Friday, October 12, 2007

On The Existence of The Soul

Today's Brooklyn Eagle ran an editorial by Dennis Holt on the subject of 'Brooklyn Soul.' Basically, Holt's argument seems to be that the idea of resisting development in order to preserve 'Brooklyn's soul' is sentimental, nostalgic nonsense. The discussion mainly centers on the redevelopment of Downtown Brooklyn, but he does throw Coney Island in at the end:

So when I look at a vision of what the new Downtown Brooklyn will look like, it's hard for me to conjure up matters relating to soul. Nor, when I see the remains of the old Coney Island, and plans to build a new one, do I think of soul.

Holt's point is valid up to certain point. Change and evolution are an inevitable part of the life of a city, and to arbitrarily pinpoint a place at which evolution should stop is reactionary and unprogressive. Just because Coney Island looked a certain way in 1896 doesn't mean that Coney Island needs to look that way now. Nonetheless, Holt's blanket dismissal of the relevance of 'soul' in issues of development is callous and flawed. One of the common definitions of the term 'soul' is 'the essence of something.' Coney Island- and Downtown Brooklyn, for that matter- clearly possesses a certain essence, which is recognized in New York and throughout the world. Redevelopment should not be focused on clinging to a place's past, but it should be about preserving the place's essence, while continuing to evolve.

- post by Ben Nadler

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