Tuesday, October 9, 2007

El Barrio Humboldt Park No Se Vende

A community rising against gentrification and leaders disavowing violence show some of the positive motions happening here in Humboldt park, notes community newsletter La Voz del Paseo Boricua.

Some hints of a bustling civil society, public spheres in action:

October 19-20th, religious leaders will organize with Ald. Billy Ocasio to march on Humboldt park and hold an overnight candlelight vigil against gun violence in the neighborhood. The demonstration is dubbed EX 20:13, in reference to the bible verse where God gave the commandment, Do Not Kill.

"The greatest threat to our lives isn't terrorism or radicalism in the Middle East or some far away land; it's the church's failure to take a firm stance against violence here..." says Rev. Wilfredo de Jesus in La Voz.

Hundreds of demonstrators are predicted to be on tap, urging greater gun-control laws and faith conviction to change cultures of violence. It's refreshing to see moral outrage made into good public policy, even though Chuck Heston (Moses) would disapprove.

November 3, Humboldt Park Empowerment Partnership’s Housing Team will host the first affordable housing summit with various community groups. Residents have complained that rising rents and property taxes along with pressure from developers are prompting longtime residents to clear the way for gentrification.

It's similar to the debate in Madison, where residents are complaining about city-funded condo development in Allied Drive. Sure, owner-occupied housing allows residents to put a larger stake in their communities than a often transient rental market. But moving poorer populations doesn't make sense in the long-run if you want to transform a neighborhood for the better.

Getting Back to Humboldt... If the city wants to ameliorate the quality of life in an area, try replacing the ubiquitous Dunkin' Doughnuts, liquor stores and Cash Stores with colleges and financial planning centers.

Mayor Daley's addiction to TIF-funded condos leaves longtime residents in the same rut, only relocated somewhere else.

25 comments:

matthew said...

Unfortunately alot of those stores, check-cashing and appliance-rental work quite successfully in lower class areas. And they prey on poor people.

But unlike a deficient housing structures, they really aren't 'blighted,' and I'm not sure just replacing them is a feasable option, either legally, morally, or financially.

But mainly, I think the onion got it right.

Seriously though, there is no magical solution. But activism such as you are describing from the citizens goes much further than a TIF district ever could.

matthew said...

I think morally is a bit harsh in that second paragraph. Which is why I'm not an actual libertarian, but legally and financially, it would be quite hard for the government to simply close predatory operations that are completely legal and profitable, despite their more sinister aspects.

B. Broeren said...

Yeah, I liked that Onion article because it was so true to Madison. Developers want to reinvigorate an eyesore stripmall into a mixed-use, high-rise development. Smelly vegans come out in droves to protest the new Whole Foods.

Increasing property value is a good thing for owners, equity, but bad for renters whose median income is 30K per household. On a purely ethical level, pricing renters out of their homes is a bad thing if there is no investment in that area to build opportunities for higher income.

Of course, you can't force predatory lenders and fried food factories to stay out of certain neighborhoods. But there are zoning laws, which have been used with some success to distance porn stores from residential and school areas.

And the state is encroaching deeper into people's (un)healthy lifestyles. Which I'm not entirely for. The only main argument I hear out of the smoking ban crowd is that they don't want people to get cancer, and any businesses whose sales are contingent on allowing smoking don't deserve to be in business. Can't adults make decisions about consuming legal drugs? Do people go to bars to be healthy? Can't certain bars opt, on their own, to be smoke free? There's certainly a market for it.

I digress...

Legal, financial options to turn around neighborhoods: Why not build incentives (tax and others) for a grocery store to be built in a run down area? Kid's eating sugar on the way to school is natural given the fact that a local grocery is a kwik mart. A real grocery also creates clean, productive jobs, often with decent pay and benefits (even if you do have to answer stupid questions during the application process: Do you have bad thoughts?).

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