Monday, August 25, 2014

Baker Field Cleanup 2

We are starting to make a difference. 

The second Baker Field Cleanup (Saturday, August 23rd) was a great success. People really dug deep and finished some serious work. The entire east side of Baker Field (the Holland Street side) looks like a well maintained piece of property. Here's a recap:

1. Sidewalk edging - completed from the edge of the pallet garden, south on Holland to E. 33rd, and around the corner as well. This is the job that required the most people power. Justin led the way. 
Justin F. working the edger

Everyone contributed to the edging effort...



We took all of the grass, weed, and dirt "waste" and made a compost pile in the northwest side of the field behind the baseball facility.

2. Soccer goals - Keegan led the charge on this one. He scraped loose paint off of the goalposts and painted the posts white. This makes a subtle but noticeable difference in the overall look of the field. Thanks Keegan!


 3. Picking up glass around the stone - Over the years bottles have been broken on the stone resulting in a small area of glass pieces near the base of the stone. Isa H. did his best to find the glass pieces and the base of the stone was cleared of plant growth. 

4. Mowing and weeding the pallet garden - The area near the garden is really starting to look good. The flowers and plants are growing well. I didn't take any pictures yesterday so here is a shot of Janina the day we built the pallet garden. 

5. Painting the fire hydrants - One of the elements that will help to create a sense of place. 
Lisa Marie and Chris working on the hydrant at E. 32nd and Holland

Jasmine and Oliver starting the base coat on the hydrant at E. 33rd and Holland

Everyone who was there helped in some way or worked on more than one job. Thanks to everyone who pitched in. We also want to thank Wendy Sherman for her support and for dropping off donuts early in the morning.
Justin, Michelle, Janina, & Wendy

A lot of people walking and driving by thanked us for our efforts. Joyce and Jim actually stopped their bike ride and started working. Thanks for contributing!

Alfee's Pizza donated pizza and wings! This is some good stuff. Thank you Alfee's, check them out by clicking here!

Thanks again Alfee's!
Overall I would say it was the most productive event we have had, with the spring cleanup being a close second. Our work force was 16 people and each person put in at least an hour or two. I'm starting to think we might get good at this neighborhood improvement thing. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Our Neighborhood's Problems

Usually I like to use this forum to discuss our neighborhood's positives. However I think it's important to start looking at some of the problems facing our part of town. I've been giving it a lot of thought lately and I would like to hear as many opinions on the matter as possible.

Neighborhood Problem #1: Increasing crime.

While many people have opinions about what is happening in our neighborhood, there is some solid information we can look at to get a bigger picture. Let's look at some of the facts that have become available lately thanks to the Census Bureau, Erie City Police reports, and the Erie Times-News.

The Census Bureau, for research purposes, divided the City of Erie into 30 "census tracts". The tract our neighborhood is located in very closely follows the map that we have created for our neighborhood association, with the addition of a few blocks on the other side of Old French Road. Out of the thirty census tracts in Erie, our neighborhood has the 6th lowest percentage of people living under the poverty level, which many people would consider to be good news. But there is more. Our census tract has the 18th highest rate of gun crimes, according to the Census information analyzed by the Times-News, easily considered to be bad news.

This is a screen capture of a map published by the Erie Times-News.  Here is a link to the article containing the map:

red stars = shots fired
green circles = strong armed robberies
blue squares = armed robbery with a gun

The number of gun and violent crimes committed in our neighborhood is frighteningly high. In the neighborhoods to the south there are virtually zero. In the neighborhoods to the north, there are almost too many to count. I have often said to people, "Our neighborhood is on the cusp." We are. We are on a thin edge between a neighborhood that is statistically one of the safest in Erie, and a neighborhood that is one of the least safe.

This causes stress for the residents of our neighborhood. I have seen it in the complaints I get from concerned neighbors. I have heard it in the comments people make at meetings. There is stress because people who have spent their lives building their homes into something they can be proud of expect to not hear gun fire on a regular basis, or at all. 

I am not sure how to solve this problem, other than to be aware of the steps to take in the event of something unsafe happening. I suppose this is a good time to re-post...

Neighborhood Problem #2: Conflicting expectations

Our neighborhood has conflicting expectations, based on multiple conversations I have had with residents and my own observations. Generally, we have two groups of people in our neighborhood, with two sets of expectations about how to maintain property and act in public. There are people who care and people who do not. Generally, the people who care maintain their property, act courteously toward their neighbors, and expect to be safe in their homes. The people who do not care slowly erode the value of their homes (either rented or owned), are discourteous (at best!) and have lower expectations concerning their own safety making them more likely to act unsafely. This creates stress for the people who care, and who sometimes feel helpless to change the actions of others. 

Problems #1 and #2 are more difficult to solve. They require action and cooperation from law enforcement and city and school officials. But this leads me to...

Neighborhood Problem #3: Lack of organization and lack of resources directed to our neighborhood

This is the area that we can most easily address through the Academy Neighborhood Association. We can work together to make the neighborhood a better place. Is planting a small pallet garden on East 32nd Street going to stop someone from shooting a gun at East 27th and Parade? Probably not. But the small steps we are taking are going to hopefully add up to some bigger steps over the next few years. 

Over the summer I have realized we are on a much longer journey than I initially thought. Every time the organization takes a step forward I see further down the road, and I'm realizing the road does not end. That's why I'm sharing these thoughts. I want to know what other people think about the problems in our neighborhood and how they think we can solve them. I also like to hear people's ideas for projects, long and short term, that we can work on together. Please feel free to share on the facebook page, in the comments sections of this blog, or by emailing