Friday, June 29, 2007

Oxford Street a casualty of the ‘War on Kings Cross’?

A claimed rise in homophobic assaults along Oxford Street has triggered a safety strategy from Council.

At the same time a story by Kim Shaw in the Wentworth Courier (27/6/2007) reports:
‘Locals had complained to the council that the demographic of Oxford Street had changed, bringing in more “straight outer-suburbs” visitors to the area in recent times.’

Is it possible that the police raids and pressure on adult shops in Kings Cross, preventing them from selling X-rated non-violent erotica, are displacing “straight outer-suburbs visitors” to the nearest sex shops -- in Oxford Street?

There was plenty of anecdotal evidence of the displacement of street people and drug users from the Cross to Darlinghurst a few years ago when Police and Council started their ongoing ‘clean up the Cross’ campaign.

Indeed, if you spend much time in both places you will see many of the same street people.

This observation challenges the vocal few who continue to attack the Medically Supervised Injecting Centre, claiming it attracts people who are the sole cause of the retail slump along the Kings Cross strip -- a chicken-and-egg argument at best. The truth is there are many reasons street people come to the area and shifting the MSIC, or closing it, will not improve anything.

It also illustrates the idea that any oppressive action by authorities merely displaces the ‘problem’ rather than solving it.

In the case of Kings Cross, all the might of the Police, Council, NIMBY residents and the sycophantic Kings Cross Partnership is pitched against the whole set of social forces that creates red light districts in the first place.

The only achievement of this ‘War on Kings Cross’ is to create an uneasy stalemate. On the one hand the Cross is prevented from fully being 'itself' -- the raucous, lurid neon-lit home of extreme diversity that we so love. But on the other hand the strength of the social forces which create the Cross will prevent it ever becoming the ‘mother-and-child retail centre’ that the KX Partnership, Council and property developers explicitly fantasise about.

Like all such prohibition-style campaigns, the only result is a lot of pain and expense as ‘problems’ are shifted from one place to another. Seen in this light, Council and the Police are creating the very problems they are trying to solve.

Picture: Oxford Street or Kings Cross? Street people in front of a closed shop in Oxford Street doing nobody any harm.

Woman cured of 'unwelcome orgasms'

The case of a woman who suffered from involuntary feelings indistinguishable from orgasms headed this morning's segment by Adam Spencer and Dr Karl Kruszelnicki on 702 radio.

The woman went to doctors when the phenomenon started interfering with her life. No bus trip was safe for her with the 'orgasms' lasting up to two minutes. On one occasion she actually passed out.

Doctors discovered an epileptic centre in her brain which was triggering these events, and were able to cure her.

Spencer asked Kruszelnicki if there was a difference between having a real orgasm and an imaginary one, using as a parallel the example of referred pain which could be seen as not 'real' because there was no actual stimulus at the site of the pain.

Dr Karl replied with the question 'Is anything real -- am I imagining this conversation with you?'

I would have asked whether the same thing could happen to males, given the usual physiological symptoms that accompany the event. So if the guy sitting next to you in the bus seems a bit stunned and asks 'excuse me, do you have a tissue?' this could be the explanation.

Picture: Some bus passengers may not be as bored as they appear.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Landslide in McElhone Street

This landslide in McElhone Street Woolloomooloo fell on Friday night. Police at the site say no cars were parked underneath -- very lucky as this street, close to Kings Cross, is usually parked out on weekend nights. The hole above is within the grounds of a four storey block of flats fronting Brougham Street, approximately 1950s vintage. The cliff beneath is the site of one of Sydney's original sandstone quarries, dating back to the mid-1800s.

Then on Sunday a cyclist and a small white van collided in the same street -- it looked as if the car, facing the roadblock in front of the landslide, had turned right towards a driveway intending to turn around -- just as the cyclist was overtaking. The cyclist was standing as police attended -- although bleeding from the head. He was taken away by ambulance.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Juanita Nielsen's home on the market

Amid calls for City of Sydney Council to purchase the home of Juanita Nielsen (see SMH story below), the best hope seems to be Council approving 'adaptive re-use' subject to a 'comprehensive heritage assessment of the property.'

The starry-eyed idealists among us would like it to be made available for use by artists, who are finding Sydney too expensive for such luxuries as studio space. There have also long been moves locally to establish a Kings Cross Museum. The three bald-faced terraces for sale (including Juanita's place, 202 Victoria Street, just near the station) would be perfect for it. The basis of the museum would be histories of the various significant buildings around the Cross, presented electronically. Clover Moore was well aware of these moves but they seem to have become lost in the mix.

Council under Frank Sartor bought a 5-storey Art Deco building in the main street to house its one-stop-shop and the library, intending to rent out the upper floors and thereby help turn Kings Cross into just another middle-class suburb. The upper floors are STILL vacant, and Council is apparently now dreaming up ways to use the space perhaps by expanding the library with conference rooms etc and -- maybe -- a museum.

So buying yet more real estate in The Cross might be a difficult ask for Council. As for artists colonies? Forget it. Council staff would rather chop off their own big toes than do something so folksy and 1970s. They are impressed only by slick neo-modernist ventures with a techno and corporate feel.

It's exactly what the Cross needs, though. Write letters to Councillors, newspapers etc. 2011 Residents Association is on the case, but wider support will be necessary to achieve a result. The Historic Houses Trust is another possible player.

Even if the houses simply continued to be rented out at a reasonable rate it would assist the fast-disappearing low-cost housing mix in the area.


Sad irony as developers eye Nielsen's home

Robert Wainwright
Sydney Morning Herald, June 2, 2007

THERE is a loose brick in the wall of Juanita Nielsen's old bedroom. Someone has chiselled away the mortar between the bricks to create a nook big enough to have stored a clue to one of Sydney's most enduring murder mysteries.

Sadly there is nothing but dust, and neighbours fear even that might disappear if the workers' cottage once owned by the murdered newspaper owner and heiress is sold.

Expressions of interest have been called in the two-bedroom house at 202 Victoria Street and two adjoining properties.

It is a joint lot, and the sale is being marketed not for renovation but as "ripe for development".

It would be a sad irony if the building from which one of the city's most famous activists wrote her fortnightly paper Now, which waged war against the destruction of heritage by developers, is itself pulled down by a new owner.

At an open day on Thursday there was plenty of interest in the rickety building. None of the potential buyers stopped to notice the brass plaque embedded in the footpath commemorating its famous owner, nor that the council had misspelled her name, as "Nielson".

Inside, it is probably little different from the garish mishmash Nielsen left behind when she disappeared on July 4, 1975. The tile doorstep leads into a room of worn pine floorboards and exposed hand-fired bricks from the 1840s in which Nielsen wrote her fortnightly paper from an old Cutler desk.

The labyrinth of rooms leads to a rear patio of viper green tiles, while the bedrooms upstairs are lined with pine. The only 1970s colour missing is burnt orange.

Resident action groups are calling for the house to be placed on the state heritage register under a permanent conservation order, fearing the council protection that now shelters the building will not stop the bulldozers.

Andrew Woodhouse and Sue Hanley are leading the charge. Neither knew Nielsen, but believe it was her fight that preserved the street.

That is why most believe she was abducted and killed. "She saved this neighbourhood in life, so we owe her one in death," said Mr Woodhouse, who is president of the Potts Point & Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society.

"Heritage doesn't have to be pretty to be important. This site contains her spirit and deserves to be saved. Her efforts are reflected in the high quality and amenity of this street that we all now enjoy."

Ms Hanley, president of the 2011 Residents Association, wrote to the Herald this week asking why governments had ignored the area. "Sydney needs King Cross to be restored as an edgy conversation precinct, not a brain-dead entertainment precinct," she wrote.

"This means taking the future of this area out of the hands of the liquor industry and big developers. It requires urgent action to adopt policies and plans that ensure the area is not an either/or - either very wealthy or desperately poor.

"Juanita, we need you now more than ever. The preservation of her home should be a catalyst for a vision of Kings Cross which is for cultural diversity, dissent and difference."

A City of Sydney council spokesman confirmed that the property was under a heritage order which accepted "adaptive reuse" but not demolition.

"The city would be likely to support listing the building on the State Heritage Register subject to a comprehensive heritage assessment of the property."