“This Person Just Schlepped”

Guilty as charged, Ben Carlos Thypin.

I did indeed “just schlep all the way from LIC” on January 23, 2020 to attend and address Manhattan Community Board 2: but it wasn’t to “just shit all over Open New York.” And it certainly wasn’t much of a “schlep,” either, Mr. Thypin: it’s ackshually called a “direct subway ride.” Perchance I am out of the loop on just what exactly a schlep entails but a trip to Soho via New York City mass transit is especially quick and easy from Long Island City.

To clarify, I did not attend that CB2 meeting to shit all over you: I don’t need to do that because you and your fellow ONY members and supporters do a sufficient job of defecating all over you and your “organization” all by yourselves; your own words and actions reveal that.

If anything, you all make your critics’ work easy: all we have to do is shine a light on your words and actions.

The simple truth is I “schlepped” that night to CB2 out of love, to be another voice speaking up for historic preservation and to stand up against the way ONY operates, especially its deplorable age-shaming habit. I believe ONY’s pro-rampant-gentrification slant, condescending attitude, sporadic deceit and poor judgment do not serve any New York City neighborhood or community, especially one like glorious, unique and beloved Soho.

Again, I made this trip, I executed this “schlep,” out of love.

New York City, my hometown, is my first and most enduring love and I will always feel compelled to fight for it. I do what I do in Queens out of love and I said what I said at CB2 out of love. Last year, I stood up to and spoke out against Amazon HQ2LIC because Seattle warned New York that, among other aspects, Amazon “[hasn’t] been the best civic neighbor” and I care about who moves into my neighborhood, especially when they appear to be a global bully with a shady land deal. As a former executive search industry researcher and knowledge manager, I know a poor corporate culture when I read about one and Amazon reeked and acted like early 2000s Walmart: I wasn’t about to let an abusive tyrant just slide on in, using public land (our land, our city land) via a secretive, vague and breakable deal, without saying something about it. I love where I live: I will always stand up for it, out of my love.

There was no other reason for me to do this. This isn’t about my hatred of wealthy people or my need to be popular with radical groups: this is about how much I love my city, my enduring, magical, extraordinary city. Downtown Manhattan was where this country was born and for centuries now has never diminished as the city’s center: the whole area, most especially the airy lofts of Soho, deserves special consideration for preservation. Development is neither desired nor necessary in this area; repurposing is a better option and running an inventory of all unused spaces and apartments, especially chronically empty luxury apartments, is a logical next step.

I had no idea such a movement as yours existed until last year, when ONY member Justin Potter ran his quiet, inconsequential campaign against Senator Mike Gianaris before unsurprisingly dropping out earlier this month. Aside from supporting a skittish monopoly, Potter’s pro-Amazon supporters also advocated for the destruction of landmarked buildings, the elimination of historical districts and the demolition of brownstones: I was surprised such sentiment existed and was saddened to see it. The logic employed had some reason to it, though, even I had to admit that much: the promotion of a carless society in cities by increasing residential density near mass transit. But there was a brusqueness to this group’s engagement, a snappy impatience, an eye-rolling mocking snarkiness, a trigger-happy tendency towards insults and condescension.

Back in mid-2019, I was so unassuming when I first stumbled across ONY on Twitter that I had started following the account; I naïvely assumed too quickly that ONY was a pro-tenant organization because of the reference of wanting to be a neighbor in its Twitter bio. This implied ability to partner is soon revealed as conditional and ultimately insincere.

As I had witnessed with its pro-Amazon peers, I observed Yimby in New York to be a small group of easily identifiable and loquacious personalities; I became quickly acquainted with the tiny cadre of troupe players and what I suspected was a strategic and deliberate style of social engagement, and with which I was already familiar having witnessed Justin Potter in action. ONY members and supporters conduct themselves in a mocking, impatient, snarky, disrespectful manner.

Deliberate bad faith is consistently used by ONY: mockery is tossed as bait to throw off the main focus of discourse; disrespect is hurled in what seems a desire to get a reaction; words are purposefully twisted and nontangential accusations are created to deflect from the point at hand. This is a repeated pattern, seen in numerous public interactions, all by the same players, this same small group.

Good, fair and productive arguments include respectful debate, a reasonable and generous attitude and a sense of peerage and deference to the other person. Not with ONY members and supporters, though. You guys arrive at the ready with impertinent (and false) accusations of racism, classism and depravity. A pattern of accusations, the same accusations, over and over.

And that, Mr. Thypin, is what I strove to “shit all over” at CB2 on January 23: the repeated behavior, the insults, the bad faith engagement. I shine a light on it. You wish it was shit: because feces isn’t see-through. And what you all do and say is very easy to see through: it is all clear and self-evident to everyone but you and your small group, it seems.

Another tidy little fact in all this is that you, sir, in particular, stand to make a profit in the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. And you already have, Scion Thypin: your family’s wealth expands way beyond real estate.

And I mean, if your tactics are fair, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about when you receive criticism, right? You should be proud of how you operate: you don’t have anything to hide, do you?

And of course, I can express myself publicly, just like you can express yourself in such a fashion: that’s only fair, isn’t it? It’s only right, isn’t it?

Because, to me, two sides expressing their viewpoint seems like the crux of democracy: you have your opinion and I have mine and we both get to express our own opinions. No matter what our opinions are or how disparate they may be, they get to be expressed by us in public forums: that in itself is a beautiful thing; a democratic declaration.

And I don’t put you down, Mr. Thypin, for having an opinion, no matter how much I take issue with what you say. But what I *do* do is take issue with your opinions, aka your words. I then form specific arguments against your opinions, against the words you say. I use my words to express my issue with your words.

You, in turn, use your words to express your issue with me opening my mouth but you quite never get around to the part of specifically critiquing what comes out of my mouth: you only take issue with me expressing myself. You never address what it is that I say, instead you disparage me for opening my mouth. Conveniently, though, you ignore what I say.

Someone from ONY must have filmed the speakers at that January 2020 CB2 meeting: you have a history of photographing community speakers. I wonder if I was videotaped, if my words were captured. And if so, I wonder why no one posted what I said: I mean, it must have been absurd and untrue, right?

How come you never directly address what I say?

Because that’s what I do with you: I cite your own words and actions to depict how you and your ONY cohorts conduct yourselves and how you chronically treat other people. I seek to raise awareness about it: I wonder why you are not open to such relevant and fair criticism. And it’s not slanderous, either: if I am showing your own words and your own content along with published media about you, how can that be considered defamatory or even insulting? If you wrote it, you should be able to stand by it: all of it.

Right?

Like the sweet nothings you tweet to me.

Or your rejoicing in the destruction of brownstones in my neighborhood.

Your words and actions represent you: I assume you are proud of them. So it’s problematic how defensive you are about your own words or your real estate business and family legacy. It’s problematic how snarky, quick-tempered, overly dramatic, condescending and insulting ONY members and supporters are. It’s especially problematic as this behavior appears to be strategic and deliberate: even city officials have noted this obvious and clumsy conduct. Lower Manhattan District Leader Paul Newell’s tweet thread on your own history and comportment is gloriously thorough and revealing. Committeman Ben Yee called ONY out for something I experience for one whole day: the pile on.  My own pile on lasted 12 hours where I was falsely but deliberately accused of hating poor people and of being immoral. It was so obvious what you all were doing in that conversation with me: it was so telling. It shows who you all are.

At the end of that discourse, as I am wont to do, I asked you out for a cup of coffee. I am known for coffee terrorism: I have a reputation for wanting to meet people in person so to create a better rapport, to build a bridge and for me to learn more.

But you never took me up on that offer from a half a year ago. I wonder why.

Maybe because it is difficult for you to truly face any of the shit you do.

You most likely will never take me up on it, Mr. Thypin but my offer still stands.