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Cluck You

An open letter to the opponents of progress on the West Side

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On Monday, May 13, Cluck!, the humble little urban farming supply store that’s caused the big controversy, was granted the zoning variance necessary for it to open at 399 Broadway – for the second time. Though the same variance was granted once before, it was appealed and overturned by a cabal of opponents whose motivations ranged from at best self-serving to at worst transparently spiteful and spurious. Now, proprietor Drake Patten once again has the green light from the Zoning Board of Review and has reached an agreement to assuage the concerns of one of the main objectors, Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Church across the street. If the subsequent 20-day appeal period passes without incident – which, at least for the moment, it seems as if it will – then Cluck! will be open for business.

I would like to use this column to send a message to those opponents: I suspect we haven’t heard the last of you, but for the moment it seems that you’ve lost your battle – and you deserved to. How could you not lose? Shame on you. This ridiculous charade you staged in order to get your way – raising trivial objections, speculating about unrealistic hypotheticals, trying to invalidate Patten’s progress on ridiculous technicalities and generally just braying like hysterical children – could not conceal the fact that you had painted yourself a rhetorical corner. You essentially forced yourself into the position of arguing that an abandoned gas station was somehow better for the neighborhood than a gardening supply store.

That a small business owner should have to endure months of legal fights, backbiting and fear mongering, rack up exorbitant legal fees and rally the support of hundreds of neighbors simply to earn the right to sell seeds and garden tools in a once blighted property that she has remodeled and revitalized is patently absurd and sends a terrible message about the cost of doing business in our fair city.

The fact is that you represent the forces of the old guard – and the old guard is, well, old. Your way of doing things is no longer acceptable and your vision of what the neighborhood should be is out of touch with reality. Those of us who actually live and work in the neighborhood will continue in our efforts to make it thriving and vibrant, and we will not be deterred by the obstinance and chicanery of people who either don’t live here or only pretend to (oh yeah, we see you). You operate in darkness and shadow, while we shine a light on the West Side. Now stand aside and let progress happen.

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miriamgg

So well said! Thank you John!

Thursday, May 23, 2013
youoperateindarkness

John,

Your open letter submission bothers me for a number of reasons. To put it bluntly, I think you’re being an @*&#^!. I offer my reasons below.

For the record, I used to live on the West Side of Providence and care very much about the area. You'd probably categorize me as being one of 'us' versus one of 'them'. You should also know that have no objection to Cluck!, and do not personally know or have any affiliation with Ms. Patten, Ms. Monaco, Mr. Paterra, Ms. Paolino, Mr. Paolino, or the Sts. Vartanantz Armenian Apostolic Church. More plainly, I'm just some guy who is interested in the story.

As an unbiased reader, here is how I understand the story: Elias Ayoub and Drake Patten and obtained a zoning variance convert a former gas station to an urban farm supply store that intends to sell yard and garden supplies, beekeeping and preserving equipment, farm books, chicken feed, and live chicks and hens. Four residents and a church successfully helped to reverse the zoning boards decision primarily because Mr. Paterra and Ms. Monaco were not notified about the initial zoning hearing, which is required by law. The residents and the church cite traffic/parking congestion, vermin infestation, noise, and 'not preserving the city's vision for the neighborhood' as being the primary objections to Cluck!'s presence. These are the facts as I understand them and if there are any serious omissions, please let me know. I'll proceed with these assumptions.

---Taking things personally---

"I would like to use this column to send a message to those opponents:"

If it were me and I felt so inclined to write a letter to my so-called opponents, I would email them or write a letter to their address. Here are a couple things I would not do: (1) Call my submission a "message to those opponents" when in fact, the intended audience is actually Providence monthly's readership. (2) Try to publicly embarrass them (huh “cluck you” sounds a lot like @&*%&# you … hehe you so clever ☺).

---Intellectual Laziness---

Let's move beyond simple etiquette. It's irresponsible to make potentially inaccurate assumptions about individuals and organizations. Here are some examples:

Your claim: "An open letter to the opponents of progress on the West Side"

Reality: Word on the street is that John Paterra hates electric cars and gay rights. All jokes aside, to me, it just sounds like some community members voicing their opinion through the democratic process. That's all.

Your claim: "That a small business owner should have to endure months of legal fights"

Reality: Ms. Patten did not exercise total carefulness when she submitted her original petition to the zoning board. It's unfortunate and I wish that should didn't have to endure all of this, but to imply that those residents + church are responsible for personal and financial burdens is way out of line.

Your claim: "Those of us who actually live and work in the neighborhood"

Reality: This isn't so much an issue of inaccuracy but intellectual laziness. Why is it OK to assume that living and working in a neighborhood trumps owning property and worshipping?

---Us vs. Them---

"You operate in darkness and shadow, while we shine a light on the West Side. Now stand aside and let progress happen."

What is up with all the Us versus Them, Good versus Evil, Light versus Darkness mumbo jumbo??? News flash: the West Side is not Middle-Earth, and Sts. Vartanantz church does not lie behind the iron gates of Mordor. You operate in darkness and shadow? Really dude? Like, really? That's some cold shit. "while we shine light on the West Side" … what’s all this “we” business? You might want to shine some light on that.

Aside from being hokey and melodramatic it's simply bad rhetoric. This style of rhetoric is often associated with populism and mob-mentality and is commonly used to deflect attention from the real issue at hand. This leads me to my next point...

---Totally missing the point---

"You essentially forced yourself into the position of arguing that an abandoned gas station was somehow better for the neighborhood than a gardening supply store."

While following this story, I remember thinking, "wow, the process actually works". No, it wasn't one of those 'the minority gets screwed' or 'behind-closed-doors bullshit' stories. Cluck! made a compelling case for rezoning the land, several community members objected through legal means, and ultimately the zoning board grants the variance which is probably best for the neighborhood. Democracy in Providence? Think big picture.

---That’s just like, your opinion, man---

Call me old-fashioned, but I've always been impartial to communities in which everyone has a say in what happens. OK so what if someone in the community prefers abandoned gas stations to farming, gardening, and chicken stores (although, I disagree with your reductionist thinking on this matter)? He/She and I will disagree but that's cool, because I don't engage in ideological fascism.

John, I’m glad that you’re like the light that shines on the West Side or whatever just don’t be such a dick about it.

Monday, June 10, 2013