The Razing of Lyman Terrace
Dignity, an excellent concept.
Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. — Milton Friedman (Nobel Laureate Economist and minion of Satan)
In her 2007 book The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism Naomi Klein coined the term “disaster capitalism” – a concept that had existed for quite some time yet to be named. The idea being that a population can be unwittingly subdued via trauma – real or perceived – and as a result enslaved, robbed or otherwise manipulated to the profit of some external entity that is the architect of said doctrine. We’ve seen it in Southeast Asia when residents of a fishing village are relocated by the government after a tsunami and upon returning to homes that their families had lived for generations instead find a Western-owned resort hotel, their land appropriated and new “opportunities” working in laundry rooms servicing the new tourist trade. Also in 1970′s Chile where our CIA financed a police state which finally bent the will of the people to accept our brand of corporate capitalism (Obama is now doing similar in Honduras under auspices of the War on Drugs). Or in New Orleans post-Katrina when what was once public housing – undamaged by the storm – privatized and sold to the highest bidder. We can also see it in our Global-Imperial Neoliberal campaigns of “liberation” where we prop up and finance despotic regimes like the Taliban or Saddam for a couple decades then wage war on the people in order to give hand outs to the military industrial and then the contractors to rebuild what we destroyed – highest bidder in these cases are decided by campaign contributions to whichever party is in power at that time . It is mostly effective… and quite pervasive in the Post-9-11 world. The “War on Terror” being the trump suit on a myriad of distasteful policies that have robbed us of civil rights.
We are here to help you.
Well, today I witnessed it firsthand right here in Holyoke. Here’s how it works: Some years ago the Holyoke Housing Authority decides that an entire neighborhood of public housing is a “problem”. As a result of that decision the plan is to demolish the existing project of 167 occupied units to build new ones – convincing the tenants that they have funds to do this and that while the reconstruction happens tenants will be relocated temporarily. Time goes by… Since the plan is to demolish the buildings there is no reason for upkeep. Neglect becomes routine and situations worsen – the DPW is even avoiding trash pickup. Housing Authority people come by and take some ugly pictures of what they created to send to HUD with no real structural evaluation, analysis or comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of renovation/rehabilitation in comparission to demolition. On top of that they claim that there is “No Significant Impact on the Human Environment”. The solution – raze all existing structures, sell the acreage to the highest bidder and give the tenants Section 8 vouchers with “you are free to go now, good luck and goodbye”. Is it possible to add that many people to the rental market all at once? Is there not human impact to destroying a neighborhood? What about elderly and disabled that have established routines downtown with where they shop, visit their doctor and public transportation at Veteran’s park? What if these elderly and disabled people are forced into isolated areas? In the end it all reeks of racism, gentrification and another example of privatization that which was public. They are poor and dark skinned – there is no significant human impact if you don’t treat the people like humans to begin with.
I was there today collecting signatures for a petition. I talked to near one hundred people. There was a handful of folks that claimed that they did not care, that they thought that the place should be demolished… but overwhelmingly the opinion was that they liked living there and had community with others in this neighborhood. Many stated that they wanted to stay even though things were not kept up – taking it upon themselves to renovate spaces. I entered a number of units and saw homes with families… well cared for and functioning households that were maintained by the tenants. Regardless of the opinion on the Housing Authority decision, the overwhelming feeling from these people was that they were being left out of the process. As far as the claim that these spaces were “obsolete as to their physical condition”, this is a complete smoke and mirrors. Go and see for yourself and talk to some of the tenants.
A number of tenants said that they were coming to the city council chambers tomorrow night, 7pm. Be there.
Humans, some newer.
Self portrait with decay.
Links to the HHA Letter of Intent:
Ward 1 City Councilor: Gladys Lebron-Martinez, 224 Elm St. 413-535-8507
City of Holyoke Office for Community Development, City Hall Annex Room 400, Holyoke, MA 01040 by first class mail, by fax to 413-322-5611 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Mayor Alex Morse: email@example.com or 413-322-5510
Please also submit a copy of your comments to the Holyoke Historic Commission and to HUD:
Some history of this practice in Holyoke:
Draft City Council Resolution:
Holyoke City Council
February 21, 2012 Meeting
“Supporting Responsible Downtown Economic and Community Development at Lyman Terrace”
WHEREAS, The Holyoke Housing Authority seeks demolition and disposition of Lyman Terrace, one of the earliest public housing projects in the country; and
WHEREAS, Lyman Terrace, built in 1938-1939, comprises 167 units in eighteen buildings with exteriors of brick and copper on tree-lined streets in the heart of downtown. It also features a community center, a community garden, and a Boys and Girls Club; and
WHEREAS, Holyoke’s overall population remained stable over the last decade, Ward 1 (where Lyman Terrace is located) has continued to experience significant losses; the city should now be working towards population retention and growth, not further loss; and
WHEREAS, the demolition of Lyman Terrace would be a destruction of downtown Holyoke’s architectural heritage, visual sense of place, working class history and affordable housing at a time when Holyoke’s revitalization depends on preserving, rehabilitating, and capitalizing on our historic architecture and infrastructure; and
WHEREAS, the demolition of any city buildings should be premised on a structural evaluation, review and forensic analysis for commercial, industrial and residential structures as well as a full and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of renovation/rehabilitation in comparission to demolition; and
WHEREAS, the City Council has not seen or been made aware of any such analyses for the Lyman Terrace project; and
WHEREAS, the reported presence of social problems such as crime, drugs, violence, or prostitution in the area of Lyman Terrace are artifacts of concentrated poverty that is completely independent of the buildings’ architectural design and condition and do not merit reasons for demolition; and
WHEREAS, if improving the living conditions of the current residents of Lyman Terrace is the purpose for requesting Urban Renewal funds from the United States Office for Housing and Urban Development (HUD), then a comprehensive relocation plan that is based on a thorough understanding of the current residents’ needs and demands should be included in the funding request; and
WHEREAS, such a relocation plan is blatantly absent from the current environmental review (study) that purports to have looked at the project’s “effects on people and community and determined that the project will have no significant impact.”
NOW, BE IT RESOLVED, that the City Council formally go on record in opposition to the demolition of Lyman Terrace; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the City Council submit a written letter to the Office for Community Development in opposition to the claim that the project will have “no significant impact on the human environment;” and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that in an effort to increase transparency,the City Council invite the Mayor, Holyoke Housing Authority, Office of Community Development, Holyoke Historic Commission, and Holyoke Redevelopment Authority to discuss the matter further with the council.