Development like baby blocks


Saturday, January 14, 201


          The cold finally came, making January feel like January finally, the way Januaries used to feel when I was a kid.

          Regardless of what T.S. Eliot said, I always thought of January and February as the cruelest months, draped in dark, and ill tempered changes in the temperature.

          But when I spent a few winters in Los Angeles, I came to appreciate winters in the east, where change gave meaning to the passage of time.

          I ached for the change of leaves in the fall and then the gradual growth of green in spring. It is no accident that the Irish celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in mid-March just ahead of the official arrival of Spring.

          Recovering from eye surgery has taught me the value of walking, and how close a look at the world walking provides. I learned a similar lesson back in 2002 when I mistakenly parked my car in a remote section of Union City to avoid getting parking musical chairs of Hoboken and the perpetual tickets and towing, and found my car broken into – leaving me stranded from Thanksgiving into the new year of 2003.

          As my wife pointed out in a poem she wrote about Paterson, the poor often walk, carrying their lives on their backs like turtles – which I have been doing to get too and from the Light Rail, and elsewhere during this period of recovery.

          Yet I see more with one eye during these times than I have with two driving, the small details of life going on in the world that gets lost in the rush of wheels, the people who are making their way in this world – even the jerks.

          Like the idiot who drives around in a silver pick up truck in the heights and in Hoboken violating every traffic law possible, an arrogant man with a baseball hat and a tough-guy mentality. I feel sorry for him, and his need to advertise how tough he is, when all he really has going for him is this truck and the envious looks people give him as he passes.

          I’m very impressed with the buildings I see tucked into corners of Jersey City, the survivors of over development that Hoboken and downtown have largely lost, one marked with a construction date of 1878, a proud badge of courage to have lasted so long through so many misguided visions of change.

          We live in a part of the world where every new development scheme alters life for everybody – new designs replacing tried and true.

          We have a line of three family houses on our street that replaced one family houses just before we arrived here in the late 1990s. These are not owner occupied, so they draw some of the worst element, gun toting, drug dealing delinquents who park all over the sidewalk and rent out their garages for illegal apartments.

          One U.S. Marine’s home on the other side of the street – which he kept up meticulously – was bulldozed down to make way for two such raunchy new buildings with brass rails and other ostentatiously designs that the new occupants seem to find tasteful, when they are gaudy examples of bad taste.

          Walking through these neighborhoods, I see clutches of such buildings, built at various peaks in the real estate market, new ideas that faltered when that economy did, so that this line of houses stands out against the line from the previous development boom.

          City planners who allowed these to go on our like babies with blocks, piling them up and knocking them down, never happy with what they have come up with, until the next baby comes along the rearranges them again, unaware or uncaring about the lives they disrupt in the process.


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