up on the internet and see there are a couple of more books I might be able to obtain.
Hope there will be many more!
Rod Swartz, New Paltz
I wonder what the concentration camp Jews would have thought about someone named Jason Stern instructing them to have "robust love" for their enemies—I wonder, too, had you existed at the time, if you would you have had the chutzpah to preach it to them? Had they been able to hear your robustness on this subject, would you be willing to declare in your magazine that countless lives could have been saved if they had only heeded your words and that the Nazis could have been "transformed" into humanitarians as a result? If only the captive Jews had cared enough to make "the effort to see and relate to the fundamental goodness" in each of the individuals manning the death camps and the gas chambers—individuals who committed unspeakable crimes only because their conscience was asleep and their clarity was obscured by rationale! Perhaps, Mr. Stern, it is your conscience that is asleep and your clarity that is being obscured by rationale!
I take further issue with your statement that everyone believes they are doing good in their actions—that no one is intentionally evil, which must include folks like Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson, Jim Jones, etc., etc. These criminals may well have believed their actions were not evil, but someone on the receiving end of their "good" intentions may well have disagreed with such benign reckonings if they were fortunate enough to survive the malevolence of their ordeals!
Fortunately, too, [or unfortunately according to your philosophy] the free world reacted on impulse, once again, in the 1940s by robustly attempting to kill the potentially wonderful bastards who had no regard for human life or human suffering. Even potentially wonderful Semitic Gods—Jehovah, Jesus, and Allah preferred that their enemies be killed, not rewarded regardless of the Gospel's commandment to love one's enemies [Luke 19:27]—I'd be pleased to supply further chapter and verse evidence of this from the Bible and the Koran if requested.
Do you have the robustness needed to declare to your esteemed readers your love for those who were willing to sacrifice their lives in order to end the nightmare of WWII and liberate the concentration camps? I don't think so! I don't think my poem: "A Tribute To The Caretakers Of Liberty" will ever grace the pages of Chronogram as Mr. Levine has offered only excuses for not publishing it. Perhaps, upon deeper reflection, you might consider it worthy to develop a robust love, too, for those who are not your enemies such as the Caretakers of Liberty whose noble efforts against evil, however misguided you may consider them, have given us this day to enjoy our daily bread. The "future humanity" you spoke of will be well-served if we love our friends, honor and support those who protect and defend America and her precious ideals from the evil potential and intentions of our enemies while we attempt to enlighten them because they may have the potential and/or desire to become better, more loving people—something that many, but not all, human beings have and/or aspire to. I'm very grateful we didn't pin our hopes on Tibetan Buddhist philosophy to end the tyranny of the Third Reich—you should be grateful, too!
Kevin Vincent Kelly, by email
A Tribute to the Caretakers of Liberty
Cherish America's hard-won freedoms
—They came at a high price—
Honor those who struggled and
To bestow them upon us
—They paid a high price—
Stand behind the caretakers of liberty
Who continue to protect and defend
America's precious ideals
Against all who would tread upon them
—They are priceless—
—Kevin Vincent Kelly