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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Let's Make a Deal

Posted by on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 9:06 AM


Sea Gate, with its 850 homes on Coney Island’s western tip, is not an ordinary neighborhood. It is a 113-year-old private, gated community, where the razor-wire-topped fences and armed security checkpoints that keep outsiders from its streets, beaches and parks serve as a constant reminder that the residents of this community have chosen to live somewhat apart. Once the gilded retreat of the Vanderbilt family, Sea Gate, like other gated communities in New York, preserved its exclusivity with the promise that the residents would assume the costs of community upkeep, maintaining their own streets, parks and sewer systems and even fielding the distinct Sea Gate Police Department. The special status endured, through occasional controversy and political efforts to open the streets to the public, because of the community’s self-sufficiency.

The residents of Sea Gate and another gated community in New York want the same public that they bar from their private streets and beaches to help pay to restore their "communal infrastructure," a.k.a. those private streets and beaches. Oh, and their "private" seawall, too. I think New York City should offer to pay and help rebuild Sea Gate—on the condition that the gates, razor wire, and armed security checkpoints all come down.


Comments (40) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
Another case of privatized profits, socialized losses.

They should pay for their own repairs.
Posted by LMcGuff on November 27, 2012 at 9:15 AM · Report this
long-time reader 2
I've come to realize that the rich have no shame or compunction about their gains, whether begged, borrowed, or stolen.
Posted by long-time reader on November 27, 2012 at 9:22 AM · Report this
rob! 3
A nice thought, but Gov. Cuomo's asking for—what—$40 billion to mitigate Sandy's effects? And that's just a down payment on future requests for more billions to prevent damage from "the water next time."

They'll get their taxpayer-restored fortress, with little notice or complaint.

These problems need to be addressed systematically by adults in charge, and they won't be, and there aren't any.
Posted by rob! on November 27, 2012 at 9:23 AM · Report this
Pope Peabrain 4
Don't they get a tax deduction for rebuilding? Raise their property taxes.
Posted by Pope Peabrain on November 27, 2012 at 9:34 AM · Report this

By that logic the suburbs and edge neighborhoods shouldn't have to pay for tunnels and seawalls in downtown Seattle.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on November 27, 2012 at 9:36 AM · Report this
douchus 6
#5 - EXCEPT the residents of the suburbs and edge neighborhoods can and do come to downtown Seattle. There is no razor-wire fence gate post guardhouse to keep them out.
Posted by douchus on November 27, 2012 at 9:40 AM · Report this
I was ready to say the same thing, but then I saw in the article that they pay all the same taxes as people outside the community. I think that should entitle them to the same level of service. They can repair their own walls and gate houses, but if they pay taxes then they should get their roads, sewers, whatever fixed.
Posted by giffy on November 27, 2012 at 9:42 AM · Report this
California Kid 8
No Balio, that is completely different logic, suburbs, edge neighborhoods and downtown Seattle are all part of public infrastructure, these gated communities are private.

It's more like making someone in Seattle having to pay for your rumpus room redecorating.

But congratulations, trolling successful! Someone paid attention to you!
Posted by California Kid on November 27, 2012 at 9:53 AM · Report this
@7 is right. If they pay all their own normal expenses and that was the deal for their let's-call-it-privacy, then fine. But if they ALSO help pay for everyone else's normal expenses, then it's not completely out of line for them to ask for the same measure of help as everyone else.

Still, if I lived next door and an armed guard told me I could take a walk down the street, I'd be annoyed.
Posted by DRF on November 27, 2012 at 9:59 AM · Report this
It is completely out of line. Public funds go to repairing the public streets, which are for the use of the public. If you prohibit the public from using a street, then it's just your driveway and you need to pay for it yourself.

I'm all for using public funds to repair these bits of roadway, but they need to be re-dedicated to the public use again first.
Posted by Michael H. on November 27, 2012 at 10:10 AM · Report this
treacle 11
Au contraire! I think we should use public money to build bigger electric fences, and armed guards to keep the 850 inside their fucking gates. Never let 'em leave.

Totally worth the expense!

(No cell phones or internet either.)
Posted by treacle on November 27, 2012 at 10:11 AM · Report this
Looking For a Better Read 12
@9 - no, that's not right. The residents of Sea Gate do pay taxes to help pay for other infrastructure found in other neighborhoods - roads, parks, beaches, whatever, but they can CHOOSE to use those things or to not use those things. Residents of other neighborhoods do not have that choice afforded to the fine folks at Sea Gate.

In this case, Dan's right - the total public should help them to rebuild, but their right to remain physically isolated should be surrendered.
Posted by Looking For a Better Read on November 27, 2012 at 10:11 AM · Report this
Fortunate 13
Paying taxes doesn't entitle you to wall off your community however. I pay taxes too, the same as the guy who lives in the gated community. But even if I wanted to pay for it completely out of my own pocket I can't just build a wall around my neighborhood, put up a gate and man it with armed guards.

That these gated communities get to do that is a privilege, which they pay for by paying for all the upkeep of their community. That's how they justify being able to keep other people out.

If they want the same privileges that other tax payers get then they need to work under the same rules that other tax payers work under, which includes not being able to keep people off your streets and out of your neighborhood by building a wall and gate and putting armed guards there.

Either they don't get the public to pay for the roads they live on but get to keep the public out, or they get the public to pay but they have to give the public access to what they are paying for.

Or the third solution is that all roads get paid for by the public, but everyone has the right to wall off their neighborhood if they are willing to pay for the gates and guards. Good luck getting to work in the mornings when you have to go miles out of the way in order to find a road that doesn't go through a walled community in order to make it to work on time.
Posted by Fortunate on November 27, 2012 at 10:21 AM · Report this
rob! 14
@13 gets at the desire for balkanization at all geopolitical levels (secession, anyone?) and why it's harmful to human society. It's one of the ways the internet and other popular media have spoiled people, by letting them too-easily associate only with those they find entirely agreeable and wall off those they don't.
Posted by rob! on November 27, 2012 at 10:32 AM · Report this

But because of distance, costs and cultural barriers there might as well be. Look the whole argument of getting one group to pay for another can (AND SHOULD) go on and on until it's finished.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://_ on November 27, 2012 at 10:38 AM · Report this
John Horstman 16
Dear stupid motherfuckers who idolize John Galt: fuck you, you're on your own, exactly as you wanted.

@7, 9: Nope - their taxes go to pay for upkeep on public property to which they have access, just like everyone else. What they're asking for is public money to help with repairs to their private property (which they keep people out of with a private army). It's the equivalent of me demanding tax money to have my yard re-landscaped if a flood washes it out, especially if I surround my yard in razor wire fencing and shoot anyone who trespasses. (I recognize that disaster relief funds exist and are distributed; I'm ambivalent about that, mainly because I don't think there is a particularly good way to address the issue in any system that has private property.) They have every right to keep people out of their private property, and we have every right to tell them to go fuck themselves when they come crying for (even more of) our money to go to maintenance of their private property.
Posted by John Horstman on November 27, 2012 at 11:15 AM · Report this
Banna 17
I imagine they're afraid of something akin to caddy day at the Bushwood pool if they let the rabble in: someone's going to leave a doodie in their private pool.
Posted by Banna on November 27, 2012 at 11:35 AM · Report this
Mattini 18
The government should not interfere with this fascinating libertarian experiment. The free market will surely repair their seawall and sewer system.
Posted by Mattini on November 27, 2012 at 11:40 AM · Report this
Theodore Gorath 19
@18: appears that no independent contractor showed up to make a profit off those repairs. It is almost as if the private sector does not see a profit in helping people at all times. Well, I guess if there is no profit in something it is never worth doing. The free market would have fixed it already.

Makes it seem like there should be a governing body devoted to public works and public good, even if there is no profit to be made.
Posted by Theodore Gorath on November 27, 2012 at 11:46 AM · Report this
secretagent 20
13 & 16 are right.

They pay for upkeep of roads and public things that they have the right to, and do use. Unless they don't ever leave their own compound, do not have mail, packages or food delivered over public roads, don't have access to fire, ambulance and police assistance, run their own radio, cable, power and sewage stations and plants, etc. etc. etc. Perhaps this is why people are so adverse to paying taxes - they don't understand how screwed they would be had they not access to all of these things.

Those ivory towers are not actually self-sufficient. That would entail generating *everything* they use or need on site. Including the manpower to protect what they have - which they currently only rent.
Posted by secretagent on November 27, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
Essentially, this is a horizontal condo. If they failed to have a reserve fund or insurance sufficient to meet this contingency I don't see why their "horizontal" problems should get them funding that "vertical" problems should not.

No, @1 is right: they are trying to socialize their losses, and should be told no. Regrettably, NYC already seems to be, de facto, saying yes:
Already city officials have dispatched private contractors with bulldozers to cart away the sand and concrete slabs from Sea Gate’s streets and trucks to vacuum the sand out of its sewers.
It would be amusing as all hell if the "public" locals set up armed guards at the entrances to Sea Gate, politely and helpfully telling any City services that they are making a wrong turn onto private property and respectfully showing them the way to public property.

Also, I'd be betting that the Sea Gate folks would be engaged in the mongo-iest of freakouts if NYC staff started to fix the internal pipes in some Harlem high-rise or Park Avenue condo.
Posted by seeker6079 on November 27, 2012 at 12:01 PM · Report this
From the NYT article:
William Korn, 52, the owner of a bakery who says his house in Sea Gate sustained over $300,000 in damage, said the city should pay for rebuilding the community even if it is gated because residents pay city taxes. “I don’t pay for water?” he said rhetorically, as if the question were absurd. “I don’t pay for real estate taxes — $6,000 a year? I don’t pay for services? I pay all those. Just because we have a private community? I pay for that private community.”
Actually, Mr. Korn, you pay taxes for one of two types of public goods and services: ones that everybody can use, such as roads and fire departments; ones that everybody is excluded from, such as secured areas of publicly owned buildings, such as the Mayor's study or the ops centre of the local precinct. Yes, Mr. Korn, you are entitled to have the city fix the water pipes ... right up to the point at which your private property begins and the public is excluded.
Posted by seeker6079 on November 27, 2012 at 12:10 PM · Report this
Knat 23
This sounds like one of those franchise neighborhoods referenced in Snow Crash. If we're already on the way to fulfilling that prophecy, I guess that makes Papa John's the most likely to take up the mantle of the pizza mafia, then.
Posted by Knat on November 27, 2012 at 12:48 PM · Report this
I think comment 7 is on the right track.

Sea Gate residents pay the same taxes as other New Yorkers, and in normal years (that is, non-Sandy years), they are receiving far less in city services as other New Yorkers (since Sea Gaters also pay a separate tax which pays for Sea Gate's roads, police, razor wire, etc.).

Dipping into New York City funds for disaster assistance isn't really so crazy and unfair, so long as this isn't the sort of thing they're doing frequently.
Posted by Functional Atheist on November 27, 2012 at 12:53 PM · Report this
Bonefish 25
22: Well there goes my hope of maintaining normal blood pressure for the day. So next time I spill coffee on my carpet or get a leaky roof, I'll just demand that the government pay for a new one, since I pay city taxes! How can these dipshits fail to understand that the thing they get in return for their city taxes is ACCESS TO THE FUCKING CITY? How can they keep a straight face and argue that they shouldn't pay for public education, but the public should pay for their private fucking driveway? Especially since the rationale seems to be that they have MORE money. Well then fucking USE it, assholes.

When idiots like this guy (and Bailo) stupidly demand that the government give rich people handouts for their private property, and then complain about poor people receiving handouts and accuse liberals of having the entitlement complex, it simultaneously amuses and infuriates me.

I bet the Germans have a word for that.
Posted by Bonefish on November 27, 2012 at 1:13 PM · Report this
@24: Kinda missing the point, aren't you? They chose that. And they received what they perceive to be fantastic benefits: private beaches, streets with only their neighours instead of drunken locals, a private police force in NYPD uniform to harass the riff-raff ...

They were happy with the deal until it came to something they couldn't handle. Now they want people who weren't allowed to walk on their streets to pay for repairing those streets. It's private property, so it's their problem. I'm not allowed to use the pool and gym of the condo down the street, but I'm not obliged to pay for their repair if a storm floods 'em, either. This is, essentially, a huge condo that just looks like a city neighbourhood.
Posted by seeker6079 on November 27, 2012 at 1:18 PM · Report this
While @16 makes an excellent point, if this area has some intermediate not-public-or-private status, if it's not owned by a corporation or co-op group, then maybe it should be eligible for a reduced percentage of the funds given to repair fully public infrastructure.

The question is this: What was the exact deal that Sea Gate residents made for their privacy? Did they purchase the land outright and convert it to legally private property? I'm feeling a "no" on that. Was the deal that they would take no public funds for their own water, police and upkeep while still paying full-price taxes as if they were? That doesn't seem to be the full story either.

Did the Sea Gate residents uphold their end of the deal and does repairing Sandy-induced damage to their infrastructure go above and beyond anything that they agreed to? If yes, then yes they should have access to some of the funds designated for Sandy repair. However, they should not get more than other neighborhoods. If most neighborhoods have streets but no fancy sea wall, then Sea Gate should get enough to repair streets but not their sea wall, etc. Sea Gate should get enough to repair standard beach jetties, not whatever name-brand supermegaultra jetties they have holding the sand in place.
Posted by DRF on November 27, 2012 at 1:27 PM · Report this
@9: "I bet the Germans have a word for that."

If they don't, may I suggest schadenverschieben? Instead of "joy in the damage or harm" it means (if google translate isn't lying to me) "shifting the damage or harm". Or perhaps schadenumgehung, meanigg evasion of the harm.

Of course, the underlying message from these people is essentially "fick dich", and "fuck you" is easier to spell, in either language.
Posted by seeker6079 on November 27, 2012 at 1:27 PM · Report this
Fortunate 29
Look, if something happens on your private property the city doesn't pay for it. It's that simple.

If the pipes from the street to my house, that run through my private property, break I don't call the town to fix them. I call a plumber and pay through the nose to get them fixed. If the pipes running up to my property break THEN I call the town.

When Sandy caused a tree to fall in my yard in NY I didn't call the town to come get it. They came and got the trees out of the PUBLIC street in front of my house, but the tree that fell on my PRIVATE property was my problem.

A gated community is ALL private property. It gets treated as if it were one big private plot of land, and the city is no more reprehensible to come on to that plot of land and fix problems on it than they are responsible to come onto my little plot of private land and fix problems there as well.

If a private, gated community is entitled to have public funds spent to fix it then I am entitled to have public funds fix problems on my land, and my neighbors are as well, and my relatives who don't live in gated communities are, and pretty much everyone is.

Just because their plot of PRIVATE land is huge and has streets running through it doesn't entitle it to be treated differently than my small plot of land that only has a driveway running through it.
Posted by Fortunate on November 27, 2012 at 1:53 PM · Report this
California Kid 30
29 for the win
Posted by California Kid on November 27, 2012 at 2:11 PM · Report this
@29 But that's the question: IS it private property? Are all the streets and pipes and beaches legally owned by a private individual or corporation?
Posted by DRF on November 27, 2012 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Private. And boy does it look it:,+b…
Posted by seeker6079 on November 27, 2012 at 2:25 PM · Report this
Fortunate 33
@31, if it isn't then they have no damn right to put a gate around it and keep people out.
Posted by Fortunate on November 27, 2012 at 2:36 PM · Report this
Dougsf 34
Isn't this what HOA dues are for? They words they are looking for are "special assessment."
Posted by Dougsf on November 27, 2012 at 2:46 PM · Report this
@33 But they might indeed have a right to put up that fence, legally if not naturally.

My take on this is that the State/City of New York should be held to its promises. That is the part of this that has implications for people who do not live in Sea Gate.

If the deal was, "We'll pay for all our own infrastructure and services and we'll keep paying full-price taxes and in return we want permission to put up guards and a fence," then that's what all parties should be held to.

If the response was "Okay, we're classifying your town as private property, so you will never get disaster funds," and everyone knew this in advance, then they should not get any Sandy funds. If it was "Your streets are still legally public property, this exchange applies only to ordinary upkeep, and you're eligible for the same emergency measures as everyone else" was part of the deal, then they should get their share. If this is a bad deal, then New York should not enter into any new such deals but should indeed honor existing agreements.

This question would best be answered in those "political efforts to open the streets to the public." If Sea Gate residents argued that they could close their gates because they were private property, then that's that. But if there were some other grounds, then maybe not.
Posted by DRF on November 27, 2012 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Bonefish 36
24: They might pay the same taxes, but they have special privacy (private streets, private security, etc). Their "same taxes" should give them access to all the same streets as other New Yorkers; instead, they have extra- they have access to some streets that other New Yorkers don't, because these streets are private. This isn't something that "the same taxes" should cover. This is something they should have to pay for themselves if they want it.

So no, they're not receiving less in city services. They're receiving the same in city services, and paying a little extra to receive a little extra (gates, security, private streets) themselves. This on its own would be fine, except now they want some of this "little extra" to be subsidized by the city at the expense of people who have no access to the streets they'd be helping pay to repair.

Other New Yorkers can't wall off their neighborhood and ban everyone else from entering. If they did, they'd no longer have the right to demand that these same outsiders fund their little chunk of walled off land. It’s one or the other. If you want to deny people access to your streets, then you can't use their money to repair those streets.

If these people don't like that, then they're free to go fuck themselves as they walk around NYC on publicly funded sidewalks in other neighborhoods.

Posted by Bonefish on November 27, 2012 at 3:15 PM · Report this
If you go to Google Maps you can see how Sea Gate is isolated from the rest of that part of Brooklyn, and how the neighbouring streets are on Streetview, but Sea Gate's streets aren't.
Posted by seeker6079 on November 27, 2012 at 3:46 PM · Report this
Alanmt 38
Yeah. They should not qualify for or be given disaster funds meant to repair infrastructure.

If you read the comments to the article from residents from sea gate or the other place, they sound embarrasingly entitled and coded racist.
Posted by Alanmt on November 27, 2012 at 4:27 PM · Report this
Preach it Dan!
Posted by Learned Hand on November 27, 2012 at 10:35 PM · Report this
So many morons have idiotic things to say agains Sea Gate residents; let me clarify two facts;

1-Sea Gate residents pay Federal, New York State and New York City taxes like every non-Sea Gate residents. That means that Sea Gate residents are entitled to public funds.
2-for the gate and private police and more, Sea Gate owners pay $2500 /year Sea Gate taxes; you morons dont pay that, but if you want, nobody stops you to rent or buy property in Sea-Gate, so you will benefit of everything, taxes and gated community.

Oh my God, where this country is going...when I see cretins everywhere.

Posted by Fedup33 on December 2, 2012 at 7:21 PM · Report this

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