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What does “NIMBY” Mean ?

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, the staff of the Ridgewood once again explores the topic of what is a “NIMBY” .

NIMBY, an acronym for the phrase “not in my back yard”, or Nimby, is a characterization of opposition by residents to proposed developments in their local area, as well as support for strict land use regulations. It carries the connotation that such residents are only opposing the development because it is close to them and that they would tolerate or support it if it were built farther away. The residents are often called Nimbys, and their viewpoint is called Nimbyism. The NIMBY tendency has been described as a bipartisan phenomenon.

Peter D. Kinder ,Director of the Vermont Community Foundation and a Trustee at Green Mountain College, Poultney, Vermont. ( ), explains the issue ,

“Not in My Backyard Phenomenon (NIMBY), also called Nimby, a colloquialism signifying one’s opposition to the locating of something considered undesirable in one’s neighborhood. The phrase seems to have appeared first in the mid-1970s. It was used in the context of the last major effort by electric utilities to construct nuclear-powered generating stations, especially those located in Seabrook, New Hampshire, and Midland, Michigan.”

“The phrase “not in my backyard” has two distinct usages and categories of users. In some circumstances, it connotes the unwillingness of individuals to accept the construction of large-scale projects by corporations or governmental entities nearby, which might affect their quality of life and the value of their property. Project proponents (which usually consist of the sponsoring corporation, construction labor unions and contractors, etc.) tend to use the phrase in this manner. The phrase is also used by social service and environmental justice advocates to imply an absence of social conscience expressed by a class-, race-, or disability-based opposition to the location of social-service facilities in neighborhoods.”

“The negative connotation of “not in my backyard”comes from the fact that those opposing high-impact projects on environmental grounds tend to have middle-class or lower-class origins. As a result the phrase may be used by project proponents as part of a wedge issue (a political issue that divides a candidate’s supporters or the members of a party). The phrase has a double edge, which makes it difficult to cope with for people so labeled. On one hand, it implies that project opponents want poor people and poor neighborhoods to bear the burdens of toxic waste facilities or quarries, whereas, on the other, it suggests that opponents are willing to sacrifice the blue-collar jobs that would be generated by the construction and operation of the facility.”

Landscape architect  and former Ridgewood resident  James Rose put it more succinctly with his now famous design maximum, “the problem is you live here” .

The “NIMBY” word has once again resurfaced , with the dreaded pickleball , and a private business in Habernickle park . In the past the Ridgewood blog has chronicled  the battle over turf fields, Valley Hospital , Cell towers, and high density housing all littered with the use of  word “NIMBY” .

The corollary is , “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” (Joseph Heller, Catch-22)  meaning just because you don’t want it in your backyard doesn’t make you automatically wrong . So what is the difference , who should decide , what is the personal responsibility , what are realistic expectations  and why can’t we all just get along ( Rodney King )?

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