Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tired of this Slum Park: A Photo Tour

A can of Milwaukee's Best lies in Shaw's Worst.

Nearly every day, I walk or bike in frustration by the "park" on the 600 Block of N Street NW. A brief numeric summary of its history:
  • 1 block from the convention center
  • 2 murders in the last 3 years
  • 3 community meetings (at least) to determine its future that went nowhere
  • 4 broken lights that were finally fixed after 5 years of being broken (the only progress made on the park in a very long time); and
  • Decades of abandonment, crime, public drinking, and drugs.
So why do we have still have this crime magnet, this eyesore in the heart of Shaw...

Community meetings did not bring about a renovation because government officials refused to move forward by blaming residents for not reach a consensus on a vision for the park -- basketball courts, a playground, tennis courts, or benches and green space, etc. A joint survey was widely distributed by a number of neighborhood groups by hand and online, which was also dismissed. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (2C) continues to refuse to take a leadership role, under the previous and current commissioners. Councilmember Jack Evans at one point (during a campaign) pledged an immediate $250,000 to redesign the park and get improvements moving. It didn't materialize.

Meanwhile, the United House of Prayer, which owns a substantial portion of the surrounding apartment complexes and is a political force, has pushed hard for the city to transfer the property to them for development. Most neighbors strongly oppose giving away public property and precious (potential) green space. UHOP, however, views the park as having a history of nothing but crime (in fact, UHOP refuses to acknowledge the parcel as a "park" at all given its long abandonment) with the only way to cure the problem as building on it. Nevertheless, in all of the community meetings that have come up on this issue, I've never seen or heard of a concrete plan as to what UHOP would pay for the parcel and how they would develop it.

Here's what I would propose. First, there are some elements that most, if not all, neighborhood residents agree should happen: (1) Remove the ugly chain link fence, the remnants of basketball hoops, and the broken concrete; (2) Remove the concrete planters that surround the entrance to the park, which only provide a barrier and hiding place; and (3) Install a new wrought iron fence around the park. (The final element was fixing the lighting - which did happen, although new light fixtures are needed at some point). Second, instead of placing the responsibility with the neighborhood to design a park, the Department of Parks and Recreation should come up with 3 alternative designs to present to the community. Ultimately, the ANC should vote to select one. Finally, DPR might enter a memorandum of understanding with UHOP, by which UHOP housing management would be permitted to lock the park after dark and assist in maintaining it. We should set a goal of obtaining funding, developing the design options, obtaining ANC approval within 2009, and breaking ground, completing the restoration, and naming the park in 2010.

Enough of my rantings, and now for our tour. From top to bottom, left to right:
  1. View of the park from N Street NW;
  2. A fence was recently erected around this structure, which I believe is a vent for metro, which is now filled with trash;
  3. A sorry excuse for a basketball hoop - does anyone actually shoot into a milk crate or is this urban art?;
  4. A makeshift backboard - look closely and you can see that the streetlight is leaning at an odd angle;
  5. A garbage bag attached to the park fence - yes, those are dozens of singles;
  6. Sneakers hang from the tree at the entrance to the park, marking a spot where a person was killed.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Cary, there is one reason and only one reason why the park is a dump and a crime magnet: the officers of the MPD do not do their job. Councilmembers aren't willing to address it, the mayor's office isn't willing to address it, and MPD higher-ups certainly aren't willing to address it.

Local cops aren't at all familiar with the idea of "protect and serve" -- most of the officers are just out there to drive around and collect a paycheck.

It would be the simplest thing in the world to have a regular foot patrol, to have a cop roll by there every 15 minutes, and arrest everyone who is breaking a city law. Drinking in public? Spend the night in jail. Littering? Appearance ticket.

Start enforcing the laws and the city will be a nicer place. Keep the bums on the police force and a hefty group of people will continue to treat the city like a sewer while elected "leaders" talk about goofy community meetings and expensive infrastructure improvements while pretending that widespread apathy and outright corruption do not exist in local government.