By Dr. Selwyn R. Cudjoe
May 05, 2016
At some point the People’s National Movement (PNM) will have to decide whether it supports the moneyed interest of the society or the ordinary people whose votes put them in power. Much too often when the interests of the people is at stake, the hierarchy of the party tends to side with moneyed interest at the expense of the people.
The Trincity community, under its umbrella organization, Trincity Advocates for a Sustainable Community (TASC), objects to the construction of a five-story building—seven levels if we include the basement and an extension at the top—at the center of this peaceful community. The residents argue that the construction of such a building will damage their homes structurally, increase flooding in the area, and disrupt their social lifestyles.
Trincity came into existence in the 1960s when the Trinidad Sugar Estates (TSE), under one of its subsidiaries, International Properties Development, built houses on their sugar lands to alleviate the economic difficulty the company was going through. In 1975, TSE sold the estate to Home Construction Limited (HCL), a group of developers led by Tajmool Hosein and Ameer Ali Edoo for $15,016,800. With a capital of $780,000, HCL borrowed the rest of the money from Barclays Bank to finalize its purchase. Over the past fifty years HCL has made hundreds of millions from that investment of $780,000.
This sale, conducted under the aegis of the PNM, disregarded the impact it would have on the people. I have documented this sleazy deal in my book Movement of the People (1983). In 1983 I was placed into a cell at the Arouca Police Station for opposing the building of the Trincity Mall on land that was confiscated from Dinsley farmers. When the early residents arrived in Trincity in 1965, large parcels of land were set aside for community centers, playing fields, and so on. By 2016, the population swelled to about 15,000 people making Trincity a comfortable place in which to live. Many persons invested their life savings to achieve this dream homes.
Today, if one went into Trincity, one would not see a football field, a community center, a health center, or any other facility that contributes to the people’s development. Millennium Park, the only green space in the area, is reserved for golfers.
TASC fears the impact this building will have on the livability of its aging community. No building in the area is more than two stories high. When the citizens first arrived, it was generally agreed, that in keeping with architectural harmony of the area, no building should be more than two stories high. Many residents even opposed the construction of a three-story building at Millennium Park.
Now comes Bhagwansing with its proposal to build a five-story, seven-level building on the banks of the Miss Gutter Ravine, a river that lies about 75 feet from the nearest home. It would contain 230 parking spaces. Apart from the disruption such a building will cause to community life, the concentration of so many people and so much traffic will spread the seeds of greater violence and increased crime.
On April 30, at its second consultation with the community, Bhagwansingh informed the residents it had the necessary approvals to start construction. This led Dr. Carol James to ask how much, if any, consideration was given to the human factor in this frenzied building activity. I want to know how a five-story, seven-level monstrosity will harmonize itself architecturally within the area.
Camile Robinson Regis insists that the site on which Bhagwangansingh plans to construct its building was always meant for commercial use. Residents have a different understanding of this matter, when and how it occurred. Even if the former were true, is Ms. Regis Robinson willing to argue that this stipulation is writ in stone? Were residents consulted when this decision was made?
Residents recognize there must be a balance between social, economic, and environmental demands. At the October 2015 consultation, Paul Leacock suggested that the building be placed in HCL Business Park that is located not far from where Bhagwansingh’s hardware store is now located. He noted, “It would make more sense to place the building inside there since it is a commercial building.”
The residents are angry. They want to know on whose side PNM’s Executive and Robinson Regis have aligned themselves. They even wonder if people’s lives really matter to the PNM.