Elites 2009, Symbolic Interactionism, and the History of Times Square New York City
Definitions : Statistical elite = Those who have the most of scarce and valued resources. If you make a list, they are the top percent. e.g. Pareto (1901) in Rise and Fall of the Elites . Domhoff definition = as those “members of the upper class who have taken on leadership roles in the corporate community and the policy network, along with high-level employees in corporations and policy network organizations” (2000: 95). Domhoff argues that they form a class, with interests and similar life chances. Inclusive = Those who, by virtue of their wealth, charisma, or position or positions within an organization or group of organizations, have the capacity to be key forces in local, national or international projects, depending on their status as either local, national, or international elites.
Pluralists argue: -- The state arbitrates competing interests. -- In democratic pluralistic societies, everyone has the chance to compete. Theoretically, everyone has equal access to government. -- The winners are those who are best organized and best funded, however… -- Those with the most and best access to resources don’t win all the time. Therefore, it cannot be said that elites dominate or are a ruling class.
Elite theorists, to varying degrees, argue that : -- In the competition for scarce and valued resources, not everyone has equal substantial access to government. This is political inequality. You can write a letter to your government representative, but chances are you do not have the resources to lobby like those with more resources. -- The winners are those who are best organized and best funded. -- Even though the elites don’t win ALL the time, they win a substantial proportion of the time. Therefore, there are elites and they do rule society.
Community Power Studies Economic and political elites compete and form coalitions to initiate (or kill) local projects. Community interest groups and other interested parties become part of the process, either by their proximity to the project or some other vested interest. Hunter, Form, Dahl, Polsby
Power is inherently relational. Classic elite theorists define power in the Weberian sense as the probability a person or a group has to realize their will despite the resistance of others. Theories of elites’ sources of social power focus on the inter-related themes of resources, positions, and networks. Symbolic Interactionism and Power P olitics i s an aspect of the negotiated social order : “Power…is achieved by controlling, influencing, and sustaining your definition of the situation” ( Hall 1972: 51). Goffmanesque: I nteractions may be viewed from a dramaturgical perspective as a performance, shaped by the environment and audience, and constructed to provide others with impressions that meet the desired goals of the actor. During the performance, the actor presents a social face, i.e. a self-image that lives up to the audience’s expectations .
By the 1970s, Times Square had become synonymous with crime and urban decay. Prostitutes, petty criminals, and not-so-petty criminals prowled the neglected neighborhood.
Times Square area is very valuable real estate and has symbolic value for the city of New York. NYC’s political and economic elite sought to transform the area from loss to profit.
The Players Political and Economic Elites: Real estate developers Large corporations (Disney) The Mayor and City Hall Local politicians Governor of New York State New York judiciary (The courts) Interested Groups: Times Square community groups Times Square business owners Trial lawyers Residents of nearby neighborhoods (Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen)
The political and economic elite’s plan was to clear away all lawsuits over development plans and use the government’s right of eminent domain to seize the land they want to develop. Eminent Domain: The right of a government to appropriate private property for public use, usually with compensation to the owner.
The state seeks to quickly dismiss lawsuits : May 9, 1987: “The State Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the $2 billion Times Square redevelopment plan yesterday in two strongly worded decisions that dismissed six legal challenges. The decisions... bring to 21 the number of cases won by the project in state or Federal courts. The rulings, by the state's highest court, upheld the State Urban Development Corporation's right to condemn 13 acres centered on 42d Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues...” May 15, 1987: “A Federal judge in Manhattan has rejected the last pending legal challenge to the $2 billion Times Square redevelopment project, ruling that the local residents and business executives who brought the suit failed to show the project would violate Federal clean air rules.” In April 1990, the State of New York acquires the land: “After a six-year legal battle, New York State acquired most of the Times Square development area yesterday, and officials said demolition to clear the way for the $2.5 billion project could begin as early as the fall. The project, a decade in the making, has been delayed by more than 40 lawsuits, two of which are pending. ...the State Commissioner of Economic Development said the two lawsuits were not ''deal breakers.‘’
Disney gets a sweetheart deal: “The preliminary plan for renovating the badly damaged New Amsterdam calls for the company to spend $29 million. Of that, Disney would spend $8 million of its own and would receive low-interest loans from the city and state, at the rate of 3 percent, to cover the rest.”
"Times Square really was the poster child for a seedy, dangerous, unattractive, porno-laced place ... Because of eminent domain and some forward-looking people in this city, they turned it into a place where 24 hours a day you're safe on the street." -- Mayor Bloomberg May 3, 2006