The streatery initiative is élitist
07 August, 2020
• WHILE I fully support the idea of helping local businesses and restaurants, I must say that the Belsize Square Streatery initiative is highly exclusionary, élitist and, after all, disturbing, (‘Streatery’ up and running in Belsize Village, but is it like Parisian dining?, July 10).
There are several issues which must be dealt with in order to make the streatery a proper – by this I mean inclusive – community initiative.
First, what we can witness is public space rolling down a slippery slope. The public space used to be highly frequented by the direct residents of Belsize Square for recreational purposes and social life.
I now no longer see elderly people coming together, the pet owners, the children playing on the square, the dancing and sports crews that used to practise on the square.
This is the final death blow to the amenities that make a diverse neighbourhood possible.
The backsliding of public space is inherently perilous and must be dealt with responsibly. I don’t think that repurposing public space for seven days a week, 10 hours a day, displays the appropriate level of responsibility and care.
Second, there is a repugnant divide between the people who inhabit the buildings facing the square, but unable to enjoy it, and those socio-economically privileged inhabitants inhabiting the side streets who seem to enjoy the “piazza”.
Those directly affected by the repurposed Belsize Square, that is, those who bear the (metaphorical and in some sense actual) costs, are jobseekers, low-income, students. Some have lost their job during the pandemic, struggling to make ends meet, many are working from home.
The sound level makes working from home incredibly difficult. But besides that, those who are negatively affected by the streatery generally lack the financial means to participate, to buy the foods and drinks that are being offered; making it at least a morally difficult situation of overt inequality.
I cannot think of a way to fix those issues without rolling back on the support of the local businesses. Creative solutions are required. I am sure there is some form of compromise to be found, if only in the form of recognition.