Sunday, May 09, 2010


Here's an interesting quandary, or at least it is for libertarian socialists as opposed to vague leftists. Out in Vancouver there is a park called 'Grandview Park' in the East End. There's a conflict in the neighbourhood about the park's future. On the one side are the authors of the following item, Defend Grandview. On the other side are the 'Friends of Grandview Park', allied with the local business improvement association.
What do I find problematic about this--besides the fact that it is doubtful in the extreme whether any infrastructure projects in the park will do anything whatsoever to address the concerns of the 'Friends' ? Such a hope seems rather fanciful to me and one wonders about other motives. Or perhaps the rather disingenuous claim by the Defend Grandview groups that "hard drugs" are "consciously excluded" from the park ? By whom ? How ? Isn't this park located in (ahem) Vancouver ? Seems like a hard claim to swallow.
What I find questionable in all this is the way it is couched in rather simplistic "class warfare" terms. I have no immediate knowledge of the area in question. It's been many years since I was visiting Vancouver, and at the time there were indeed "islands of yuppification" in the area around Commercial Drive. Situated in an ocean of ordinary working class neighbourhoods. I also have no doubt that the process of gentrification has proceeded apace. I do however have very profound doubts about the implied idea that "only the yuppies" are concerned with certain activities that go on in the park. I actually have no doubt that the 'Friends' have broad support amongst the working class population resident in the area.
That's the crux of the matter. I may be wrong about the character of the area, and I stand ready to be corrected. I do not, however, automatically jump to support each and every 'anti-development' initiative are some are prone to do. Neither do I automatically leap in on the side of what was once known as the "lumpenproletariat" when their interests conflict with those of ordinary working class people. I am well aware that for some people such side taking is a reflex action, untroubled by any thought process.
All across the world the process whereby ordinary people try to get more control over their neighbourhoods and hence their lives is marked by campaigns to "clean up" the area in which they live. It may be (probably is) that the residents near the park have legitimate safety concerns. If I am personally inclined to take sides at all I would tend to favour the interests of say working class residents over those of say drug dealers or other criminals who actually have victims.
OK, so I'm uncertain about this one. Here's one side of the story. I'm afraid that I cannot find a website for the 'Friends' to give theirs.

A group that calls themselves the “Friends of Grandview Park” has called for the park’s redevelopment. They made a presentation to the Vancouver Parks Board under the title “Reclaim, Renovate, and Reinvent.” The proposed renovations are to take place in spring/summer 2010. Without a deeper look, the changes seem like an uncontroversial proposal. The “Friends” want a “new functionality” and to “create a space worthy of acclaim and notoriety.” But a closer inspection of the group’s complaints, goals and supporters reveals their actual vision – not just the gentrification of the park, but ultimately the creation of a neighbourhood only for those who can afford it.

Who are the “Friends of Grandview Park”
and who supports them?

The “Friends” of Grandview Park are a group of homeowners who live around or by Grandview Park, and who originally formed in order to stop the serving of free food to homeless people on Tuesday nights (the Chili Wagon).
The “Friends” of Grandview Park are supported by the Business Improvement Association (BIA), which stated “The BIA supports the renovation to Grandview Park and believes it will contribute to the business development, as well as security and safety in the area.” You might better know the BIA as the organization that pays for the Fusion security guards who patrol Commercial Drive in packs of two or four, harassing buskers, panhandlers and people selling their wares in the park.

The Friends of Grandview Park’s
official complaints:

In the section below we have listed the complaints laid out by the “Friends” of Grandview Park in their presentation to the Parks Board. Following each point is a counter-point or explanation of the implications of their statements, and what we think they really mean.

The Friends of Grandview Park say…

the park is…

1. “Chronically overrun by illegal inhabitants.”

To the “Friends” of Grandview Park there are too many homeless people in the park. This statement calls out for the criminalization of poverty, or at the very least pushing the homeless out of the park. The use of the term “illegal inhabitants” to describe the homeless is doubly absurd due to the fact that Grandview Park is native land; if anyone should technically be named “illegal inhabitants” it should be the city of Vancouver.

2. Used for “drug dealing and hard drugs.”

The “Friends” of Grandview Park assume the mantle of morality police over the park, above anyone who has used the park to purchase, sell or consume any type of drug. In reality, hard drugs are consciously excluded from Grandview, and members of the community – including parents of children who use the park – use the area to sell or purchase soft drugs. Maybe you have a friend who has bought, sold or smoked pot in the park?

3. “The chosen location of illegal protesters.”

In reality, protests in the park are rare. However, what better way for people to use a park than to come together to confront common concerns?

and, that …

4. “The design of the playground encourages loitering of non-families.”

This statement is ridiculous. Parks are for loitering. What are “non-families” and why are they not allowed to use the park?

5. “The unsanctioned use of tennis courts by the bi¬cycle polo club” means that the “… tennis courts (are) no longer available for parents to teach their kids how to ride bikes.”

This – and other parts of their presentation that call for “order” in the park – illustrate the “Friends’” broader goal of assuming total control. Teaching kids how to ride bikes us also an unsanctioned use of the tennis courts. The “Friends” would like to see the park used as they see fit, rather than how others already use it – even when its current use is positive and social.

6. The park has “poor drainage”

It is true that the park has poor drainage, but it is also interesting to point out that the drainage of Victoria Park was targeted in recent renovations with little to no improvement.

Stopping The Redevelopment

The “Friends” want “to bring order, safety and new functionality to the park.” Order in the sense of control over what happens in the park. The illusion of safety through removing homeless people and eliminating petty victimless crime. New functionality through the explicitly stated goal of turning the park into a “destination for shoppers and tourists.”

We want East Vancouver to be a community where you don’t have to be rich to exist, and where we don’t criminalize our neighbours. Because the redevelopment of Grandview Park is a step towards the further elimination of the poorer people from our neighbourhood, we say


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