Alan Feuer would have us believe that the mayor, Bill de Blasio, is doing everything he can to stop gentrification in New York City [“Defender of the Community,” Report, April]. Feuer describes the mayor’s plan as the “best possible option in the constrained climate of twenty-first-century liberalism.” He concedes that the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side — a diverse group of workers and tenants with serious views on capital, labor, and the state — has developed a thoughtful, alternative agenda, but ultimately dismisses them as a bunch of cranks and paranoiacs.
Feuer further claims the city’s deal with Blackstone will persuade the company to “keep almost half the project’s apartments affordable for the teachers and firefighters who have traditionally lived” in Stuyvesant Town, but that’s not really the case. Even after receiving $221 million in subsidies from the city, Blackstone plans to charge $3,400 per month for its “affordable” apartments.
As Feuer notes, de Blasio’s predecessor, the billionaire Michael Bloomberg, didn’t have to worry about raising money from landlords and developers. Instead, he used charitable donations to buy the opposition’s support. Money runs politics, whether it is being collected or distributed.
Made in America
I enjoyed following Walter Kirn on his road trip from Montana to Nevada, but I was put off by his condescending tone [“You Can Run … ,” Easy Chair, April]. At a diner in Beaver, Utah, Kirn looks down his nose at a dessert consisting of vanilla custard and Grape Nuts and concludes that “the reason our nation’s small towns can’t hold their young is glop like this.” With that joke, Kirn is punching down at a community whose only transgression, as far as I can tell, is serving a bland dessert. The suggestion that blandness is the reason why young people are fleeing such places is neither clever nor funny — it’s just mean.
I am receptive to the argument that capitalism is hollowing out American culture and replacing it with mass-produced junk, particularly in small communities. But Kirn seems to blame working-class white communities for being ravaged by global capitalism. It is this sort of elite insensitivity that makes decent people feel so besieged that they retreat into the arms of white nationalism. Readers who are still wondering why voters opted for Donald Trump should look no further.
As a white feminist, I was embarrassed by Leslie Jamison’s empty, feel-good account of the Women’s March on Washington [“The March on Everywhere,” Folio, April]. Rather than focus on real issues, Jamison recounts sentimental moments of sisterhood and describes the hardships of activism: boredom, confusion, and discomfort. This list is laughable when one considers what activists endure in other countries.
Jamison does ask, rightly, why the vast majority of marchers were white women, but she quickly brushes the question aside with an anecdote about a woman of color who finds the pink vagina hats alienating. Here and elsewhere in her essay, Jamison conflates observing a problem with solving it. So perhaps it’s unsurprising that she breezes by the fact that two days after the march, Trump promptly revoked American funding for women’s health care overseas. After all, why ruin a good buzz?
Because of an editing error, “Defender of the Community” misstated the role of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown and the Lower East Side in designing a new zoning plan. City funds were distributed to the Chinatown Working Group, of which the coalition was a part; the coalition itself did not receive funds. We regret the error.