Saturday, August 5, 2017


So the town I live in made NPR news this morning. NPR & The NY Times and other media have been noticing this Jersey town for years. The Times has had articles about how it's the most gay friendly community outside the Bay Area and the best racially integrated community of its size in the country etc.

So what was a WASP fortress I spent very little time in when I was growing up in the town next door, is now a liberal bastion. But despite that, the news story was about how the police chief and another officer have been fired or suspended because of an incident on the night of July 4th when after the town fireworks a squad of cops, including the chief, not only physically forced a bunch of black teenage boys across the town line into the predominantly black Irvington, but as recently released video reveals some of the cops beat some of the boys, including one who was handcuffed. And it turns out some of the boys lived in the town the cops were forcing them out of.

So despite the liberal population of the town, and its racially mixed make up (I've seen more interracial marriages here than almost anywhere) and tons of gay couples and etc. the cops proved themselves to be just as capable of acting on the impulse to treat the challenge of policing black young men exactly the same as too many "American" towns and cities. And "a few bad apples" were not stopped by the good cops.

Not to compare the situations as equal, but it's like the fact that the little village part of the town, the neighborhood my apartment is in, has retained its quaint charm because the buildings were not torn down and replaced but repurposed instead and the businesses were all mom and pop stores. The citizens fought back every attempt to bring in national chains or to build big structures, to the point that when the commute to NYC became much easier in the late '90s and some wanted to build parking structures for the commuters to park their cars the town instead introduced jitney service so commuters could leave their cars at home and the town could avoid the monstrous parking structures.

The town managed to do this for the entire 20th century and well into this one. Then, several years ago the US Post Office moved to a smaller space and put the old building right in the center of the little village up for sale. There ensued a fight over what would replace it. Nationally recognized architects were asked for their ideas by citizens groups, other organizations were consulted, all had plans that could repurpose the post office and renovate it to keep the spot pretty much the same or similar.

The grocery store across the street from it offered to buy it and renovate it to have a bigger store, but the town wouldn't give it the designated parking spaces it asked for, which seemed highly suspicious, especially since by then there'd been a proposal to allow a developer to bulldoze the P.O. and replace it with a big condo structure with retail space on the first floor. There was a citizens campaign to keep that from happening. It seemed like every lawn in front of ever house and every business in town had a sign saying something like "Keep The Village a village"—meaning no big buildings and condos etc.

There seemed no doubt what the will of the citizens of the town was when new town council members were elected who promised to fight any new and oversized structure. I thought that was that, but somehow, within a year, the developer had won, and over the next couple of years the post office was bulldozed and the building begun. The structure is complete now and dominates the little village like a giant ugly eyesore, to me (and the old-timers I've talked to). And of course the first business sign already put up for the first-floor retail spaces is STARBUCK'S.

So just like that, the centuries of measures that both Republicans and Democrats and WASPs and, later, racially integrated townspeople took to keep "the village a village" have been undone. In a powerfully liberal community! We organized, but obviously not enough. The developer and his money and connections won out, despite the make up of the town. And as it turned out, that developer was, and is, a supporter of the current president's and supposedly was part of his transition team.

I'm probably too old to be able to live to see the day when that new structure gets torn down and the Starbuck's goes out of business. But I hope that day comes.

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