Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Washington Park homeowners 'no longer willing to accept' park nuisance

The Washington Park Home Owners Association has serious concerns - and a few suggestions - for Washington Park.

In a group communication to Mayor Mark Mallory, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr, City Councilmembers, the Cincinnati Park Board, 3CDC and the Over-the-Rhine Foundation, eight members say that their voice needs to be heard and heeded if homeownership is to flourish in Over-the-Rhine.

"We are the owner occupants around Washington Park, part of that very small, and very key, percentage of the population who are willing to invest our own lives, our own money and our own futures in Over-the-Rhine by buying a building, fixing it up, and actually living here," they say.

They say that the park and the sidewalks around it are not being adequately maintained and policed.

"For too many years crime and nuisance behavior have been the norm in the park," they say. "Public urination and defecation, drug use and drug sale of all kinds, drinking, drunken behavior, sitting and laying on the sidewalk and littering occur over and over again."

But despite attempts over several years to address the issue with the Park Board, Cincinnati Police Department, and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department, they say conditions haven't improved.

"To paraphrase we have been told, 'We are helpless, this is the best we can do'," they say. "Because we live here and deal with these issues too, we know how difficult the situation really us and so we applaud the efforts that have been made, but we are no longer willing to accept this answer."

The homeowners suggest the following changes for the park:

  • A 24/7 walking, bicycle or equestrian patrol in and around the park
  • Park Board employees who will act as the eyes and ears of the police, and not the drug dealers
  • A review of the park regulations and City ordinances to make them clearer, stricter and more enforceable
They say that they're excited about the plans for the renovation of Washington Park, but worry that the same problems will continue even after a significant public investment.

"It is not kindness to anyone to let this situation continue," they say. "It is hurting the community of Over-the-Rhine."

A report to council from Dohoney is due by the beginning of next month.

Social services

Reservations have been expressed by others about how the Drop Inn Center and other social services fit into the equation.

It remains unclear whether Cincinnati Public Schools, 3CDC, or 12th Street property owners will put pressure on the center regarding the behavior of some of their clients in the park or try to have the Drop Inn Center moved to a non-residential location.

So far, 3CDC has relented on the center's plan to relocate its entrance from 12th Street to Elm Street, facing the new School for Creative and Performing Arts.

Some say that a resolution proposed by Councilmember Chris Bortz to deconcentrate social services and programs, passed by council in June and widely regarded as being an attempted roadblock to the proposed CityLink project and similar future projects, could actually have an opposite effect than the one intended by essentially locking all social service agencies in or near their current locations.

Still others have decided to sue over the resolution.

A consortium of plaintiffs, including representatives from Bethany House Services, the Greater Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless, Justice Watch, Joseph House, Mary Magdalen House, The Drop Inn Center and the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers’ Center, will announce a lawsuit today at a 1 PM press conference on the steps of the Potter Stewart Courthouse downtown.

They allege that the wording of the resolution is vague and could single out certain organizations for disparate treatment, violating their due process.