On the QT Home Page

ON THE QT

Everything You Always Suspected--
All Of It True.

Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Publisher and Editor

WELCOME

and Au Revoir from the QT you've come to know. On The QT first appeared in the Spring of 2001, on a bi weekly schedule. The personal goal was one year of publication. Twenty five issues later the time has come to leave the building.

WHY?

One reason is I no longer live in a city. (Another change: QT is now appearing in first person.) A consistent QT subject has been urban living. Something I'm very familiar with, having lived most of my life where the sidewalk begins. I grew up in Trenton-- New Jersey's capital. Trenton is a medium size city bordering Pennsylvania on the Delaware River. It's old (by American standards) with architecture reflecting some 300 years of history. Going to school in Trenton meant being raised on the American Revolution. Particularly the Battle of Trenton, with Washington crossing the icy Delaware on the day after Christmas to surprise the Hessians, sleeping off a drunk in their barracks. (The drunk part may be apocryphal, but as the movie Liberty Valence advises, "Print the legend.") A bridge spanning the Delaware sports a sign boasting "Trenton Makes, The World Takes." The sign remains but the skilled industrial jobs that were a bridge for the poor to cross to the middle class are gone. Along with the safety and civility that equalized the city's public life. Trenton certainly had poverty. But children could play on streets in the evening, go to movies alone, take buses at night. Mothers and children could picnic in secluded sections of lovely, Olmsted designed, 100 acre Cadwalader Park. No matter how deprived the individual, a refuge and richness existed in Trenton's larger civic world; in its schools, libraries and commercial areas. Now Trenton sits, a tooth and claw island amidst a sea of suburban prosperity. Its gentrified enclaves smaller islands within. Trenton's tax base is small and property taxes high. Politicians flood it daily only to withdraw at night, pork in hand. The governor's mansion is down the road in tonier Princeton Township and Jersey governors never seem able to lift the sagging seat of their government. I've often wondered

WHY?

As an adult I lived in Manhattan. But also in what are called second tier cities. In New Jersey and the Hudson River Valley of upstate New York, where my mother's family has lived for over 150 years. Another historically rich area. Eventually I came to like medium size cities best. Second tier towns had good city things like 24 hour life, ethnic and blue collar neighborhoods, idiosyncratic small businesses and urban architecture. Without what became signature megalopolis negatives: high rent dumps, din beyond belief and consumerism raised to religion. Second tier towns let one breath mentally. But by the 90's they'd changed. Either the slide downward reached the final denouement or they became cultural knock offs of larger cities. Regional urban culture didn't disappear, but it diminished as more successful cities morphed into a neo urban Anywhere USA. Same food, same restaurants, same festivals. Same art, same newspapers, same philosophies. Less successful cities were an experiment in terror amidst booster pressure to pretend the golden cookie cutter had arrived. Meanwhile, I kept wondering

WHY?

I sympathized with New Urbanists, Neighborhood Associations, etc. When discussing urban blight many pointed a finger to the suburbs and said "They did it". White people got gassed and fled their responsibilities. Including their duty to buy urban real estate. Then one day, in a certain upstate New York city, I was returning by bus to my downtown apartment from a shopping trip. In the seat behind me a young black woman was chatting loudly with a friend. She lived in an older suburb and was going to visit her sister downtown. She was a salesgirl in a mall. $6.50 an hour. When the bus reached downtown, she stopped talking about her boyfriend and started telling her companion how though she was busting her chops paying her share of the rent and had little left for anything else, she was glad she "didn't live down here anymore".

WHY?

Because she hated "crazy drug stuff and lowlifes". Something struck me. This was the kind of young woman progressives used to love. She was Ginger Rogers fighting to escape a back lot slum. Or plucky shop girl Joan Crawford "wanting to be someone". But no-- the analogy had to be wrong. Beneath the vivacious young black woman disguise, a suburban white man (gut tightly cinched) no doubt lurked, using "drugs" as a code word for "black". Yet statistics (as well as your eyes) tell you suburbs are no longer made out of white bread. Making one ask

WHY?

Then there was the elderly lady met on a Neighborhood Crime Watch. Also black and a homeowner in a racially mixed, low to middle income neighborhood. Drug business had ripped up her nabe in a startlingly short time. Many of those involved were from downstate, specifically New York City, and were being housed by one major Section 8 HUDlord. Or in facilities for substance abusers, where people with violent criminal records, or who were still doing/dealing drugs were supposedly not allowed. Guess what? You got it. Anyway, this skinny little old lady came running out of her house. "Crime Watch, Crime Watch, Yoo hoo!" She waved and beckoned. She needed help. Drug delivery boys were in her backyard every night. The cops didn't come. We told her to keep calling. Those calls counted. They would eventually bring help. They provided a record. It was the civic minded thing to do. But a sense of futility nagged. I'd heard the same line myself, many times, in other neighborhoods and other cities. And this particular nabe had a few additional problems. Like the city's mayor. A man who seemed more concerned about negative publicity than resident safety, who'd reportedly blanched under his tan when shown candid photos of neighborhood conditions, saying "Do you know what The Daily Blat [not the real name] would do with these?" Not much help could be expected from the nearby, "gentrified" neighborhood associations either. Though they fretted over not attracting minorities and tenants, real estate dreams and discomfort with the issue of crime kept them mum. They also hoped that the drug trade, if fed someone else's neighborhood, would never come to theirs. You have to ask

WHY?

Urban experience teaches otherwise. But back to urban epiphanies. A larger one occurred more slowly, building while working on QT and picking up speed when doing research for a NY Press article about a widening federal municipal corruption investigation in New Jersey. One which most recently sank Republican James Treffinger's hopes of stepping into Democratic Senator Robert Torricelli's equally soiled shoes. I've never liked hearing people say "politicians are all a bunch of crooks." Since the sweeping dismissal can excuse political passivity. But after brushing up on the endemic political plundering of municipalities throughout the Northeast, with attendant subjects such as the many faces of HUD fraud, misuse of transportation and economic development funds, public contracts for cash, extortion, environmental scams, crony tax abatements, rubber stamp consultants, predatory mortgage practices, campaign finance bribes, wire fraud, mail fraud, tax evasion, drug related money laundering, and one case of alleged mayoral child molestation, I found myself wanting to stand atop the Empire State Building and shout: Yes! They all ARE a bunch of crooks! And the internecine, nonpartisan nature of the crookedness made me want to add, like a woman-on-the-street interviewed by CNBC about the now infamous Merrill Lynch "shit" memo, "...and they're all in cahoots!" But I still don't advocate political passivity.

WHY NOT?

An October 2000 story by Clint Riley in a South Jersey newspaper, CourierPost, titled "The Camden Investigation: Officials pocket cash as sewer crumbles" describes the political looting of Camden. A Camden resident is quoted "It doesn't get better in Camden because this city has become nothing but a whore, and you've got everybody pimping her." And Larry Makinson, of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C., talking about the effects of money in politics says, "The dirty little secret is, it is much worse at the local level, in your own back yard." I believe Larry Makinson is correct. And urban pimpin' is not unique to Camden. The poorer the city, the more it gets turned out. In order for New Urbanism to mean more than just new pimps in town, urban corruption and the ways current policies feed it, demands scrutiny. Also needed is acknowledgement that nothing empties cities like crime, since it tells people the social contract is no longer in effect. And lose the fantasy of techtopia and tourism lifting all ships. When we let those solid industrial jobs go, we dealt second tier cities a staggering blow, contributing heavily to the formation of an underclass mired in the drug economy and public support. Is there any hope of getting those jobs back? People who say no and speak of inexorable market pressures are often the same people who believe coercion can carrot and stick individuals back into cities. But rerouting cars or handing out houses only succeeds in very limited situations. Like cities that have a lot going on already. Or in enclave, gentrified neighborhoods where turning inward, away from the city at large, becomes an operating principle. Thereby undercutting the whole meaning of "civitas". Matchbox success is immensely expensive to the general taxpayer. It fuels public resistance to the whole idea of helping cities. In the meantime the pimps are raking it in. If one cares about the future of America's second tier towns, now is not the time to be passive. Or to let sleeping Hessians lie. On the larger front, I really don't believe every politician is a crook. But a dark star has definitely risen. In important regions, our two party system is in real danger of morphing into one corrupt, fraudulent organization which uses political ideology as a sales tool for rubes. We could end up living in the United States of Enron.

WHY GOODBYE?

As I said on opening it's only Au Revoir. Keep watching the sky. You'll see QT again. Not nearly as often but its range will be wider. While I've enjoyed the pulp discipline of QT's bonsai garden format it's time for some larger projects. As to why, after a lifetime of in-town living, I headed on out, it had to do with a need for clean laundry. I've shrugged off murders, robberies and drug-a-rama street dealing. But when a heavy duty drug thug makes 2 A.M. collection calls on a tenant living a few floors below you, shouting violent threats into the basement apartment window from which the "recovering" addict does nickel and dime deals, it makes you reluctant to use the laundry room. And I had just about run out of socks.

THE LAST ROUNDUP?

In Oklahoma Michael P. Wright has been receiving ugly emails from boomcar boys threatened by his sharp website take on their pathology. His site now features fascinating Justice Department info on who's most heavily hit by their noise. And thanks to Sergei and "Pete" for the hilarious, operatic "Albanian Rhapsody". It will appear in PEEP. In New Jersey, the indictment of real estate developer and Democratic fund-raiser Rene Abreu (job references include Senator Robert Torricelli, Representative Robert Menendez, and West New York Mayor Albio Sires) adds another page to the ongoing corruption saga. United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie sez that aside from terrorism, prosecuting municipal corruption is number one on his office's "to do" list. Up the river in Albany, New York, some employees of A.A.R. Contractor, Inc. have pled guilty to federal charges in what's been called the largest case of asbestos treatment fraud in US environmental history. One involving myriad public buildings, including the New York state capital. These are the first employees of A.A.R. to fold, leaving others, including A.A.R. head man Alex Salvagno (now of AAR Environmental Services) still facing charges. Rip & skip boys, rip & skip. Or should we say, squeal & deal?

LINKS

NY Press

Jersey Pols: Concrete Shoes

CourierPost

Officials pocket cash as sewer crumbles

Center For Responsive Politics

Michael Wright's Noise Pollution Website

PEEP Magazine

"Bunker Hill had taught Americans that British regulars could be resisted. Trenton proved to them...that the dreaded Hessians could be conquered."

AmericanRevolution.org, The Hessians, Chaptor VIII. Trenton, December 26, 1776

"Go Go! Go Johnny Go!"

Chuck Berry, Johnny B. Goode

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Crumpling HUD bux blowing in the wind.
updated 5/19/2002