Thursday, December 29, 2005

Changing Face of Kings Cross

Christmas is a funny time of year for newspapers. Everyone goes on holidays - the readers, journos and advertisers. The newspapers contract and the few unlucky journos left behind are often filling pages with a bit of puff. This was the case with the SMH's article below accompanied by two photographs of Kings Cross.

Unfortunately they purported to be pictures of 'then and now' promoting a new Fairfax picture book. It was 'then and now' but of two different sides of the street. In the article the SMH contended that Macleay Street is home to 'a large slice of Sydney's sex industry'. Unless I am mistaken the sex industry in the area has always been focused on the Darlinghurst Road area and terminated around Fitzroy Gardens and the fountain. No doubt though various bars and apartments scattered along Macleay Street hosted the sex industry during the years as did the gardens but not so today.

The article also reported that I had advocated Council purchasing the sex venues in Kings Cross and close them down. Not quite correct but a repeat of misinformation put about by the political left. I admire Rudolf Giuliani's clean up of Times Square using his powers of compulsory acquisition - but NSW Council's do not posses these powers unless agreed to by the State government (rae and usually only for new roads etc). What I suggested was a more cost effective and sophisticated developer bonus scheme that gave incentive to the property owners (eg FSR bonus) in return for them surrendering the sex use rights and approvals on their property. These uses could in fact be reinstated but under much stronger conditions and governance from Council. (Read about this idea here).

As a sign of the slow season today's letters pages of the SMH are either talking about Kerry Packer or the Macleay Street puff piece. One writer praises Clover Moore for trying to clean up the Cross. So far I have not seen her do a thing for Kings Cross other than ride to glory on other people's work. All the positive activity in the area has been the result of the vision and work of Lucy Turnbull (and dare I suggest Frank Sartor). The streetscape upgrade, heritage plaques, new Library and Neighbourhood Centre, floral displays, banner poles and the new Rex community centre - all Lucy's legacy. Clover has managed to derail the Wayside Chapel rebuilding and upgrade plans and has largely walked away from the Cross as too hard. I called for the FSR bonus to push along the upgrade and continue to call for a planning focus on the area to postively harness the area's changes.

The other letter published today accuses the Council of not facing reality that a city needs a red light district. I agree to a point, but not a red light district of the bad old days dominated by hard drugs, exploitation of women, wholesale violence and multi level corruption. 'Naughty but Nice' has been the catch phrase for the new Cross. A Kings Cross where the responsible adult industry has returned, exciting strip shows and burlesque and not heroin addled pole dancers looking after bus loads of drunk aggressive footballers to solicit.

Today the sex industry has massively decentralised and diversified. From the brothel in the car park of a suburban shopping centre to the ever present internet, the access and face of the industry has irrevocably altered. Council, the community and especially the industry has an opportunity to showcase Kings Cross as the top end of the adult entertainment industry.

City leaders want less of a blue hue in red-light district

Plus ça change  Macleay Street, pictured in 1933, is home to a large slice of Sydney's sex industry, but the Lord Mayor wants to make the Cross more family-friendly.
By Bonnie MalkinDecember 28, 2005

FROM the neon signs inviting passers-by into dimly lit "massage parlours" and strip clubs, to the infamous characters who have populated its art deco apartment blocks, Kings Cross has always had a wild reputation.
Today the Cross stands at a crossroads between its loud and lively past and a decidedly more conservative future.
The Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, is bent on turning the city's most famous red-light district into another urban village, akin to neighbouring Darlinghurst or Elizabeth Bay.
Ms Moore wants some of the Cross's infamous nightclubs and brothels, and the workers who spruik them, replaced by services for locals and a friendlier atmosphere.
The transformation has begun. Last year, the City of Sydney Council spent $30 million transforming parts of the Cross into areas of stylish apartments, cafes and restaurants.
A Liberal councillor, Shayne Mallard, suggested the council should buy the sex clubs, striptease venues, adult shops and convert them into more family-friendly businesses.
The clean and serene future Kings Cross seems destined for is a far cry from its former life as the bohemian heart of Sydney.
In the 1930s, when the suburb's iconic art deco apartment blocks were being built, the Cross hosted a thriving community of painters, actors, criminals, and madams and their prostitutes.
The area, as depicted in the above photograph of Macleay Street (one of thousands reviewed for The Big Picture: Diary of a Nation, the book celebrating 175 years of The Sydney Morning Herald), was widely known as a red-light district. Trams rattled down the main street every half-hour until 2am, ferrying gawpers, locals and punters in and out. Today Macleay Street is better known as a haven for backpackers and late-night drinkers, and as a reminder of glory days gone by.

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