Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wtf parklet, St. Claude Main Street

My ordinarily quiet block has been hopping lately, following the completion of our very own St. Claude Main Street parklet. Plenty of people have been using it, which would be great if they weren't also being super screamy late at night and leaving garbage all over the place.

Depending on whom you ask - and as of Tuesday night, this includes the NOPD officers who "detained" several parklet visitors - there is a lively little drug trade on the corner as well.

What is the plan, indeed

My neighbors have written a letter [pictured] addressed to St. Claude Main Street (SCMS), the Bywater Neighborhood Association, lot owner and SCMS Board member Maurice Slaughter, City Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, and incoming City Councilmember Nadine Ramsey.

In it, they ask for more information about parklet maintenance, specifically concerning trash collection, noise control, and the curious aesthetic of the space [pictured].

wtf parklet
wtf parklet2

DIY parklet sewer cover

My neighbor whose house directly abuts the parklet has told me that he resents the space being developed in a way that's so out of touch with how the block actually functions.

He used to spend time every week picking up stray litter from the lot, but now he says he feels unmotivated to do so:

"There's no trash can. Am I supposed to pick up all that trash? Who's supposed to take care of this property? I thought those people [$275,000 ArtPlace grant recipient SCMS] got money to take care of things like that."

He also shared concerns about the safety of the children who visit the parklet, which opens right onto heavily trafficked St. Claude Avenue: "Kids running into the street...It's dangerous."

Really - and I hate to have to keep repeating myself on this count - if SCMS wanted to invest in neighborhood improvement on our block, they might add a street lamp to the parklet (or really anywhere). They might cover that sewer once and for all. They might add a little kiddie fence so children don't run out onto State Highway 46, aka St. Claude Avenue. They might fill in our block's new giant ass pothole [pictured].

Giant ass pothole

They might tell their beloved Board member - and Virginia resident - Maurice Slaughter to stop collecting properties in the Bywater by aggressively hounding my neighbors to sell their houses to him:

Over the past six months, two separate property owners on the block have experienced, in their words, "harassment" when Maurice dug up their tax records and attempted to coerce them into abandoning their properties.

I object to this sort of development, not only because it's sleazy but because it totally squashes the autonomy of a neighborhood to exist and grow on its own terms.

For example, some of us like the idea of the parklet; some of us feel like it's completely uninviting and stupid. Many of us don't want increased police surveillance of our block, and none of us want a space that's unsafe for children. Currently, however, we feel unable to exercise control over any of these factors.

As my neighbors reminded SCMS in their letter, we gave input during the completely opaque planning process for the parklet. We gave feedback to the developers, and we are dealing with the condescension and disregard that followed.
We're now playing catch-up with someone else's harebrained idea of community development, and I really hope things don't get worse on the block before they get better.

1 comment:

  1. This whole parklet mess has bothered me from wayback when the word started getting thrown around. Such an absurd vanity project with zero neighborhood input and even less followthrough. SCMS has turned into nothing but a money laundering scheme, if you ask me. They're just taking grants and pocketing it in the form of salaries and "neighborhood projects". They should be ashamed.