Monday, August 11, 2014

The New NIMBYism

There is much that could be written about last week's denial by the Hudson Historic Preservation Commission of a petition to add a modest retail storefront to 134-136 Warren Street. I'm sure I will have more to say about it, or about the next mind-boggling decision by the HPC, as I continue to get my blogging feet under me. For now, I will wonder aloud about three things:
  1. Does the HPC not recognize that the success and enjoyability of Warren Street today is a direct result of this very sort of alteration to countless other buildings on it? Its decision is tantamount to a declaration that Warren Street would be a better street if all the open storefronts were removed and replaced by double hung residential windows.
  2. Does the HPC realize how selective its view of history is? Very few, if any, people in 1790 or 1842 or 1911 would have objected to the owner of this or a similar building replacing two ground floor residential windows with a retail storefront. Such alteration was understood as an improvement to the building, street, and city: a local businessperson or family would get to make a living in the building and neighbors would get to shop locally for needed goods or services. So what gives, HPC? If you so revere our heritage, why do you honor only the physical artifacts of that heritage? Why do you not honor historical processes?
  3. Does the HPC grasp that anything it does to make retail more difficult in Hudson makes it incrementally more necessary for Hudson residents to traipse out to the Fairview Avenue strip for goods and services? Does it not recognize that anti-retail policies, far from safeguarding the urban condition, promote suburban sprawl? 
Historic preservationists did much in the past to save our urban centers. Sadly, they are now one of the primary obstacles to successful urbanism.

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