Monday, June 13, 2011

Tales Of The City # 1

Adam Williams
When So You Think You Can Dance's Adam Williams posted a message on his Facebook page about the annoying $168 parking fine he picked up a few weeks ago after leaving his car at Taylor's Square for a just a few minutes, he identified a growing frustration that is building in the inner city of Sydney- and Lord Mayor Clover Moore could pay a price.

Word comes to the Shuttle that a group of Oxford Street businessmen on the Golden Mile between Whitlam Square and Paddington Town Hall are planning to actively oppose Moore's re-election plans and help drum up support for other candidates.

The business, nightclub and restaurant heart of Sydney  has been Clover Moore's domain as the MP for the Sydney electorate and as Lord Mayor. Her support comes from young professionals and the huge gay and lesbian community. But that support is waning with many disaffected voters viewing Moore as someone who is consolidating power for power's sake and pushing her unpopular ideas of how the city should be.

Clover Moore
One of those ideas-the ugly bike lanes that have sprung up all over the city leaving already narrow roads with even less space and ugly concrete barriers taking up even more space. They are hardly used except by a handful of cyclists.

To promote the lanes Moore took to a bike herself and promptly fell off and broke her wrist. Then it was discovered that she has not one, but two much coveted free car parking spots near the Town Hall.

That Moore's army of parking wardens are viewed as heavy handed is rubbing salt into the wounds. Drivers are paying exorbitant fines for a myriad of infractions. Evening parking limits of 2 hours are  believed to have driven out dozens of small in-expensive restaurants to outer regions leaving places like Kings Cross and Oxford Street, once pleasant dining areas depressingly sleazy with fast food outlets that become a haven for hundreds of drunks in the early hours.

The Golden Mile, Oxford Street is now deserted until around 10pm when thousands of teens flock to the many gay nightclubs and pubs. There is nothing in between.

The City Council's much vaunted plans for Taylor's Square that are trotted out almost yearly never materialise. International designers have been consulted and say Taylor's Square, on one of Sydney's major routes from the airport into the city via Oxford Street could become a broad boulevard reminiscent of the great cites with the square a haven for outdoor cafes and grand statues. Instead it gets dirtier, dustier and more depressing every year. A sad attempt at a 'fountain'-water spurting from a dozen jets on one side of the square is popular with thirsty dogs but few humans.

William St-even the hookers have fled
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating's call for William Street leading up to Kings Cross to be transformed into a mini Champs Elysee has fallen on deaf ears. The glitzy boutique Royalty Prussia is the only retailer to have taken up the challenge. Luxury auto showrooms like Ferrari have fled to the inner west. Even the once colourful transvestite hookers who populated the street around mid-night have fled.

Many residents and business groups are asking just what has been gained by having Moore as both local MP and Lord Mayor. As an independent she gains no support from either the Liberal or Labor Party who would both like to see her gone and who prefer to concentrate their resources on the outer suburbs where their support is strong.

All this is infuriating around 30 local inner city businessmen who feel Moore has betrayed them over her much talked about plans to regenerate Oxford Street and it's many small alleyways into smart cafes, art precincts and so on. It's all been a miserable failure according to them.

Last week the multi-millionaire nightclub owner Justin Hemmes found himself with a pistol held to his head as two balaclavered thugs robbed his newly purchased Excelsior Hotel in Surry Hills. The bandits were so emboldened that they ignored the fact that the pub was packed at the time and their get-away car parked next to a police car outside. They fled with the loot while the coppers looked on.

Justin Hemmes
A distressed Hemmes and his father John Hemmes can be seen in this video arguing with police about the incident. Hemmes who has invested something like $200M in various nightclubs and pubs including the Ivy complex in the city was furious when Moore and police wanted to impose strict drinking hours and curtail his operations earlier last year.
They backed down on that one and Hemmes says the problem is rather one of few police on patrol in a city that now operates 24 hours of the day. Rather than trying to dictate to tens of thousands of young people just what hours they should start and end their partying, authorities and Moore should be curtailing the handful of troublemakers rather than make everyone suffer because of a few. Hemmes says he feels safer walking the streets of New York rather than Sydney.

Five years ago Clover Moore was the unchallenged Queen of Sydney but her crown is tarnished, some say beyond repair. Is it any wonder many are fuming over a report in City Hub newspaper earlier this year where Moore was spotted drink in hand on the footpath at Harbour City Bears art show for the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. Other galleries, bars and cafes who put a foot wrong end up with fines for thousand of dollars for similar infractions.

Seen in The City :

outside St Mary's Cathedral

at Star City