To the Editor:
Are we seeing only the tip of the iceberg in news accounts about the long-festering friction over the Torpedo Factory’s future? Does behind what we see lurk some ulterior agenda, albeit disguised in consultants’ reports and other smoke screens? The Torpedo Factory controversy is not just about artists versus accountants, but really about Alexandria’s soul.
We hear from city hall a constant litany about the need to “invest” in infrastructure, schools, etc. While in some respects this is merely a euphemism for a gargantuan tax increase, about what we would well wonder might better be why city hall is more than happy to throw millions of dollars at various investments, but not a few hundred thousand at the Torpedo Factory which indirectly returns what the city invests in a dozen times over in tourist-generated tax and business revenues.
On its face, this disparity is so cognitively dissonant that there must be some hidden agenda. Indeed, one lately fears that Mayor Silberberg’s transparency and ethics efforts cannot overcome city hall’s entrenched modus operandi of governance by hidden agenda. For example, out of seemingly nowhere, comes city hall’s recent Ramsey Homes volte face (about face).
In 2010, the Torpedo Factory artists were cowered into silence by city hall’s threat against the Torpedo Factory’s governance structure, but their ensuing silence on the waterfront plan may come back to haunt them. Behind the back-and-forth over consultants’ reports, the Torpedo Factory’s governance structure, and city hall’s reluctance to invest in the Torpedo Factory must lurk some unspoken motive likely connected to the waterfront plan and city hall’s and the developers’ as yet unspoken goal of integrating the Torpedo Factory into the theme of some business model very different from today’s status quo. Whether an upscale mall, even one specializing in art, studios which double as revenue-generating venues with riverfront views, etc., their ulterior vision has not yet been publicly enunciated. But be assured its invisible hand is guiding events.
How could it be other than city hall, desperate to assure its controversial roll of the dice with the waterfront plan does not turn up snake eyes, is looking to recast the Torpedo Factory’s function? The waterfront plan and other city decisions about the waterfront are drastically altering nearly every other nearby venue. Why would we assume the Torpedo Factory is to be left as is when everything around it is being consciously, purposefully altered? We have not yet been told, however, how or into what the Torpedo Factory is to be changed.
City hall was caught off guard by the waterfront neighborhood’s opposition to the waterfront plan. It found itself unexpectedly having to resort to hasty, heavy-handed tactics, such as refusing in a public hearing to even accept the Iron Ladies’ petition. City hall, however, is prepared to deal with the artists whose opposition it will have to overcome. That is why it is seeking slowly to undermine them and reduce their influence before steamrolling some drastic alteration of the Torpedo Factory’s function fitting some broader, quietly contemplated commercial waterfront vision.