City fails Wick Park 2010 testYoungstown — Posted on November 17, 2009 at 8:20 pm
[Edit 11/18: Be sure to visit the Shout Youngstown post on the reactionary art that grew up in response to the Penn Ave arsons.]
More than fifty interested residents from the Wick Park area and Youngstown’s north side attended a community meeting at Wick Park Pavilion with representatives from City Hall, the Youngstown Police Department and the Fire Department on Monday, November 9. The meeting lasted approximately 90 minutes, but only a few minutes were especially productive.
The meeting was billed as an “informational meeting,” and if you’ve ever attended such a community meeting in Youngstown, you’ll not be surprised at what happened. Representatives from the city talked about what they expect residents to do if they encounter problem properties or suspicious activities. Call them.
Meanwhile, several residents complained that all they do is call, and they don’t see any results for it.
There were some interesting learning moments. For example, the Police Department has an individual dedicated to scrap metal incident investigations. Also, an officer dispelled TV-induced myths about the usefulness of fingerprints in robbery investigations: “I’ve never solved a burglary ’cause of a fingerprint. Ever.”
The chief of YSU campus police also invited residents to call if they want, and campus police would assist where they could through some kind of turf-sharing agreement with YPD. Also, Bill D’Avignon shared a timeline for demolition of remaining blighted homes on Pennsylvania.
When I attended community organizer training in Columbus this summer, one of the aspects we covered was The Meeting. Planning a meeting between community stakeholders and public officials (or other private individuals or institutions in power) is a powerful opportunity to share your goals and concerns with the other party and gain a commitment to share those goals and address your concerns. You must, however, plan ahead.
Effective meetings require a representative from the group who speaks on its behalf. There must be discipline on the part of the rest of the group not to speak out of turn, lest any progress in negotiations be lost. Finally, there must be a clear request that’s being made and a tenacious pursuit of a commitment to meet that request or, at worst, to improve conditions relative to the request.
It was no surprise, then, to see Wick Park resident, community organizer and Youngstown mascot Phil Kidd stand up about seventy minutes into the meeting to finally make an “ask.”
Phil asked for prioritization for Wick Park properties in terms of stabilization funds and responsiveness. Bill D’Avignon quickly agreed that the City viewed Wick Park as a priority. Sharon Letson of Cityscape concluded by asking attendees to share their contact information to be included as future meetings are planned to organize residents to hold the city accountable to its prioritization of Wick Park.
That priority, it seems, isn’t shared by all of City Hall. Today, the carriage house behind the remains of 259 Park Avenue was destroyed by city bulldozers, despite what was thought to be a shared vision by neighborhood residents and the city to prioritize preservation for historic structures encircling Wick Park.
Is the streets department on the same page as planning? I recognize that, in order to be effective, the streets department can’t call up other departments before it moves a muscle. If we’re going to move quickly on tackling the many challenges that face the region, we’ll have to be nimble and exercise autonomy. However, one can reasonably expect that there be a shared understanding of areas of priority and preservation.
Was the priority of the carriage house’s preservation communicated throughout relevant city departments? If so, was it ignored? Does the streets department chafe at being told what it can and can’t touch and just exercise its muscle to demonstrate its independence?
It’s difficult to understand where the priorities are in terms of the 2010 plan. Yes, there are structures that need to be brought down. Historic structures, however, especially in priority districts such as Wick Park, should at least be subject to community discussion before they are compromised. We have lost another opportunity and suffered another blow to the future of Wick Park and, by extension, Youngstown.
Each piece of the puzzle at this point is critical, and the potential fallout from both the arsons and the city’s apparent carelessness, should not be underestimated.
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