Monday, April 4, 2011

Chatham Towers and Chatham Green Withdraw from The Chinatown Working Group

Chatham Green co op photo: midcenturymundane
Chatham Towers co op photo: condodomain

In an emailed letter today two residential co ops informed the CWG co-chairs that their properties and volunteer boards are formally withdrawing from the planning exercise known for the last two years as "The Chinatown Working Group". Danny Chen submitted the following statement:

"To: Members of the Chinatown Work Group

With this letter we would like to announce the withdrawal of our two buildings, Chatham Green and Chatham Towers, from active participation in the Chinatown Work Group. We each have our reasons for withdrawing but we have common hopes and concerns which we would like to share with you.

Two years ago, when presented with the opportunity to participate in what appeared to be a
ground breaking effort to bring the minds and voices of our community together, we deliberated on the pros and cons of participating. The pessimistic view said that the effort would be mired in politics while the optimistic view saw a wonderful opportunity to amplify our own voices to get the City to focus on the right issues for our community. Looking back, we can say there were elements of the CWG that both the optimists and the pessimists could point to in support of their views.

As members of volunteer boards for our respective co-ops, we are forced to choose where
we focus our time and attention. Despite our best efforts to open the organization to different
modes of communication and participation, CWG participation remains constrained to the once monthly in-person meetings - with alternate meetings occurring during business hours. Our calls to open up the CWG mail list to facilitate member to member communications have been met with puzzling resistance. There is no better example of this than this very letter - which we are forced to route through the co-chairs for distribution. We also note that our suggestions for weighted voting for “decision making” seems have fallen off the agenda for discussion.

Despite all this, we feel that our participation in the CWG has been worthwhile. We have met
some truly dedicated people who sacrifice much for our community. On the flip side, we have
also met people from outside of our community with a disproportionate voice in the CWG.
Navigating the politics of trying distinguish altruistic volunteers from potential carpet baggers
has been an interesting experience.

The draft Preliminary Action Plans represent a good amount of work and captures some of
the issues that are relevant to our community. And while we have often objected to co-chairs
stepping beyond their roles as “facilitators” and instead acting like former President Bushstyle
“deciders”, we commend all co-chairs, past and present, for taking on the facilitator role. It
is a difficult role but we should all remember that when one makes a unilateral decision, voices
are being silenced.

We end this letter with well wishes and a note of caution. Even though much work has gone
into drafting the various Preliminary Action Plans, even more work is required to keep these
documents “alive”. These documents should have an “expiration date”. Otherwise, future
decision makers may be basing their direction on ideas that have gone “rancid”.

Danny Chen, Chatham Green
Jeanie Chin, Chatham Towers