The headline picture on this blog was taken from a house on my street. That house is currently under major renovation and, until recently, belonged to a very notorious slumlord in Richmond. In fact, five houses are currently being flipped/just flipped in the span of two blocks on my street. Only one of those houses had residents that were required to move (due to their extended family selling the house). All four of the others, I’m happy to say, were unoccupied, and will soon be put to better use!
It’s refreshing to see these houses being brought to new life, to be homes for lives and new stories within them.
Written by another resident in our community with regard to a send-off celebration we threw in honor of our last Sector Lieutenant:
Last night was truly this neighborhood at its finest, from the reports during the meeting right through to the presentation and celebration. It was a testament to what can be accomplished when we work together (even when we disagree!) to make our neighborhood better. It showed that people are working, up front and behind the scenes, in numerous ways and made me proud to have neighbors who work so diligently and sacrificially on behalf of others. So thanks to those who have been a part of bettering this neighborhood for many years and thanks to those who have recently gotten involved. We may still have a ways to go, but we certainly have come a long way and it is because people are actively engaged in and doing the hard work of being a true neighbor. Sometimes the results of all the work aren’t so visible, but last night gave us a glimpse that they exist.
This article , quoting Robert Schiller, Yale professor and housing market guru, discusses the still slow road ahead, but notes that the shift in housing is toward renting and city living. So, for those of us who are waiting to see our revitalization efforts speed up with a housing recovery, it may not be fast, but it seems we are in a better position than the ‘burb dwellers.
I’ve seen many ways of coping for people who chose to move to our transitional neighborhood, including a mix of actions:
· Dig in the heels, stake a claim, and work to make a bad block better;
· Escape to another neighborhood when faced with a bad neighbor;
· Move to a quieter block within our neighborhood;
· Pretend that certain unpleasant activities aren’t happening right around the corner;
· Do nothing, and hope for an escape route; and
· Be proactive, and plan for a possible move.
So, now we are in an in-between phase of continuing our proactive work in the neighborhood, completing some big house projects, and debating our long-term future here. Within the neighborhood, there have been leaps and bounds since our arrival. To be honest, the neighborhood has been especially pleasant for the past two years. Our police lieutenant has worked with our neighborhood and changed the way police and neighbors work together. Despite the recession, old houses are slowly purchased by responsible homeowners.
But, then I drive out of the neighborhood and onto the commercial strip (which is the main access for our neighborhood). All that good, gooey feeling melts away: groups of young men selling hard drugs on the corners who all live in the neighborhood north of us; constant litter that blows onto the residential streets from the corridor; dilapidated storefronts; a used car lot that gouges people for trashed vehicles… the list continues. That is the immediate welcome for those brave enough to drive into our area – a shock for most suburbanite friends who roll up the windows and lock the doors on their way into our neighborhood.
I wonder how much I see and don’t see by having been here for four years. I know there’s been immense change, and sometimes it’s hard for many of us to see when we are always fighting some small battle: the last standing drug house, the ABC license for the nuisance store, the litter from the one bad renter. Our home is a resting place, but often the larger surroundings are anything but…
Our neighbor, George Winston II, died in February. He was 92, served in WWII, and could be seen on his front porch almost every day. “The Old Man Club”, as my husband and I called it, was a collection of George, some buddies, a little television (from us), beers, and hot dogs grilling on his front porch most spring, summer, and early fall days. Winston was my elderly hero: living and loving life. But, just so there isn’t confusion on what a sweet old, man he was, I should tell you, on one of my jogs, he yelled at me, “You could just push away from the dinner table!”
Recently, my husband and I were discussing the neighborhood. I was noting how much had changed since our first year here. My husband then said, “It’s not that the neighborhood has changed, you’ve just become comfortable with it.” I didn’t answer, but thought over that statement for a few days. Finally, I gave him my reply:
1. As was uncovered with more discussion, he has become more comfortable here. Given that he grew up in a very segregated city, living in a transitional and mixed neighborhood required internal adjustment.
2. Plenty has changed. Here’s a list:
– In my first year, I picked up litter weekly on our block. I haven’t done that since.
– On our street (three blocks long), six houses that were vacant have sold to proactive homeowners in three years.
– On our street, multiple rental properties have been repaired and rented to responsible individuals/families. There are now lots of children on our street, and decrepit houses are gone.
– The drug houses are no longer in swing on our street. There is a small-time operator that has been dealing for someone else, but there is a current neighborhood initiative that should soon abate his dealing.
– Ours was one of the roughest streets in our neighborhood when we moved here. That is no longer the reality we face.
– Boom boom cars are no longer an hourly occurrence. In fact, they aren’t even a daily occurrence on the street.
– Our neighborhood association has gained clout after shutting down a nightclub, and now gets real action when needed from our City.
– Our sector lieutenant, who replaced the one from our first year, has been extraordinary in working with the neighborhood to eliminate issues. He has gone above and beyond to ensure a safe and quiet neighborhood.
Bad neighbors: we are talking about the ones who beat their kids (yes, we’ve called CPS), filter drugs, spend hours yelling out on the street, try to pick fights, etc.
These neighbors will usually be temporary, especially if they are renters. However, you have to know when to strike. While you wait for the opportune time, here are some things that will help when the time comes: rack up calls to the police on the address (always use the address as you can request calls for service to a particular address); if kids are involved and it is warranted, call child protective services; if they are renters, there are laws in many states that hold the homeowner responsible if the owner knows about drug blight, so forward copies of calls for service/ arrest records to the owner by certified mail (and save the certification notice if you need to meet with your DA’s office later).
Sometimes, the gods will shine upon you, and the electric company will turn off this neighbor’s power after the neighbor used everyone’s name in the household to restart the service. Then, sometimes they will shine brighter when the electric company takes away the box because said neighbor rigged up a line and stole the electricity. Then, you simply have to make the city aware, and the property is condemned and said neighbors are escorted out of the house. Then, a peaceful calm will descend upon your street, and a few neighbors will let you know they are glad because they suspect you had something to do with the disappearance of said neighbor. I do apologize to whomever encounters this neighbor next, but the opportunity had to be taken!