This blog chronicles and analyzes developments in the Upper Delaware Valley, with an emphasis on public affairs, politics and what people are doing to make this a better place. You can find news here as well as commentary - but don't expect neutrality. The award-winning editorial writer for The River Reporter from 2004 to 2012, I am an advocate for sustainability, self-sufficient economic growth vs. globalization and protecting the environment on which our health, prosperity and quality of life depend.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ignorance is strength: the doublespeak attack on Tusten's esplanade

In George Orwell’s “1984,” the government maintained control of the populace largely by the destruction of its capacity for rational thought. It accomplished this goal by dint of a particularly bold and corrosive style of lying that consisted in concealing the truth by simply calling things their opposites: “war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.” (This practice has entered the popular lexicon in the word “doublespeak,” though Orwell himself referred to it in his book with the words “newspeak” and “doublethink.”)

The attacks currently being made in the Town of Tusten against the Big Eddy Waterfront Development Project, aka the esplanade—currently spearheaded by Ned Lang, candidate for a seat on the town council—invoke this Orwellian tactic. What the project is about is providing something that is unfortunately quite rare on the Upper Delaware riverfront, not only in Tusten but all the way along its banks: access to the riverfront for members of the general public, those of us who are not fortunate enough to personally own waterfront land.

The increase of such access up and down the river corridor is in fact an obvious goal for the community to strive for. To begin with, it would improve the quality of life for all who live in the river valley but, ironically, have all too little opportunity to get up close and personal with the river itself. It would also increase the attractiveness of the area to tourists, bringing in more visitors, more business, and more dollars circulating throughout the community. And any hamlet that could provide a particularly attractive access would obviously be particularly competitive in attracting traffic, both local and from outside the area, stimulating business in its environs—and oh yes, boosting the tax base and county sales tax revenue.

Yet somehow, a small cadre in the Town of Tusten has succeeded in creating a foothold of opposition against the town’s Big Eddy Waterfront Vitalization Project, which would accomplish just these public benefits. It has done so by averring, without foundation in fact, that the project would benefit just an elite few businessmen on Main Street.

First of all, the current project, plans for which will shortly be posted in the window of the National Park Service office on Main Street in Narrowsburg, includes a river walk to be built a good 12 feet below the level of the lower stories of the Main Street buildings. It’s true that some of the plans drawn up years ago by planners such as Tom Shepstone called for a boardwalk that would directly abut the buildings and provide entrances to them, essentially expanding the business district. (Frankly, I can’t understand why that would be seen as a bad thing for the town, but under the circumstances I don’t have to even get into that argument. It’s not going to be done.)

So by granting easements across their properties, the current Main Street businesses aren’t gaining new business space or an increase in rental footage. What they are doing is giving up part of their properties to the public, so that people can take a stroll or sit close to the river, something that is not currently possible. They will be losing some privacy, and picking up some potential noise and disturbance. Main Street businesses will pick up only the same benefits that the town as a whole will pick up: more people visiting, more dollars circulating throughout the town.

This is the project that Lang and his cadre have somehow convinced a significant segment of the populace is an elitist project. Yeah. And ignorance is strength.


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  2. Well said. It's all too common these days for people to utter half-truths or complete lies and have them repeated often by others who never stop to question their validity. We see it in the Presidential debate as candidates look to portray themselves in ways that have little or no correspondence to their averred prior positions. For the sake of the Town of Tusten and its agenda to move forward as a viable and attractive place, this project needs to be implemented for the benefit of all. Thank you for your clear and insightful piece. I always loved your editorials and am delighted that you have found a new medium to keep us all thinking things through.