What A Dick Move!

Syracuse Common Council Bob Dougherty recently went to a Planning Commission hearing to oppose an application to combine two lots into one. The application came from Syracuse Habitat for Humanity. Habitat builds homes for low income families–without taking a dime of government funding. However, Councilor Bob doesn’t like the ranch houses that Habitat builds. He wants a different style. He thinks Habitat houses ruin the character of the neighborhood. What a dick move.

Councilors do this all the time, speaking in favor of (or in opposition to) applications to the Planning Commission. So why was this a dick move? Let me count the ways:

1) The lot isn’t in his district

2) The application is for joining lots. The Planning Commission has no say over architectural aesthetics.

3) He’s clearly carrying water for other non-profits he believes would make better use of the lot. (cough, cough Visions!!!)

4) He believes that Habitat is “disrespectful” and believes they can “throw up anything on the West Side, it’s better than nothing.”

I’v seen this dynamic before–the dilettante preservationists and academics who, for the most part, live outside the neighborhoods, care more about structures than the people who live in them. As a community organizer, I’ve had to rally residents to fight off these idiots–people who opposed the demolition of buildings that were literally raining bricks into neighbors’ yards. As the Executive Director of Habitat in Syracuse Suzanne Williams states:

So while a ranch might not be aesthetically pleasing to his eyes, he needs to stop looking at the structure and start looking at the people that are occupying those houses and what it’s doing to them, what it’s doing to their lifestyle. When it costs them more than 30 percent of their incomes to heat those houses, that’s keeping them in the cycle of poverty

Habitat’s use of radiant heat technology, coupled with appropriately-sized homes, are cutting edge in the creation of affordable, energy efficient homes. Habitat should be getting support for all it’s done for the Near West Side. Instead they have to put up with dick moves like Bob Dougherty’s.

2 thoughts on “What A Dick Move!

  1. I wondered about that when I saw it, and shared the article with one of the folks who works with Habitat for Humanity. It’s kind of like rich people deciding that poor people should do this or that. He was way off base and looked like an idiot; I guess he’s gone away by now.


    1. I got into a back and forth with him about this when he replied to Ursula Rozum’s FB posting linking to my blog post. At one point he likened the Habitat houses to mobile home trailers. After adding more arguments on accessibility (which I had failed to do in this piece) I pointed out that it was hard to make a more obviously class-conscious argument than to reference trailers. His final response? “No mas!”

      The problem is he will not go away. He’s an elected official on the Common Council and he is not the only person to feel this way. The Preservation Association of CNY is filled with these kind of folks–those who value bricks and mortar more than people. This battle is not over.


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