1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Emery Graham <"egraham"@ci.wilmington.de.us>
Date: Fri, 21 May 1999 17:11:33 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Re: "The Economic Benefits of Open Space"

 The relative relative value of a playground or a park to poor people is a
great question. From my perspective using a brownfield located near poor
people as a park would have a lot of competition for the designation of
"best economic use." Do the benefits of brownfield development accrue under
some distribution scheme that locks the financial benefits to some
geographic space, or has our experience with "absentee landlords" told us
that production activities, and financial benefits therefrom, remain in the
locale where the production took place? Poor people and playgrounds;
basketball courts?

In the world that's emerging for poor people, worldwide, the notion of
playing or recreation is somehow counterproductive to their efforts to
emerge from poverty, if you get my drift. For the rural poor there's no lack
of open space, just a lack of economic opportunity. In a society where
occupation and culture have been socially joined over long periods time such
that there are identifiable groups of people who tend to end up in the same
relative social status and economic positon overtime, the relative value of
material goods is fairly determined for that group.

In another posting I considered the notion of "development context" in my
wondering about the issues about the uses of reclaimed brownfields. Are the
thoughts on the minds of brownfields residents who are middle income the
same as those  who are poor regarding the desirable uses brownfields? Would
a student of America's social and economic history argue that poor people
need a park or a basketball court on the reclaimed brownfield rather than a
high wage, labor intensive, community owned, environmentally clean,
sustainable, international trading corporation? Conversely would that same
student fail to support the desirability of a nice park or greenway running
close to lovely townhouses, or small single family homes of aspiring and
established middle income families?

As it turns out the intricacies of racism are only now being fathomed. The
very notion of " white skinned privileged" is one borrowed from a group of
white skinned people who have taken on the mantle of the abolitionist of
old(Race Traitors). They seem to have accepted the notion that social
reality is constructed and that "whiteness" is one such term of constructed
social reality developed to help elaborate the terms of capitalism and
democracy. That's a another discussion, not unrelated to brownfields, but a
little wide ranging for this post.


peter strauss wrote:

> Emery,
> Not having the pleasure of knowing you, I can at the very least attest
> to your prolificacy.   I've read your most recent e-mails over several
> times, and if I understand you correctly, I take strong objection to the
> implications that you draw regarding the open space debate. You stated:
> "Practically speaking we find ourselves making arguments that turn out
> to be pleas not to raise certain issues beyond the level of polite
> dialog. I think this issue of preserving open space vs knowingly and
> willingly maintaining the oppressed, marginal, whites and blacks,  in a
> condition of dependence is an instance of the contradiction and a
> challenge that emerges as integral to the  brownfields enigma."
> I do take offense with the idea that anyone, especially the "white
> skinned privileged," as you suggest, who argues for preservation of open
> space knowingly maintains the oppressed in a condition of dependence. To
> use the impolite term, I think you are calling supporters (i.e., the
> "white skinned privileged," and their dark skinned supporters) of open
> space racist.
> I would counter that your analysis is wrong, especially in the context
> of the brownfields "enigma".  It may be a truth that, proportionately,
> more people of color live closer to Brownfields sites than other
> groups.  By the same token, benefits derived from use of the open space
> on former brownfields sites will benefit those living nearby.  Would it
> not be a public good for people who are economically deprived to turn
> the abandoned lot into a playground or a park?  As I see it, the
> economic benefits must be weighed against other potential uses - but
> preservation of open space should not be automatically ruled out.
> Peter Strauss

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