The quotable Prospect Park West NIMBY

A few readers asked me about the quotes in yesterday’s Curbed NY article. They appeared as an infographic, and as such lacked citations.

For those who are interested in a proper bibliography – or in reading scanned, redacted emails sent from government accounts – the original text and links follow.

I mean, come on – when else are you going to get to see a well-to-do woman complain to the wife of a U.S. senator that journalists doing their job are “incredible assholes“?

Paint the hated thing as a barrier to Prospect Park
Olmsted and Vaux’s masterpiece is a huge draw to locals and visitors alike. What a shame it would be if people found it impossible to access, right?

“Here is a park that has cost this city millions of dollars. They are going to cut it off from us.”
            – William M. Brasher, owner of factories on 7th Avenue, 1891

“There are some intersections now here you can’t cross, they’ve removed the crosswalks. An elderly person wanting to cross has to walk several blocks to cross. It’s ridiculous.”
            – Charles O’Donnell, lifetime Park Slope resident, 2011

Bemoan the visual effects
Looking north up Prospect Park West to the Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Arch is one of the iconic views of Brooklyn. Some believe it to be sacrosanct, as if the neighborhood should have been frozen in amber the minute they set foot in it.

“The occupancy … would spoil the aesthetic appearance of the neighborhood.”
            – George W. Brower, Park Commissioner, 1891

“Every time we go to PPW, we shudder at what the bike path has done to the street.”
            – Christoph Kimmich, renovating 35 Prospect Park West, 2011

Use the bait-and-switch
I swear you told me something I thought I wanted to hear, but then you gave me something completely different. It couldn’t have been my selective hearing – or my NIMBY tendencies – could it?

“I did [agree to consent to the use of electricity], but I was informed that you intended to adopt the best system of electrical propulsion, not the worst. I do not object to a safe system.”
            – Sidney V. Lowell, resident and lead attorney against the trolleys, 1891

“I’m not opposed to bike lanes where it works. I would never have opposed a traditional bike lane on Prospect Park West. They’ve taken a beautiful thoroughfare… [and it] puts people at greater risk, in my humble opinion.”
            – Marty Markowitz, Brooklyn borough president, 2011

Invoke the unknown
Because change is scary, and people, when they need to act, prefer to do so with absolute certainty. Correlation does not prove causation, even when the correlation is strong.

“Our experience is that the danger in such places is not at all understood yet.”
            – Elijah R. Kennedy, resident and former Park Commissioner, 1891

“The connection between encouraging biking … and making our streets safer and more pleasant for all users is far from established.”
            – Louise Hainline, Norman Steisel, Iris Weinshall, letter to the Times, 2010

Show affiliation with the other side before attacking it
This maneuver often takes the following form: “Some of my best friends are [insert group here], but [something derogatory]”. This tactic has been well documented with respect to bike lanes.

“I want to see the best system of electric propulsion adopted, not the worst. This trolley may be the cheapest for the companies, but it will be the dearest for the people.”
            – Richard B. Leech, Brooklyn alderman, 1891

“I too fully support many of the “objectives of the project sponsor”. But I believe that there are indeed feasible alternatives that would produce significantly fewer adverse impacts which have not yet been given a responsibly (if not legally) adequate level of review.”
            – Norman Steisel, former Sanitation commissioner, 2011

Combine several methods
Attention spans might have shortened in the past hundred years, but the soundbite has always been king. Looking to get your view published? Cram as much as you can into a single sentence.

“It is dangerous, unsightly, and a damage to property.”
            – Sidney V. Lowell, 1891

“… the damage to the ambience of the street … was as motivating as the safety issue.”
            – Louise Hainline, President of Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes, 2010

If you’ve got nothing else, resort to name-calling

“[He’s] a white-headed old thief.”
            – George E. Wooley, Ninth Avenue resident, regarding “Deacon” Richardson, president of the Atlantic Avenue Company, 1891

“These people are such incredible assholes.”
            – Ann Donnelly, Prospect Park West resident, regarding Streetsblog, 2011

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