wibiya widget

Saturday, June 18, 2011

@marcusbgee is right about Bloor Street, but for the wrong reasons

Ah, Marcus. The Globe's ideologically reliable municipal-affairs curmudgeon is kind of like a stopped clock that way.

Of course, the analogy only goes so far, because you don't have to ask a stopped clock why it's right twice a day, and that's a degree of frequency and predictability that ... well, let's just say it's not in the same postal code as Marcus.

However, credit where it's due and all. Marcus's pulse is quickening because according to him, the Nightmare on Bloor Street is over and now they've got these fancy-shmancy new granite widened sidewalks and there are planters and specially selected trees and benches and bike rings and everything. In the same spirit, he's praising the revitalization on Roncesvalles for giving a street that was looking a little tired

a fresh, new face. For all the pain they cause, projects like these are just what an ambitious city should be doing, seizing the chance to transform mediocre streetscapes into something better.

And the thing is, he's right, even though he doesn't address all the reasons why or consider the obvious implications of what he's saying. To the extent that he exhorts Toronto to be ambitious and to aspire to doing greater things, he's implicitly showing the moral and intellectual pygmies currently holding sway at City Hall for what they are.

Improving the quality of public space should be seen as a public good that merits the allocation of public resources. It's another manifestation of the discussion about "having nice things." You can debate thoroughly about how best to pursue that public good, but it shouldn't be left up to private associations or local BIAs.

The reasons for this should be pretty obvious. There's an obvious class dimension to this that Marcus never addresses (of course, given where he's writing, you can't really be surprised). Can anyone really envision this swanky new streetspace as someplace that welcomes the marginalized? Let's not kid ourselves. These projects, beneficial though they are, are not about enhancing the quality of urban life or public space. They're about enhancing the shopping experience for tourists and the well-heeled.

If you believe in community, if you believe in the inherent worth of civil society, if you believe in civic engagement and the notion that citizenship is worth something, then you embrace the notion of public space as an expression of the common good. Can't think of too many things more fundamental than that.

Related posts:

No comments:

Post a Comment