Tuesday, June 9, 2009

On the Street Where We Live

I think I’ve mentioned that our neighborhood is, um, “transitional.” We’re in a historic neighborhood close to the center of town, and you know what that means: nonresident landlords who purchase properties on speculation, renting cheap, putting the least they can into maintenance. As the properties deteriorate, the landlords rent more and more cheaply, and the quality of our neighbors has declined along with the neighborhood in general.

Since moving here, I’ve learned the phrase “demolition by neglect,” which means that by the time the landlord wants to raze the formerly quaint old building, it’s in such sad shape that it’s not worth saving, that they can actually make more money off the property by paving it and charging for surface parking than they can for renting the decrepit old house. By the time the landlord tears down the building, most people are glad to see it go. This process is so painful to watch.

One of the hardest things to take was when the last true oldtimer on our street passed away. When Dorothy died, her nephew and other survivors sold her property to one of these landlords.

And ever since he’s bought the house, he’s had a string of dysfunctional, immature, helpless, loud, LOUD, messy, destructive tenants. We’ve seen drug sales over there, and oh-so-much-more. I can’t begin to guess the number of times we’ve called the police about things going on over there.

The tenants occupying the home currently are on their way to being evicted; the court date is June 11, and I hear we have ten days beyond that before they are booted out. I understand they haven’t paid their rent since March.

I don’t think any of them in that house work. They are up all night, playing their car stereo, complete with subwoofers, as loudly as possible. All night long. I’m so sick of Pink Floyd and heavy metal. We call the police with noise complaints, the police come and talk to them; then the police leave, and the tenants scream at us (“Bitches! Fag bitches!”), then spike the noise level at odd intervals, slam their car doors and hoods. Just to keep us awake.

And that’s just one house on our street. In the eight years that we’ve lived here, we’ve had our cars vandalized more than once, we’ve had guns fired across our property, we’ve been flipped off, screamed at, and we’ve had a flower bed trampled.

We’ve seen neighbors have bonfires of trash in their front yard, into which they’ve thrown Coke cans filled with gasoline. We constantly hear rap cars going “boom-boom” down the street, crappy cars, rattling doors and fenders with each low pulse; police cars and ambulances are always responding to calls within a block of our house. Once a week it seems the cops or the EMTs are here for something.

Last fall, we had one slum building—an old house that had been broken into a six-plex ca. the 1970s—burn down. It was just three houses from ours. It was arson, from angry, drunken, squatter non-tenants who were angry they were being made to leave—and we were incredibly happy when we heard the building was a total loss. No more habitat for low-life humanity on that particular little patch of land.

On the bright side, we have an active neighborhood association, composed of the owners of many local businesses as well as others interested in the neighborhood, including some resident landowners. And the neighborhood association is making progress.

It’s going to take a lot of work here in our ’hood to make it into a place where we’re truly comfortable, and there are all kinds of things that will help. Carrots for some, sticks for others. Political work, legal work, social work, economic work, sweat work.

Anyway. I wanted to provide this background so that I can tell you more soon, because there have been some developments that have been blowing my mind and opening my heart.

1 comment:

JaneL said...

Hey, don't leave us hanging! After this fairly depressing summary of your past troubles, I'm ready for the heart-warming part.