Friday, August 03, 2007
Given the lockstep between Council and the Police in the war on Kings Cross, I was wondering where the state government push was coming from.
I got a clue from the Autumn 2002 edition of City News in which then Mayor Frank Sartor enthuses about 'civilising' Kings Cross using the zero tolerance techniques applied in New York.
'I was particularly interested in the use of multi-agency teams of police, fire inspectors, health inspectors and building safety experts to target issues ranging from prostitution to unauthorised signage,' said Frank, laying out his vision to 'civilise' the Cross.
'A key to the success of cleaning up key precincts has been the unrelenting attention of authorities to forcing out undesirable elements, backed up by major improvements in urban amenity,' he goes on.
Five years later the issues are identical but the Cross is suffering a stalemate between the social forces that create it and the relentless dead hand of Council regulation, the de-funding of the local arts community, raids on the adult shops, and police street searches and sniffer dog patrols which do little except scare people away from the place.
Far from 'civilising' the place -- as if a bully like Frank Sartor would even know what the word meant -- it's just the old story of middle class arrogance which always thinks it knows better than the rest of us how we should lead our lives. These types cannot bear to see one small precinct thumbing its nose at their suburban cultural cringe which worships moneyed, respectable sterility as the only good. Planning Minister Sartor and the supporters of the war are no more than tidy-town NIMBYs, albeit powerful ones.
In the same publication Frank outlined his vision for the extended Cross City Tunnel and the 'greening' of William Street. He claimed increasing the cost from $273 million to $410 million for the longer tunnel would be offset by 'extra toll revenue from additional patronage'. He was very, very wrong about that, too.
Reading about the late night trading issue in the Wentworth Courier, I felt inspired to fire off the following letter:
While we all support the idea of more Melbourne-style venues in soulless old Sydney, all the backslapping about 'curbing the late night booze festivals' in Kings Cross amounts to little more than a few old bores primping and fussing about young people having a good time.
Their mantra of 'over-saturation' is meaningless when applied to the Cross which has been 'over-saturated' with entertainment outlets for many decades. That's why it's popular. It's partly why I and all my local friends moved here.
The killjoys willfully ignore the many advantages of this 'over-saturation': punters can arrive by public transport and travel on foot among many different venues, making the roads safer than if they drove; Police response is famously fast as they need only a small area to cover; and enforcement of venue management standards becomes easier.
The Cross also acts as a centre for dispossessed and marginalised people, concentrating them where the services and outreach teams are while at the same time providing a safer environment than if they were pushed out to the suburbs.
Authorities have now spent millions and several years trying to kill the Cross but the issues have not changed. The war on Kings Cross is not working and if it does it will merely displace the problems to other suburbs less well-placed to deal with them. This is the shame of all NIMBYs.
Instead, we need to take off the regulatory screws, continue managing the problems and seek positive, arts-led solutions to changing the people mix and the daytime retail slump.
And if you can't stand the heat...
Michael Gormly, Kings Cross
Posted by The Editor at 2:22 pm