Journal Entries for August, 2002
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Friday, noon, August 30th: When I don't put anything up here for a day or so I worry some of my readers. I'm sorry about that. Sometimes nothing of note happens. That's usually a good thing except when we're talking about progress on the station.
Vaughn and I are going to work all weekend on it. I'm sure a lot will get done. I'll put up some pictures when we have paint and tile. The installation of fixtures and such will go fast and be fun for me. We'll be there very soon. The most fun will be handing out keys to our officers.
Outside, there's an extra dumpster for 1717-1715. That will help. Too often it's filled to overflowing. People from some of the buildings on this side use that dumpster, too. And they're the good ones. Not so much lately, but some of the tenants over here still see the lot next door as their own dump. It has gotten better. I think some tenants have moved and others understand it's a yard now.
More importantly, the increased presence of the HUD special police is helping a great deal. They're a lot more conspicuous now too. The rainy, cooler weather may be helping, too. I've felt more comfortable leaving the house the past couple days. Even though we have precautions, including the dogs, when the street is swarming with people I get nervous about leaving. Of course, tonight will be the test. Friday and Saturday this is a bustling market. Perhaps not tonight. I'd sure like to be able to say "this used to be the worst drug market in the Central District." Maybe soon.
Thursday, almost 2am, August 29th: A rainy night. Things are quiet out there. Reminds me how quiet and safe things can seem during winter. The HUD special officers are on top of things. I believe they're parked right across the street in the lot between Nimrod and 1715. Good vantage point. They can see both sides of that troubled building. They must wonder sometimes why they're there. Things are so much quieter just because they're around.
Gary, our neighbor from Eutaw Place, offers this review of Wednesday's meeting at HUD about 1717-1715. He was there.
"We continue to meet with the Management Company responsible for 1715/1717 Madison and HUD officials to resolve the problems associated with the Madison Apartments. We believe that we are making progress, albeit, slowly. The next step concerns a sessions HUD is setting for a meeting with Health and police officials and then for the Management Company to present their financials as to what can, financially, they believe they can accomplish. We seem to be in agreeement as to what is needed; the question now is whether it can be accomplished. All parties are heading in the same direction and with more effort and good will we hope to get there. Once things become more concrete, we will update this site with more information."
I have the impression the fence idea is more costly than expected. I do hope that won't keep things from making real progress now. We don't need plans for long term solutions to get in the way of fixing what we can today. Certainly, seeing the special police officers so conspicuously posted tells me the management of the building is trying. I thank them for that.
I'm happy to provide space for others to voice their views. It's been brought to my attention I group people together too readily. Not all the boys loitering on the street here are selling drugs and not all the land owners on Eutaw are hateful, selfish people. I never meant to say that. Some, maybe even most, actually care about real solutions and simply want to enjoy their homes. We have more in common with the homeowners across the way than I might imagine.
I took the afternoon and evening off and actually got out of the house. First time in a while. Soon enough the substation will be done and open. What will I do with my spare time then?
Tuesday, 6pm, August 27th: Vaughn just got in. Told me he had a brief chat with one of the guys loitering on the stoop of 1710 this evening. Don't know what they were doing there. Perhaps just getting some fresh air. He asked if he was on the web today. Vaughn replied he's on about ten hours a day. Vaughn works putting together web sites. He said he'd check it out again today then.
He asked about the BBQ. Vaughn told him it is going to be on the 18th. "Can I come?" Vaughn told him everyone who lives around here's invited. "Do you live here? I thought this building  was vacant." "I live across the street," gesturing at 1715. "Then you're more than welcome." "I'll be there," he replied.
We do hope everyone from the block will attend. Otherwise, we're going to be eating hot dogs for a year. I hope it will be a nice afternoon where our neighbors come out and meet each other, have a hot dog and chat with the local beat officers, some of whom plan to be here off duty. The jazz should be good and the speakers interesting and brief. Tours of the substation will be available, though they will take only about two minutes. I'm planning on handing out invitation flyers the week before to every home on the block.
Soon, we may actually webcast the images from the surveillance cameras. Amazing, huh? With LEDs, even the night vision is good. Now they're just taped and the tapes stored safely away. The only hesitation I have is that the viewer would be able to see where on the block the cameras are. They made short work of the cheap hard wired camera I tried out in the window, it only lasted a week click here to read about that, but the others are small wireless remote and more than one now isn't even on this building. Funny thing about the bad guys, they don't get up early. I can walk around changing batteries and adjusting angles and no one's out there to see it. Be fascinating to see the reaction of people who don't live here, watching the goings on with their own eyes.
Been getting some calls lately where people hang up. Don't know why. One person whose job it is to be suspicious tells me they're probably trying to figure out if I'm home. With me here most of the time and seldom driving a car it's hard for anyone to tell. I like it that way. Could be the bad boys, though if we're not here, the dogs and the alarm and other surprises are. Might just be wrong numbers. Funny, though, most are from Florida. Different numbers, though they have the cell phone area code for Miami like we have 443 for Baltimore.
Got a new satellite antenna put in over the weekend. Nothing exciting today on the station, just a couple hours of the tedious and dull prep work. The walls are in bad shape. They won't be as nice as the ceiling and floors.
Just to make my writings here even more controversial, I'm going to make a political comment. An invitation arrived in the mail today addressed to someone who hasn't worked in the former offices here for at least seven years. I opened it by mistake. It's for a $100 a plate fundraiser for Ms. Jessamy. "Let's keep crime going down" the tickets say with an illustration of a graph bar going downward behind it. I don't think Ms. Jessamy has had much to do with reducing crime. I think that's because of the mayor and an aggressive police chief and very hard working officers and concerned citizens who are tired of watching the city rot away. Just an opinion. I have so many to share. <g> Not always right, but always my own.
Tuesday morning, August 27th: Nothing new here. Dealers still hawking their wares. I'm still plugging away on the station. A few readers have been concerned I didn't post anything the last couple days. After the unpleasantness recently they were worried. I'm still here. Not going anyplace. Not with the help and support we get from the police, neighbors far and wide, readers and even some neighbors from the block.
Had a nice but brief talk yesterday with someone who lives a few doors down. He told me he's heard talk in the hall of his building about me. One resident was arguing with another about whether we're bad or good. He thinks we're good and wanted me to know that some others agree, but it's not safe for them to say so. One day soon I hope it'll be safer for us all.
I was to have a meeting with Ms. Dixon tomorrow, but it's been canceled due to the funeral of the police woman. Her office says she is definitely coming to the BBQ. One of her staff members and I are going to meet to discuss BBQ logistics. We need some advice on how to lay it out.
There's a meeting between neighbors, HUD and the managers of the Pedestal Gardens property at 1717-1715 tomorrow at 11:00 downtown. I'm hoping they have a good fence plan in mind to help discourage use of the building as a market and escape route. Anyone interested is invited to attend. Email me if you'd like directions. Vaughn may go. I'm going to stay here and work on the station. That's the best use of my time. All sides seem good about keeping me in the loop anyway.
Now, if I could just get 1704 under control. No takers yet on my investment suggestion. I wish I could afford to do it. The documentation is being put together for the abatement case.
1710 is still vacant, but Greg put No Loitering signs in the window per Officer Slimmer's suggestion. With them, the officers can roust the dealers and even warn them that if they are found there again, they will get arrested just for that. They don't hang out there as much anymore. I wish Clarence, owner of 1704, cared enough to do at least that much. It would be nice if the good residents of the block didn't have to choose between staying in their hot apartments or hanging out with dealers.
I heard a loud noise over the weekend during a heavy rain fall. Looked all around and saw nothing. Went out that afternoon and found the brick wall between 1710 and 1712 in the back yard had fallen completely over. In one piece! A stretch about six feet high and 20 feet long. Makes me want to repair the house's back wall sooner than I'd planned.
I'm terribly itchy again, but definitely healing. Thank you for asking. Its no longer as raw so sweat doesn't bother me so much. I can't warn you enough to be careful what plants you play in. <g>
The station is still getting drywall and plaster repair. We will be painting the walls on Saturday and on Sunday the new tile will be laid. Then the fixtures go in. Electric and plumbing are ready. I was just measuring the set back of the new toilet this morning.
Saturday evening, 8pm, August 24th: After a lot of thought and even setting most of it up, I've decided not to restrict access to this part of the content. If the hoods want to lie to the local neighbors about what's contained here, I can't stop them regardless of whether they have access to the site or not. The bad ones already dislike me. The good ones will either read this and form their own opinions or believe the liars. Their choice. I am going to refrain from naming good people or their addresses unless I know they are safe. That was foolish of me. Otherwise, I will continue to call things as I see them. That's what I've been doing and that's what most who visit here want
If I could afford it, I'd hang a banner across front of the house proclaiming REBUILDINGMADISON.INFO! I am not ashamed of what's being done here.
I will continue to call the police when needed and to monitor events on tape, something that happens even if we're not here. I have noticed more and more I'm not the only one who calls the police. I believe more of my neighbors are doing it. Especially when it involves fights and/or weapons.
I am healing up nicely now though it still looks bad. It will be two weeks tomorrow since I had my run in with the poison ivy. More is getting done each day. We're definitely a few days behind schedule and as I come up to full speed I hope to trim that lost time. We will be opening in the first week of September at this point, well before the grand opening. Sooner if I can help it.
The street doesn't seem bad right now, but it's early. Bunches of kids playing, but who has a problem with that? If we're lucky, there'll be downpours now and again all evening long.
Yes, the mood here at 1708 Madison is a bit more up today. That was about the only direction it could go. A good morning's sleep and a good afternoon's progress have helped. I think I've also adjusted to the fact it is only getting worse because it is about to get better and that all this attention to the website is a sign its making a difference. I know the good neighbors will come around with time.
Saturday morning, 8am, August 24th: This morning at 12:30 as Vaughn was coming in the front door, a woman approached him to ask if he was the one who'd written about her. "Those guys [pointing to the corner at Wilson] said you wrote on the web I was doing oral sex." I watched the exchange closely from the second floor window, but couldn't hear the words. As she turned from him, she glared up at me and Vaughn heard her say "you better not be the one!" Apparently the dealers on the corner had told her that. I do not know if she was the woman dressed and acting like a prostitute about whom I wrote Wednesday. If so, she was out of uniform. Perhaps this woman just had a guilty conscience. She wasn't as tall or well proportioned as my model of that afternoon. Regardless of that, obviously the dealers are spreading false rumors aggressively. Their tactic makes sense.
The rest of the evening was up and down. Exhaustingly so. When the cops were coming through, it was quiet as could be. Then, minutes later, it was busy. Malt liquor bottles smashing, weird, crack crazed neighbor ladies ranting at passersby, prostitutes and dealers conducting business in their SUVs. On and on. The police came through at least five times I saw. They did not do what I've seen done by one or two very effective officers on our beat: "Why are you out at this hour? Do you live here? Yes, then go into your apartment now. No, then leave now and if I see you back here this evening I will take you to jail!" This block needs nothing less than a curfew. I have never seen anyone loitering on this street between midnight and 5 am who is not either creating a nuisance or busy selling drugs. The good ones are inside for their own safety and because they have jobs and responsibilities.
I am considering a method of restricting access to these chronicles. One will need to verify to me who they are for access. If I do that, I will not be mincing words anymore either. I will not be going back and Xing out names of people to protect them. I will be reporting license plates and descriptions and crimes and times from the cameras the dealers can't see.
I'm going to sleep now for a few hours before getting back to some station work. My night watchman duties are over until tonight. I've been relieved.
Friday evening, 10:30pm, August 23rd: It's now become apparent that the bad elements on the block, with the (perhaps unwitting) assistance of a certain churchmember, have been circulating a printed copy of the site. Much of it has been taken out of context, certainly verbally. Some of the usually sociable neighbors are being cold shouldered. Perhaps because they believe I really am the enemy. Perhaps out of fear. Maybe both.
With the good elements thoroughly frightened or doubting my motives, any move on the hoodlums part will be less likely to receive any reaction other than applause and cheers from onlookers and neighbors. Rather the same thing as when a group of people assembled to jeer Officer Shaefer and root for the man he was wrestling with in the lot that night a few weeks ago.
The street is crawling with the bad guys and the kids they enjoy using as cover. There are at least three cars I've been watching for months flitting about. A few of the wrong people have been glaring up each time I've passed the window over the past two hours. There are dualing 500 watt stereos drumming out a beat that's easy to interpret as war drums. Unfortunately for me, one of our most effective beat officers is not on duty. He suggested I tell dispatch of my concerns to leave a record. I've called 311 and left a long call about the situation, simply stating I want to make sure they had such a record. The dispatcher said he'd be sure to send an officer out and alert them to what I'd said. The house is now at DefCon 4.5.
I'm about to let the dogs out to do their business. I will be standing in the shadow, hurrying them up. Very, very angry that anyone or worse a group could make me feel this way. Of course, they'd love it if I made a mistake right now.
To the person who made sure this information got into the wrong hands after a certain email the day before, congratulations. Apparently you want what has been to continue. Why, I could never understand.
Friday morning, August 23rd: I've often said there are good people on this block, much to the annoyance of certain people from Eutaw who don't believe it, they only need encouragement to take back their block. I've met several so I know. I received an email today from one. Apparently the reason there was buzz on the street about the website is that someone printed out a copy. It's circulating around the homes here.
In the email, he said (no names obviously) that I was wrong about the two men playing chess on the trunk of their car the other day. Click here to go to that entry. He said they were working in a small church down the street and taking a break. I'll defend my comments about them only so far as to say that car and at least one of the gentlemen was loitering around the front of 1704 the evening before amongst several of our street dealers, though I did say then I personally had not witnessed either of these men selling or doing anything wrong.
But for implying they were up to no good, I apologize to those two men with the big round dots on their heads and license plates. I am sorry I misjudged you. The email went on to say that I had stereotyped them. I had and that is wrong. Just too easy to do. Just like when neighbors and the visiting dealers assume I'm their enemy because I'm white.
Something from that email:
"Hey man, keep striving for our cause. My kids play out there too ( not late ). Some of these people are good and most do not mean any harm. They are just scared of you more than you are scared of them."
I think he means I've scared the good ones away from us. That's sad, and my fault. Having your life threatened several dozen times has encouraged me to convey a very nasty, surly, air. The only time I let the persona down is after an excessive happy hour. My friends often encourage me to go out and forget about the hassles here. (They also offer me their spare bedrooms for when I realize this is a lost cause and give up.) Sometimes I've been known to overindulge in one of those legal drugs, vodka. I don't pretend to be better than some of my neighbors who choose different drugs.
It was after just such a happy hour I met this guy and we chatted. This was last summer when the crack house behind this house was busy and most of the dealing was on Wilson and there. I watched it with a bird's eye view for two months while rebuilding the carriage house roof. I watched the steady traffic in and out and often had the guys gesture at me with pretend pistols and yell obscenities. That was the summer we opened the front door ahead of schedule because it was getting too dangerous to go out the back which we had been doing because it had been too dangerous to go out the front. This spring the dealing began out front again full force because the crack house had been boarded up. This summer I've left the house again through the rear sometimes just to avoid the throng of dealers and other thugs hanging out in front.
But I digress, yet again. The point is I came away from that conversation encouraged that there were more good people on the block. I'd already met and had good neighborly relations with Fred and the Rev. Wardell Jones of 1702 from day one. (Rev. Jones let me run an extension cord across the yards to the basement where I was working the first cold winter I was trying to fix things enough to bring power back on here.) I enjoy my new neighbors XXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXXX. I like his stories. The first time we had a beer together I was a happy camper for days. It was nice to just sit and chat with a neighbor.
I'm going back to work on the station now or I'd refer more to this email. It was good to read this perspective and has given me things to ponder. One thing for me to consider is that things will not be getting better here because of one guy's arrogant crusade. There are many good people here and they will be the ones who make the difference. I think its good the street is aware of the site. Maybe the dealers will get the message it's time to move on. Maybe it'll be a neighborhood for all of us soon.
Friday about 1am, August 23rd: A long day. Vaughn went to the Candidates' Night at Nimrod. Here's his take on the event:
"This evening I was pleasantly surprised. Not only that candidates for the upcoming election would even grace our neighborhood, as it is. But, that so many residents actually showed up. The event was sponsored by the Historic Madison Park Community Association and the venue was provided by the Payne Memorial Church at their Nimrod Center.
The room which had seating for about 100 was at least 75% full. I believe all except the gubernatorial candidates showed up and were posed some serious grass roots questions. This was not an event that you would have found televised, as none of the questions or answers were staged or rehearsed. Mr. Barry Simms as moderator did an admirable job of keeping the candidates short and to the point.
I certainly hope the event helped others as it did myself, either decide on who to vote for, or look further into certain issues which are important to each of us. I was also very glad to learn of the upcoming plans for the Nimrod Center. It will not remain a mostly empty shell funded by government money, it is going to serve a needed and welcome service to the community in its role as a Senior Day Center. Amen.
Let's hope that those 70 or so citizens present tonight not only go out and vote, but that they may encourage at least another 70 to do the same. We must take part in taking back and rebuilding our community."
I'm sorry that few if any from Bolton Hill, Reservoir or other groups outside Madison Park attended. I hope it wasn't anything to do with what I reported earlier.
I have a brochure about the plans for the adult day care center finally set to happen in the next two months at Nimrod, according to a church spokesperson. Apparently it's taken a lot longer to make things happen than had was planned. I understand that. Same thing here. Anything constructive will be something and this sounds very worthwhile. This evening was the first time I've seen the space used since the opening a year and half ago. According to Vaughn, Candidate Jessamy said the building was half financed with federal money, about $500,000.
An odd thing happened this afternoon. There were 48 simultaneous hits to this site. I had trouble logging in for an update. If it continues, I'll have to upgrade the hosting plan. Not a problem. I'm not complaining. I do wonder why this happened today. There was only one person I introduced to the site yesterday. I'd rather not say which group she's affiliated with. I have no way of knowing if it was her or some other source. I'm just amazed that many took an interest at the same time. Tomorrow, I'll have reports on which browsers and ISPs visited. That may explain it better.
Quiet out tonight. I've seen HUD SPs and regular squad cars a few times. I'm going to set the alarm and go to bed. I need more early starts to stay on schedule with the station.
Thursday, 6pm, August 22nd: A wider audience than I'd expected. Vaughn came in to tell me "I just heard something interesting, the kids on the stoop next door were talking. One said 'info.com' the other said 'no, it's rebuildingmadison.info, stupid, right?' " turning to Vaughn. Perhaps there's good reason I'm making the thugs and dealers angry. They're aware what's happening. I assume that if the kids know about it, the bad guys do, too.
A word to them: Go to hell.
Just a few minutes ago I heard people sitting on the usually good peopled stoop of 1712 saying something about they must be with the press or something. Maybe word has just gotten out today about this site. I say welcome, new readers.
Thursday, 4:30pm, August 22nd: One second there's hope. The next we're nearly at war.
Was out playing with the dogs in the yard an hour or so ago. Some of the neighbor kids like to play a game with the dogs when I'm out with them, as one of us always is. The kids throw empty plastic, not glass, bottles in the yard to watch the dogs run and play tug of war over them. They know not to put their fingers through the fence. God forbid a finger should get snagged on one of our usually sweet, but menacing looking dogs. Anyway, this game is fun for the dogs and the kids and I don't mind throwing out the bottles when they're flattened out and chewed up.
This afternoon a guy came out of the woodwork to yell at the kids "stay away from that man, don't talk to him, he ain't yo' friend, he the enemy, he's a _ucking white trash fag ...gonna _ucking kill you _ucker!!" I just walked back in the yard. He continued ranting on with threats and expletives.
I called 311 to alert them to what sounded like more threats as I walked away. The house is at DefCon 4 right now. One is suburban Bel Air. Five is gunfire. No one will survive entering this building if they are armed and intent on harm. That was established long ago.
An officer showed up 15 minutes later. He sat in front for a moment and then drove off just as I was opening the front door. Unfortunately, he didn't drive through the rear where I had asked the dispatcher to have him or her meet me. I had wanted to give the description of the guy, since a record of a death threat should be kept. No matter, there was nothing to see in front anymore. Minutes before, the tall thin guy with the goofy fishing cap disappeared as a HUD special police officer walked up from Wilson.
Things are very quiet out there now. I see a face I don't recognize in a blue police type uniform walking between Nimrod and 1715. He's either special police or a guard for the event tonight. I'm sure there will be security if you are planning to attend. Please don't let this report discourage you from it. They hate me specifically. They know well I'm helping instigate change they don't want. They're right and I make that fact plain. Gave up pretending not to care or living like a scared rabbit here some time ago.
Looking at my arms, I can see where the reference to AIDS came from. I look like I have leprosy or something. The scaly dark patches of skin from the blisters that are drying up do look a bit like that skin cancer that often plagues AIDS patients. Fortunately, I'm just suffering from poison ivy and stress. I'm sorry to say I won't be attending across the street tonight because of it. Especially with the stuff on my hands, I can't be shaking hands. I'm a distractingly sorry sight. More so than usual. I'm missing my chance to see the Nimrod Building, but perhaps I'll have reports, hint, hint.
When I was in back waiting for the officer a man ambled down the alley and said "you doing a smart thing." I wondered what drugs he was on. He said he's the block social worker and that the neighborhood was going to change. "You'll see," he said. He asked my address and said he'd send me a flyer from the association, pointing north. I smiled, shaking my head, but not letting it show, as he continued on up the alley.
Thanks for reading. It's good for me to vent. Sometimes I think it's just me that's weird until I read these words and realize the whole little world here is all screwed up, not just me.
I think I'm done for the day in the substation. I'm up here in the AC, cooling my temperature and temper.
Thursday, 2pm, August 22nd: Responses from my comment about the building at 1704 have been entirely positive and many. I had asked a few friends if they thought I was being too severe. They didn't think so and neither have others I didn't know were reading. I appreciate feedback. There's a guestbook too, if you'd like to share your comments with others.
I've had some interesting conversations about 1704 with a few people today. There are a few avenues available to work on this problem. Complicated ones, time consuming ones, sorry to say. The reason so many properties are like this all over the city. Still, I'm going to work on it. Many of these problem buildings don't have anyone concerned with them, even an amateur like me.
MarketWatch: It seems my running commentary on the drug market is a favorite part of my ramblings. So I will say that the street is very busy right now with good and bad people. The good ones are escaping the heat in their poorly ventilated closet apartments. The bad ones are trying to sell them crack. Don't see a lot of police presence, but that doesn't mean it isn't out there. Except for the resounding "blues out, blues out" the mood out there right now is not bad. Sometimes, when the dealers are having a bad day, fights get started, puppies get beaten and the mood gets very sour and dangerous.
Last night a woman was getting hassled just outside the door. They began yelling real loud. When I looked out, she pulled a very long knife. Her harrasser backed away. Not uncommon around here. The good have to be armed here. The bad certainly are. Otherwise you live like a scared rabbit near a wolf den. No, I'm not an NRA member. <g>
A few people have noticed me at the window and in the yard on the phone this afternoon. Been pointed at several times. Only once by a dealer type. The others are surprised locals and drive through buyers concerned I might be a narc. Just this morning the UPS man was telling a neighborhood kid as I opened the door "no, that house isn't vacant, Mr. Taylor lives there." The child was amazed when he saw me. I'm sure there will be lots of amazement all around here when the BBQ happens and the substation opens. Even before that when I go door to door with the invitations, only about three weeks from now..
OK. Lunch break is over. Back to drywall.
Thursday morning, 4am, August 22nd: The street has been amazingly quiet for the past few hours after a very busy early evening. I can't see them, but Vaughn reported the HUD special officers were at Laurens around 11. I also saw a few drive throughs from the BPD. Makes such a difference. The weather's so nice, I have the AC off and the windows open. So very quiet the only thing that woke me was the itching of my poison ivy and the crash of the dumpster being emptied for 1715.
Good night and thank you officers.
Wednesday afternoon, August 21st: My poison ivy still looks terrible, but is itching less and the cooler temps have helped me get back to work. Got to make up for lost time. It's got to be done at least before the ribbon's cut.
The street was interesting a bit ago when I looked out. A boy was riding by on his bike yelling "greens, two for five!" Sounds like a pretty good deal until you hear "yellows, free!" Puppy beater was ambling back and forth between his drug stand at 1704 and his home in 1715 and I watched a very pretty young woman saunter over to him, counting her wad of bills, to buy a hit.
On her way back over to her place of business, Eutaw Place, she stopped to ask these boys if they wanted a date. Or so I imagine the conversation went. They apparently declined her attractive offer and undaunted she walked back up the alley to Laurens to see if there were takers on Eutaw. These guys were cleaning out 1708 Eutaw, where the 4th of July fires happened, and working hard at it. The rebuilding effort there looks to be making good progress.
I see chairs all lined up on one of the vacant floors of Nimrod today. Ready for the Candidate's Night tomorrow at 7pm. So good to see something happening over there.
An investment opportunity? The slumlord who owns 1704 owes over $10,000 in back property taxes to the city. This is partcularly egregious when you consider his taxes total only a few hundred dollars a year. The taxes for 1708 here this year were less than $200. Its even worse when you consider the burden he puts on the police and on the paramedics responding to his tenant's dealing and overdoses. One could buy this tax lien and get a guaranteed 18%APR if they redeemed it or foreclose on the property and have a nearly $2000 per month gross rent. Of course, you'd need to evict the dealer, the addict and their helpers who live in front. Otherwise there are some pretty good tenants already and there are lots of people willing to rent here. I'm asked often by passersby when we're going to rent. No local imagines I would actually be living here or making it one home again.
For details on this tax liability, which is public record, visit http://cityservices.baltimorecity.gov/TaxSale/selectF.asp enter zip 21217 and scroll down to 1704 Madison Avenue. There you will find this entry:
"1704 MADISON AVE 21217
(0341-003) 22-4X120 assessed for $21000 to C.I.T., INC. WESTON, CLARENCE
amount owed $10874.81"
If this contempt for paying his more than fair share of property taxes doesn't enrage homeowners in the city who pay their taxes and deal with the results of this slumlord, nothing will.
By the way, he's a slumlord only in my opinion, based on the apartments inside I've seen, the garbage in his garage and the pit bull kept in there and many other things. Just an opinion, Mr. Weston. I'd certainly like to hear your side of the story and would even post it here, but you don't return my calls.
I don't have the capital, or I'd buy the tax lien myself. Anyone who has the extra capital, please contact me. I'll manage it for a small cut (Getting rid of the problems this building makes would be the largest compensation.) so long as you commit to providing decent living spaces for the tenants as well as requiring them not to be involved in drugs, should he not redeem it. Greg Baranoski donated his extra fridge, the one we didn't need for the substation, to James, my neighbor who lives with his daughter and her tiny child at 1704 1st floor rear. Their kitchen didn't have one and they couldn't afford it. Isn't this illegal?
Sorry about this tirade. Its just when I consider all the flap about 1717-1715, I wonder where the concern is for a building like this that's been a problem in all the two and a half years I've known this place.
While writing this I watched as three glass bottles were smashed into the alley out the window of the building behind us, fronting on McCulloh. Its another public housing building of some kind. Someone's kitchen trash. Happens all the time there. The contempt for everyone which some of these people convey is amazing. Perhaps not amazing, when they consider how little anyone seems to care for the block anyway.
Mayor O'Malley's insistence on cleaning up the city is important. If you live in trash, you feel like trash and act like trash.
Tuesday, 7pm, August 20th: Came up from the basement. Quit for the day. Heard a small dog screaming. Opened the window to see a fat young African American man carrying a stick yelling "get him, he tried to bite me." He'd apparently been beating the puppy. I'd try to bite him, too. As I was closing the window, he mouthed something to me. On seeing him glare up at me and move his mouth, I opened it up again and said, pardon me, he said "I'd advise you to mind your own business" and swung his stick like a beat cop would idly swing a nightstick. I yelled back, quite loudly "I wondered what the noise was, and what goes on in front of my house is my business! Didn't expect to see a guy beating a puppy, even here!" He said "OK!" and walked away slowly to his perch on the steps of 1704.
Unfortunately, calling the cops about dog abuse gets you no where. We can't seem to protect our human pups very well so I suppose we have to have priorities. I still wonder about the dog kept in the dark, with scarce water and food in the garage in the back of 1704. Fighting I have reason to suspect. I've complained for months only to be told "we'll investigate." Animal Control can seem to do nothing.
Met a new neighbor this afternoon while out in the yard with the dogs. She lives at 1704, second floor rear. Nice young woman with a toddler. She was hanging out her window having a neighborly gab with the tenant above. Turns out she's the niece of the young woman who lives with my elderly neighbor on the ground floor and cousin of the woman on the third. We had a nice chat about the weather, the dogs, my prized maple. I mentioned the lady before her had left after only a few days. "I guess the bad one's in front ran her off. It seems like the back end of the house is good people and the front is not." She laughed and said "ain't that the truth!"
Funny thing about that house, 1704, according to state records the owner hasn't paid his property taxes in many years. I wish I could scrape together the money and buy the lien. I'd love to get the building cheap and kick out the drug dealers and other bad ones who are helping bring this block down. At the very least the city would get its money from the deadbeat slumlord. Of course, that description is just my observation. If he'd like to contest it in court, he may well have that opportunity when a drug abatement suit is brought.
Spoke with Claralyn, the manager of Pedestal Gardens today. We got to talking about their computer center. I didn't know about it. I had mentioned I wished there was something for Jamal and Shank and the other two or three dozen 5 to 10 year olders to do around here during the summer and after school. They had been tossing empty plastic bottles into the yard to enjoy watching the dogs fetch again this afternoon so that's why they were in mind. I'm not complaining about the plastic bottles, by the way, I far prefer them to the empty Malt Liquor bottles their older brothers throw in the yard. Anyway, I found it's only open 9 to 5 Monday through Friday and is short a staff member right now. Claralyn said if they had a program, that staffer could work later. I'm going to see what I can do to help them find someone and get these kids over there, out of the dealing a bit more. I'd rather see them turn them into computer nerds, God forbid, than learn more about crack dealing. At the very least, I'm going to mention it to the kids. They're bright nice kids, not old enough yet to be much use to the dealers.
Finally gotten around to reading some of The Corner. Its certainly teaching me more of the lingo. I can only take it in small doses. Seems like I'm reading the story of the people not fifteen feet out my door. If I let it get to me too often, I would be paralyzed with fear and hopelessness about so many ruined lives. Hard to build a substation in such a mood.
Update: While writing this I looked out again to see puppy beater yell at one of his tiny children to go back into the house. He was in front of 1715 where he's holding court with a bunch of his neighbors, telling them something.
I also see a man balancing precariously against the lamp post out in front, nodding off every few moments like my grandmother used to do, then righting himself with a start. Obviously enjoying a very high high.
One of the special police is parked in his car near the corner of Laurens and Madison. Nothing for him to do. I wish he'd park right in front of their building. There's a dealer in the parking lot of 1715, in the rear, doing a good business, just out of the special officer's line of sight.
Monday, midnight, August 19th: No business out there at all. Sergeant Kluuver (sp?) and company with the special police are out. Makes a real difference. Containment and better supervision of that public housing building really would help. A fence has been discussed. I'm hoping it comes to pass soon. Right now, it's too easy for the dealers to come and go from all angles and disappear out another door.
Perhaps these special housing officers have gotten their arrest commissions back? I hope so. If they have a moment before I go to bed, maybe I can find out. I always sleep better when I know they're out there and when some of the beat officers, like Don Slimmer, are on duty and making their presence known.
Monday afternoon, 4pm, August 19th: I don't know how one becomes a naive cynic, but I seem to have managed it.
Looks innocent enough until you know these two were there all evening yesterday, parked in front of 1704 while dealing was carrying on. I did not witness them dealing, but I don't think they're good guys. Why in the broad sun? So they can get to the car quickly is my guess. Different ploy. I'm sure it looks downright wholesome to the officers, too. <g>
Maybe I just need the vacation I suggested for a few long time veterans of the area. God knows I don't want to become bitter and prejudiced. I would have liked to feel safe enough to go out and challenge the winner.
Part of my mood today is the rash. To the left is the little Weeping Red Maple. The forest in the center is all poison ivy, wilting now that we've cut it off at the roots. We have to cut it up and remove it now. Not a job I'm looking forward to, but this time I'll be taking precautions. The little boys and their mom who often hang out in the yard next door had been wondering where they got their "pox."
Lest anyone think poison ivy rash is just a nuisance or that I'm shamming, feel free to click here and see what it looks like today. Warning, not a picture for the squeamish. According to the doctor, with the cortizone shot it should be better in another week. Without it, he says it would have been better in another week. I can tell you from my experience that Benadryl helps reduce the burning itch. As does beer. Just don't mix the two. The beer is more fun, but doesn't allow use of power tools. Neither does the Benadryl.
I was doing some more plumbing and rewiring today. Not as much dust and sweat involved. Progress has been slowed somewhat, but hopefully not enough to affect the schedule.
Monday morning, 1am, August 19th: Three fancy cars are parked alongside Nimrod, engines running, bass beat pounding to announce their presence ... a somewhat more serious problem than the ice cream truck repeating its tedious melody. Have been here for hours. Their occupants go back and forth to other cars, across the street to 1704 and one was just pounding on the door to 1715 demanding to be let in. About a dozen guys all dressed in the indistinguishable uniform are firmly in charge of the street. No HUD special police. No regular police. No plainclothes, unless they're convincingly under cover.
This afternoon three squad cars responded within minutes when I reported an individual selling his color brand of crack directly in front of the house amongst a throng of cars attending some function at Payne Church. Of course, the specific guy was no where to be seen when they arrived. He'd dashed into one of the apartments across the street, as had his cohorts. Had been loudly yelling out his colors right among those coming to their cars. The dealers, big and small, feel absolutely no disapproval or discouragement from those church goers.
It seems everyone's aware that 1700, 1704 and 1715-1717 are crack houses. Just a fact of life around here. Unfortunately, they're also places where innocent people live, too.
About ready for painting in the substation. Can't wait to get it open. Something's got to help around here.
Sunday morning, 2:15am, August 18th: Wishful thinking that the quiet two hours ago was progress. There are three dealers hanging out in front of 1715 and several users and dealers in front of 1704, hollering at each other, carrying on. Probably just the summer heat they were avoiding earlier. The after bar buyers are making their drive through purchases. I'm surprised we're not seeing more squad cars. Perhaps they're busy with more pressing crimes tonight.
Sunday morning, just after midnight, August 18th: Not a soul on the street. Even more surprising, not a police car or officer in sight. An unmarked car left a bit ago, but even before they drove up not much was happening. I'm amused to watch bewildered customers driving through occasionally, looking at 1715 and 1704. There's a boy on a bike who rides through every once in a while from over on Wilson. He stops and speaks to them when they pause. No doubt telling them where the action has moved. I don't hear it down the alley. I don't know if its just there, out of sight of my window.
The dog doesn't seem to know what to make of the silence. The last two summer's he's been growing up its taken some weeks for him to get used to the noise that begins when the weather warms. We've gone downstairs twice, as we often do, to check on things, and found nothing but quiet. I'm not complaining.
I'm noticing a bit more traffic now. Word that the unmarked guys are gone is getting around. The woman who lives at 1704 who hangs out with her suppliers is back out, now hanging out at a car window, doing some business or another. Two guys I know from their cars are walking around the corner. Their cars must be on Wilson now. Less likely I'll call the police that way, they must figure.
Foxtrot is buzzing over Eutaw Place, no doubt checking out the prostitutes. I hope the night stays so relatively quiet.
Today, we got a lot done on wall prep. Still at that stage. Also finished the bathroom electrical. Cut back all the poison ivy on the fence, too. Very careful this time. Now that I know it so well.
Friday afternoon, August 16th: Interesting timing. This afternoon I found a flyer amongst the mail announcing "Candidates Night" at the "Nimrod Building of Payne Memorial AME Church, 1701 Madison Avenue (at Wilson Street)." This is the building I've been wondering about for a long time and had just questioned recently. First time I'm aware of any community use for the building. Its going to be at 7pm "Sharp" on Thursday, August 22nd. All the candidates have been invited. This seems a commendable collaboration between the Madison Park Community Association, which does not consider this block part of their community, and the church.
There was just a chase down the alley up near Laurens and I heard a siren and some garbled announcement from the Foxtrot helicopter as it circled tightly over the 1700 block of McCulloh, one block west. While I was out with the dogs, I heard "blues out!" from down the alley on Wilson. They're definitely hanging out right across from the elementary school more again. Not far enough.
Friday morning, August 16: Readers may have noticed an odd entry yesterday afternoon. I made the mistake of trying a program that promises to make website entries like this as easy as emailing. Instead of the entry I intended, it grabbed the wrong emails and used disjointed parts. A reader called to bring it to my attention. I may try it again but not without double checking the site afterward. In the meantime, I'm just going to do it the way that's worked fine so far.
Unfortunately, there was not much station work to report yesterday. The heat and my nasty poison ivy rash have made me less than enthusiastic about sanding and painting. However, Vaughn and Patrick will be here to help tomorrow morning. Hopefully it'll be a bit cooler and the rash won't be so bad. I wonder if I can persuade either of them to help me remove the rest of that poison ivy. Has to be out soon. That's not what we want people to remember about the BBQ.
Neither was there much activity on the street to report, thankfully. There has definitely been stepped up uniformed and plain clothes work here. Fewer fights. A lot less "greens, greens, greens [insert your favorite crack color brand here]" yelled across the street. Tonight and tomorrow will be telling. There's so much business here from the neighbors and so many people from the suburbs know to come here that the temptation must be great.
Last night one of those neighbors whose motives and attitude I questioned here a few days ago left a sniping, anything but constructive criticism of me in the guest book. I'd like to remind this visitor that she needn't visit. I'm not the only news source here and I make no pretense at being anything more than an observer with his own opinions. I really wouldn't have minded if her comments did anything to refute my observations. Instead it pretty well validated them. I have deleted it. She didn't leave her name. That's just going to be the rule for the guestbook. Say anything you like, please, but put in your real name. I would very much like to see, for instance, someone step up to say my observations about the church building are wrong. There are a few people in it every day who must have a different perspective on its value to the community.
Clare Barkley, Executive Secretary to the Mount Royal Improvement Association, has written an article for their newsletter telling about the BBQ and the station. It will be printed and out shortly. Thank you, Clare.
Wednesday afternoon, August 14th, 5pm: Vaughn came home to find two officers just out of their squad car checking out 1710 Madison next door, which is supposed to be vacant, but where we have dealers often. They then went into 1715. Couldn't tell whether it was just patrol, or an event, but business has been light today. Could be the heat or yesterday's dramatic bust. Saw Sean, the special police officer walking away after and the green door to 1715 was closed, which usually means the market's closed for the moment.
Mr. Ed Lee in Street Closures thinks we will be able to get the street closed officially for the BBQ. We were worried we weren't giving them the usual eight weeks notice. He did say that a portable toilet is required for every 300 people so I'm hoping we can afford one. He was helpful and gave me contact numbers and listened with interest about the project and the street.
Wednesday, August 14, noon: We've added a guestbook for you to add your comments, criticisms, your input on this site and on issues regarding Madison Avenue here. A few readers thought it would be a good idea. I hope it will be a worthwhile addition. Please visit to see the comments of others and to leave your own.
Mr. Iber with HUD emailed me this morning to let me know that a follow up meeting with HUD, concerned neighbors and the management of the building at 1717-1715 Madison Avenue to discuss plans to improve things there had been postponed until next week. Date to be set. That's just as well for me. I don't know if I could have sat still long enough for a meeting. My rash has gotten very, very itchy and ugly.
Thank you to several readers who offered their suggestions for treating it.
Work on the substation is waiting until this cold front comes through. I'm hoping for a break in the extreme heat before I have to go back to drywall and plaster work. Hopefully, I can get back to it tomorrow. With some continued help, I think we can still get it open this month, as planned.
I have posted a new item on the wish list. If any group would like to help with the BBQ, sponsoring the Moonbounce and a portable toilet, as required for the street closure, it would be enormously appreciated. Its about $200 for the Moonbounce and $125 for the toilet. I think they would be very worthwhile additions to the event. Kids are a big part of what this whole effort is about. We'd like them to have something fun to do that afternoon, besides eat hot dogs, while the adults listen to the jazz, the speakers and see the substation.
Tuesday, August 13, 1:00pm: The street was fairly quiet last night. I went to bed unusually early again thanks to seeing Officer Slimmer out in front rousting the usual troublemakers. Between him and the heat, the dealers were pretty discouraged. Today, there are already a few doing business from the shady stoop of 1704, on the corner with Wilson and in and out of 1715. Still, the street's pretty quiet because its so hot.
I have broken out in a poison ivy type rash* wherever I touched a big bushy vine I was cutting away on Sunday, clearing the space for the officer's parking. I must be allergic to something in it, though I don't think its poison ivy or oak. Maybe its Sumac. Between that and the heat, my ambition level isn't too great today. Have done some needed cleaning and straightening up down there and am up to take a break. Don't worry. The station will still be done this month, even if we have to work earlier in the morning. Only problem with that is when the street is too loud and too busy with the dealers and I can't get to bed until 4.
A neighbor from Spicer's Run came over and saw the station last night. He brought over an extra porch light and some scrap lumber he thought we could use. I'm sure we'll find a use for both. Thank you, Ken.
Just heard squealing tires and looked out to see one officer running north in front of the house, one police car speeding backward next to him and one racing down the alley behind Eutaw Place toward Laurens. The dealers who were just minutes ago on the stoop of 1704 are missing. A crowd of people came out of 1717-1715 to watch what I'm guessing was a knock down arrest on Laurens. I no longer go out to see these things on the advice of our officers who caution they don't want me to appear connected, as in being the snitch. Perhaps I'll hear about it later from one of them as I often do.
While I'm watching this out my window, a concerned neighbor from Eutaw Place left a message that I "might be interested to know there is going to be an undercover drug raid back there, if its not going on already." The arrest was not so undercover, though I expect Sergeant Kessler and his drug squad were involved. It was centered around activity at 1704 and Wilson Street.
The police are trying. I believe their attention is turning more and more to this block. Its certainly needed and appreciated. As I've often said here and most know, the drug sales on this block directly fuel the prostitution that so plagues the residents of Eutaw Place and spawns the burglaries over in Bolton Hill.
I once had a chat with Sergeant Hess about attitudes. We both lament the fact dealing has come to be considered an acceptable way to make a living by so many, including upstanding, church going citizens who would never dream of breaking the law themselves. They see no other route. Of course, with underfunded schools, lack of parenting and lack of concern from those outside the ghetto, getting the formal education needed to make a decent living is a lot harder than just picking up drug dealing skills from the street.
*Update: Its a poison ivy type rash for good reason: it is. I'd never seen such a big poison ivy plant. It's 16 feet plus and the leaves are huge, but match up perfectly to a photo I just found on the net. Its about 48 hours after exposure and I'm getting welts and blisters on my forearms and legs. How stupid could I be? <g> Does anyone have a suggestion for killing and removing it? If I cut the trunks and let the plant die and dry up, will it be as poisonous? If you don't recognize me next time you see me, it's just the Calamine lotion. Back to text.
Sunday morning, August 11: The Sunday morning parking lot is packed full of the faithful. The doorway to 1717-1715 is covered with its residents and several street dealers. I'd like to think the church goers are not customers, but the dealers actually walk amongst them, yelling their familiar chants and there are always more on a Sunday morning.
My comments last night seem to have ruffled more than a few feathers. I would like to say I'm sorry, but I'm not, even after a night's sleep on it. Some feathers deserve ruffling. My observations and opinions here are just that, based on what I see out my front window every day and night. Telling you about the substation and sharing my observations is the only purpose of this website. If my perspective is of interest, I'm happy.
Even argument over what to do is better than malignant neglect. Any step forward here is at the very least not more back sliding.
Many have watched this block stagnate over a long time. Somehow they think the problems here are not their own. One group won't listen to a suggestion for a computer lab for kids in their unused building. The promised substation, outreach and bustling community center have not materialized. Another group pretend we don't exist even though we share the same street. In fact, they put up a barricade a long time ago that serves to concentrate the problems here. The other group now profess support, but seem to want any efforts short of their final solution to fail so they can say "we told you so."
Yet individuals far into Bolton Hill, not directly on the front line, and many from Reservoir Hill, Spicer's Run, Madison Park and even East Baltimore are making the substation happen, both with donations and moral support. They are helping us help ourselves. They know what happens three blocks or three miles away affects them directly. Their heads are not in the sand, but looking toward the progress of the whole city, beginning right next door, where the help is needed.
A young man, 3,000 miles away in Southeast Los Angeles, has emailed asking for more details about the station and how to encourage the community support we've seen. As if I was the expert. He heard about it from a MICA student here who follows this site. Community can encompass far more than a few blocks.
I'm considering adding a guest book for people to add their two cents. I would not allow it to be monopolized by the few vociferous zealots, but I wonder if readers here would like to see the comments of others and add their own?
I'll get off the soapbox now and get back to work on the substation. We've got three weeks, to stay on schedule.
I should add last night late was busy, but not too threatening. The distributor guys in their usual cars parked only briefly to restock their crew after a good night. As I was getting ready for bed about 2, I heard "last call for yellows!" from the sidewalk directly under our floodlamp where a boy was counting the evening's take. His pistol was loosely stuffed in the waist of low slung, baggy shorts, plainly outlined for effect under his t-shirt. In another life he could be my bartender, but why deal with all that regulation and taxes? Shortly after he drove away. I wonder to where.
Saturday, August 10, 9pm: Is it already the tenth? The station still has a lot to be done, but today the bathroom ceiling, light and fan are in and wired and even work. I can't remember the last time I used duct tape on duct. Did some more mudding, too. The wall prep is proving the most time consuming part of the project since the new floor and ceiling joists.
Got a nice email today from a regular reader. She has a book to lend me she thinks I'll like. Leslie by Omar Tyree. I'd never heard of it, but I'm not well read. I look forward to meeting her and reading it. She had some very kind words of encouragement. Good timing for me. I had just read a copy of a vitriolic email from a local landlord and homeowner to someone else on the subject of 1717/1715 Madison Avenue. It was a downer for me. Nice to read positive, constructive words right after. Thank you Jennifer.
Sometimes I think we'd be better off if some people joined their brethren in the burbs and gave up on the city, or at least took a long vacation. The fight has taken its toll on them. There are long standing problems here on Madison Avenue, the poor back yard of Eutaw Place and Bolton Hill, that have gotten worse through permanent neglect. Neglect by what was a poorly run city, by Community Associations who spurn this blighted block and by a church that owns the majority of square footage on this street and yet seems to do nothing to help it. Developing a former bombed out apartment building was encouraging to me two years ago, but it's mostly unused, wasted potential right now. Vacant at night and used by few in the day. Theirs is a widely regarded congregation of accomplishment, but one who's members seem to ignore the people who live here right next to their house of worship ... and consider this street nothing more than their Sunday morning parking lot.
No recent events have made things any worse for most of us here, except for a few understandably irate property owners who were suddenly affected in their wallets. The houses are theirs and represent large rehab and maintenance efforts, but the homes destroyed in those fires belonged to the lady in the alley in her bathrobe at 1am, the bewildered students, renters whose lives were damaged, but thankfully not ended. These property owners believe they know the very building that is the root cause of the problem and want it gone now. Would that it were so simple, so black and white, as they proffer. There must be a place somewhere in the middle where we can all meet to make progress. The only determined, organized people with a common purpose here are the crack dealers. I'm sure they appreciate the infighting and confrontational attitude among those of us who could change things. We even seem to disagree on what that change should be. Progress and improvement today would be a nice change I think, preferable to a protracted fight over what is the ultimate solution ... and for whom.
The mid level dealers have taken to parking elsewhere and walking in more now. They're also working more on Wilson, around the corner, like they were summer before last. Still, I see three street level boys out right now on the stoop of 1704 where they have friends who hide them and their stashes when needed, the same problem we often see with 1717/1715. And cars are honking for service in front of 1715, like driver's at the A&W. Their servers trot out, look around, serve their customer and run back in to the air conditioned apartment provided them mostly at tax payer expense.
Last night was surprisingly uneventful after a rough, early start. I got to bed late, but mostly because of me. Sometimes I let stress get the better of me. There were only a few disturbances. The dealers were a bit more subdued than they've been. Could they be feeling some pressure? I hope so. I like to think one day I'll wake up to a quiet street, with happy, productive people as I like to imagine this house once enjoyed.
Friday, August 9, about 8: Unfortunately, the guy and his signature car and sales boys were back with a passion this afternoon. We scowled at each other across the fence while I had beer with my neighbor. He parked quite defiantly right in front of the house. Obviously sending a signal to me. The police drove by again, having been called via 311 a couple times. He left for the moment. Foxtrot is making another pass. I'm cooking supper with a shotgun on the end table.
The special police officer has buzzed through a few times. His passes through do help remind the guys there is law. I wonder if they've gotten further in getting their arrest powers back. They're too limited in what they can do now.
It looks like another very busy night ahead of us. I'm hoping there'll be something worth watching on the tube at 2.
We did get the old broken truck out of the yard. I got some cleaning up done. More tomorrow when I have help. I hope soon to get some gravel for the parking area. The truck missing shows the broken up concrete problem.
Jean Thompson, a neighbor from Bolton Hill and associate editor of the Sun, has invited me to write a City Diary column for them. I'm flattered. If it gets the word out, it'll be worth it. Perhaps it'll help persuade more to help over here and to attend the BBQ. I just hope its readable.
Friday morning, August 9: The drywall is hung, soon to be mudded. The old walls are getting there, too. They won't be perfect, but I'm fixing the plaster where I can and getting it ready for paint. Today we're pulling one of the trucks out of the lot and I'm trimming the weeds out of what will be the parking area and walk way. My other truck is going to be moved to the edge of the parking area where I will get back to working on it once the station is open. In fact, once the station is open I'm hoping to get back to work on work, the house and my life, too.
It was an uneventful night as Thursdays usually are. Tonight and tomorrow will be busy on the street, as weekends always are. Hopefully we'll have nothing other than a brisk all night business. If we're lucky, a couple of the extra concerned officers will be on who regularly roust the guys. And girl, I should add. We have one enterprising, brave young woman who panders yellows. "Yellows out. Yellows out!" Heard "golds" too yesterday. That makes the brand selection on our street greens, blues, yellows and golds right now. Don't know where pinks has gone.
It was interesting that for several hours yesterday I didn't hear greens. I think he was the one arrested the day before. Then someone new began hawking them. I believe I saw the usual guy back later, perhaps out on bail. Hard to tell sometimes when they dress in the uniform and you're watching for a fleeting moment from the second floor, concerned about being a target.
Thursday afternoon, August 8, about 2pm: Lunchtime break and time to update. Based on the number of visits we're getting here, I feel remiss if I don't update at least daily now. <g> 143 unique hits yesterday alone.
The street is pretty quiet, though not in a conventional sense. There's a loud stereo playing from a boy's luxury SUV while he washes his pride and joy. Two guesses how he paid for it since he's not working the day shift, to say the least. I'm sorry to sound so cynical, its just I've seen this boy in action. He's chatting with his buddy, the dealer who lives on our block. If loud music were our only problem, I'd be happy as could be.
Good news: The date for the BBQ has been set. Wednesday, September 18 at 5PM. I hope all who read this will attend. We will have a moonbounce or similar amusement for the kids starting when school lets out at 2:30. We're hoping to get the street closed for the event and to put it smack dab in the middle, but the bureaucracy may not allow that because we haven't given them enough time. Later, a jazz ensemble from Peabody will perform before and after a brief speaker's program and a ceremonial ribbon cutting. After that, we intend to feed everyone BBQ'd hot dogs and fixin's and serve plenty of cold soda. Let's pray its a nice summer's evening. We haven't set a rain date yet.
A Moonbounce is great fun for the little ones. Rather like a safer trampoline. And it will be adult supervised.
So far, we have confirmation that Councilwoman Sheila Dixon will be attending. We're also meeting with her on the 28th at her request to discuss what the Council President's office might be able to do to help. I enjoyed some very pleasant conversation with Zoe on her staff. Or should I say she listened, but with concerned interest. Invitations to other potential speakers like the mayor will be out shortly. We never heard back from his scheduling secretary, but still hope he will attend. It would mean a lot to many.
I'm going to make this brief, though I'd like to go on and on. I'm making good progress, even alone, working on the station and now more than ever feel under the gun to get it done. It should be done before the month is out. We'll be handing out keys to the officers as soon as its useable.
Sorry, not so brief after all. There's something I forgot. Officer Gorman spoke to me in the alley yesterday afternoon to say that a local dealer we both know had been stopped and arrested. A guy we have all wanted to see off the streets for a while. The officer's colleagues with him were amazed at the local knowledge I had until he told them I lived here. Its hard to miss their doings when its right under my nose. Officer Jester has told Officer Gorman that my reports are usually very accurate. I was pleased they noticed.
They had responded to my report of a very intoxicated woman trying to pry open the board over the door at last summer's crack house, 402 Wilson Street, across our alley. I asked her to stop several times and was blank faced ignored. She was desperately, singlemindedly looking everywhere amongst the trash for a "stem" that might have something in it. I guess she didn't have anything left to give the boys around the coner.
Let me say this in the unlikely event the dealers on our block are visiting now: If you weren't so blatant and obvious, or better yet, moved on where people don't care, things wouldn't be getting tougher for you on this little stretch of Madison Avenue. I realize you don't want to give up such profitable turf, but your days of owning this street are almost over. More and more the good people here now believe they can have the block back. Its certainly not just us anymore. There are plenty of other streets where no one gives a damn. Move on.
Back to the good citizens. Would that it was so easy, huh? The Special Police force was out in their SUV yesterday afternoon. Just their presence dampens the activity and we're grateful for it. I hope they'll be back soon and every day. We also had the Foxtrot helicopter at one point yesterday afternoon. He was swinging a tight circle directly overhead. So tight in fact you could almost see in the cockpit. The sharp swing angle of heel due to the tight turn was amazing. I decided to cut my talk short with my neighbor and come in. Was concerned something big might be afoot like a chase through the alley. Fortunately, I didn't hear gun shots.
OK. Definitely going to walk the dogs and get back to substation work now. The dogs are helping. They sit in the hall near me and run out to bark at suspicious people in the alley. More on the BBQ and anything else that might be of interest later today or by morning.
Wednesday afternoon about 2, August 7: I went out to walk the dogs and got hassled by several men standing near the fence at 1706. They were unhappy to see me trot out with three dogs in the middle of brisk business. Amounted to nothing more than muffled threats and gestures as usual. Called 311 to report the unusually heavy number of deals happening in front. About ten boys and two mid level guys. And bunches of children around to complicate matters. Interestingly, the distributor guys have taken to parking around the corner often. Less easy to spot that way, though they walk right over to their vending stands, also called stoops in better blocks. Was given attitude by the 311 operator who asked how I knew they were dealers and what an unusal number of deals was. I told him I can see cash changing hands for vials and more deals all over the street than I could count going on in a thirty second visit to the window. He said he'd dispatch a car and hung up. I said thank you.
I also called the Security Police for the Pedestal Gardens building and reported the problem, which includes a lot of coming and going through their building. I asked again if it would be possible to start the guard over there earlier than just the 3pm to 3am shift. The dealers are getting more brazen and/or more desperate lately. I don't think its just the first of the month rush anymore.
Wednesday morning, August 7: Marty, in charge of maintenance for the Pedestal Gardens project, emailed clarification of the number of maintenance things he and his staff handle (I was curious if I'd heard correctly when I wrote a few days ago.): "Our maintenance staff handles more than 300 maint items per week at ALL the sites (4)." He did tell me this building has more than its fair share sometimes. Perhaps because its somewhat remote from the others. Many of the repairs involve fixing things removed to provide quick stashes for inventory. He and Richard have also kindly offered another kitchen faucet, like the one donated for the lavatory sink, for our kitchenette counter.
Marty reports he's seen a change in the attitudes of most of the residents recently and "the non-conforming are feeling the pressure and moving both voluntarily and not." Someone who's in the building and the apartments often is likely to hear things and pickup the vibes better than me, watching only the bad ones as I do from across the street. I do think the residents on both sides of the street are seeing the increased police presence, the increased security police presence and the "suits" who come around now. I know people walking through the alley do watch me work, perhaps having already heard what that space is going to be soon.
All of these rumblings of change no doubt are making our dealers unhappy. The market here is too good to lose. This explains why they've become so brazen in their threats. Vaughn and I living right here in the middle of the block are conspicuous harbingers of this change. Plus, I make no secret who's side I'm on, being seen with the suits and police often. Still, knock wood, they haven't had the nerve for any serious moves against us, though we're prepared as best we can for them. Just last night Vaughn came down to my floor in the middle of the night to ask me if I'd heard something. Except that the dogs didn't bark and the alarm hadn't gone off, I was momentarily taken aback by someone at my bedroom door unexpectedly, which was open. I think my reaction illustrated to us both what high alert we're on around here. I probably shouldn't divulge what item my trigger finger was on until I realized it was him.
One of my too many projects, an old pickup truck, is being removed from the back yard tomorrow to help make way for the new parking. We were fortunate to make a trade for a newel post from a neighboring house that isn't being used. 1708 lost its newel post, mantles, lights and every other fixture of any value, probably sometime during its five year stint as an abandoned crack house. I've often wise cracked I should go shopping for it all in Fells Point where exterior features from Bolton Hill homes often find themselves, having been traded for quick cash to buy crack, probably on our block.
Well, hearing "greens, greens, greens" just now and seeing two of our distributor's cars out there reminds me the day is speeding along. Writing my ramblings here isn't getting the station open. I need to get back down to work. Like Marty, if you have corrections, comments or any input regarding this site or anything to do with Madison Avenue here, please don't hesitate to write me at Bryan@RebuildingMadison.info.
Tuesday, August 6, 7pm: Fairly quiet around here except the sound of a marching band. The dealers are all over the stoops here on the shady side of Madison. I hear blues and greens loudly, but no fights, no threats. Just business as usual. Not so many of the real distributors here constantly today. Perhaps this month's checks are getting spent up.
The owner's agents for the Pedestal Gardens building across the street have agreed to join a few of us in a letter/petition to get a drug nuisance abatement complaint on one of the slumlords over next to me. We'll be joined by at least two of our beat cops who can help document the problem. The man knows his building has users, dealers and is a stash, but ignores it. He has some good tenants. They suffer even worse than us from the troubles these dealers bring, living right with them in cramped, tiny apartments.
City Council President Sheila Dixon may be attending our BBQ. I spoke at length to Zoe in her office today. She could be an inspiration to the kids on this block who presently see their role models as famous basketball players or the dealer who has all the money and girls on the stoop next door. Be nice if they could see up close and personal a successful woman of African descent who cares. Wardell, the pastor of the church at 1702 tells me no one in city hall has ever shown a concern for this block in the many years he's lived here.
I hear a marching band practicing next to the school. Its a loud booming noise. When I first heard it two years ago, I was unnerved and scared of what it might be. I heard it then while I was in the basement in the dark amidst tons of trash. Now I like it. Rather prefer the sound of loud, defiant drums and children playing to the "greens, greens, greens" and gunfire and obscene threats shouted in the night.
Got the bathroom exhaust outlet mounted and old window out in the substation today. Will be mounting a fixed piece of Lexan there to resist rocks and break in. Also have the circuits rewired for the kitchenette. Ready to put in the outlets and drywall. It'll be tough to meet our deadline, but if the weather holds out like this for a while, it'll be a lot easier.
I have a new book to read. The Corner, by David Simon, the author of homicide. Was recommended to me by Bob Pipik, in charge of the land disposition office of DHCD. He says he thinks I already know the story. Still it might be nice to hear another's perspective.
Oh, a new event: While I was working on the window in the back of the house, a little red car drove by through the alley and then backed up. I backed up, too. You might imagine why. An African American yuppie leaned his head out the window and said "Are you rehabbing it?" We chatted for a moment and he went on to say he was looking at a boardup house at 1735 McCulloh. I told him about this website and he wrote it down. He said something like "we believe in the city, too" and drove off.
While writing this, a drill team marched down the street. The dealers don't like the interruption to their trade.
Sunday, August 4, about noon: Yesterday we used the rental truck to pick up the new fridge, the vanity/sink and many other things, including what I hope will be our last run to Home Depot for substation stuff, for a while at least. We have about everything we need. Just need to put it together now. And its needed more than ever ...
While we were going in and out dropping stuff off here, we were harassed and jeered at by the street level dealers. This was the most overt response to us I've ever seen. One of the jeers was "come clean, we know you're cops." One told Vaughn he thought the FBI was on the third floor. Talk about your deep cover! <g> They also enjoyed saying "bang!" loudly. They were unnerving, but we know better than to show a wild animal any fear. I called 911 and the Special Police after we drove away. The latter sent out their supervisor. I think that helped. I don't know if the police came by, but I did see the mid level dealer's car was gone when we got back. This was about 11am. The dispatcher told me the dealers were starting earlier because its the first of the month, "government checks just got cashed."
Last night, about midnight, I looked out my window to see why there were so many people out all over the neighboring stoops. A bright light was shone on me from 1710's stoop and a voice said "we gonna get you, you gonna die." I replied "try it and you'll be the dead one." I then called 911. Officer Slimmer was there fast. He dispersed them, as he always does and kept them coming and going through the night, interrupting their business. We sleep better when he's on duty.
This sounds horrible, I know. However, business is taking a serious hit between the stepped up policing, the drug stings, the increased special police (HUD) presence across the street, and all the obvious activity and attention here now. They know something is up and they don't like it. Everyone agrees things will be getting worse before they get better. We knew that going in. But they are going to get better and soon.
Friday afternoon, August 2, about 4: The film crew is long gone. The street is deserted. Its a bit early and hot for the dealers. They like to start later on weekend nights because there's more business later.
Richard and Marty from Pedestal Gardens dropped off the new toilet this afternoon. Marty even brought me a new wax seal. He's in charge of maintenance over there so he knows what's needed. I believe he told me there were no fewer than 300 repairs on that building recently. Could it really be in one month, as I think I heard? People, not always tenants, rip out things to find stashes to hide their inventories. Behind the fire lights is a favorite spot. Its not just malicious mischief.
My mother sent me this article from the New York Times today. I think readers here would find it interesting. Click here to read the article from The New York Times.
Tomorrow will be spent with a rental truck picking up the refrigerator, the vanity/sink, sofa, some more drywall and other big things we need to finish the walls. I expect we'll be through with that soon and will be laying floor. Once that's done, all these fixtures will be installed and then we're talking opening.
I'm a bit disappointed we haven't heard back from the mayor's office as to what dates in September would work for him coming to the BBQ as he indicated he was interested in attending in his email to me of July 23. We're going to have to set a date soon. Something this inclusive takes real planning and coordination. We've also spoken to Council President Dixon's office today about the possibility of her attending. I sure hope they can come to see what all our neighbors have been working on and perhaps say a few words of encouragement. It'll be a good event whether we have dignitaries or if its just those of us really interested in helping this block.
For those interested in The Wire, which was just filming its final episode for the season around Madison here, Vaughn found this article in the May 29 issue of City Paper online. Click here to read it at CityPaper.com
Thursday afternoon, August 1, 3:30pm: Filming for the final episode of The Wire for HBO is under way on our block of Madison and around on Wilson.
According to the security people I spoke with late last night they should be wrapped up by late tonight.
Got back from another meeting with the IRM people about the problem at 1717-15. Mostly we discussed a fencing and access restriction plan for the property centering around limiting access, both pedestrian and auto to the Madison side of the property. This would greatly limit use of the lot and allow a guard to monitor both types of traffic at the same time. Of course adequate means for firetrucks to get in would be made, but these would not be useable otherwise. This may help with the situation. Whether its enough or is a longer term solution will have to be seen. I am told that the buildings on McMechen were very bad several years ago. A fence similar to what is proposed now for this building was put up also with only one means of entrance and exit for cars. Long time staffers there say it helped considerably.
The mystery of the security lighting going out may be solved. Gary, our neighbor on Eutaw, mentioned a power fluxuation happened about midnight. We think the breaker may have blown on the new security light circuit there and been reset by the guards. I haven't seen them yet to ask. Either the city was responding to the same problem on other lights we didn't see or it was a happy coincidence that they came when they did and that whole end of the block was lit brightly again.
Patricia Dixon's office called me this afternoon to ask where exactly the BBQ was going to be and when. I told her we hadn't set a date yet but would be happy to have her attend.
Thursday morning, August 1, about 1am: Came home to find the no parking sign up for 10pm to 8am due to filming. No film crew yet. Put my car in the yard. It was replaced with two of the resident crack dealers. They don't seem too concerned and are doing a good business, as usual.
The new flood lamps that went in last week are now out. Happened in the last hour or so. Don't know why. Called the HUD security people. Supposedly they know about it. Very odd. The street lamps are still out in front of 1715-17 Madison, the building. I've been calling the people responsible for that three times a week for a month. The number is 396-5967 or the mayor's office if you'd like to help.
Ten minutes after I called the security people, the new lights are back on ... that's even more odd. The dealers are swarming all over across the street here on our side. They have a steady stream of business walking across the street from the HUD building. The security Special Police people we've had there for three days are no where to be seen. Officer Slimmer is not on or is busy elsewhere. If he were on, the dealers would be asked where they live and dispersed. He would ask the moms why five year olds are on the street at 1am. There are no less than four toddlers out there now.
Such interesting timing. I just got up after writing the previous and see Sean, the Special Policeman, out there and the city crew fixing the street lamp. Finally. The dealers are still over here. The SP guys can't do anything yet beyond the HUD supported buildings and they all know it.
The substation plumbing is getting there and Patrick is volunteering to help all day tomorrow. I'm hopeful a lot will get done. We do have a follow up meeting about 1715 tomorrow, midday, at Pedestal Garden's Offices on McMechen. We're all hopeful management will have solid proposals for improvement.
I did get an email this afternoon that the tenants who allowed the fleeing suspect into their apartment to hide yesterday will immediately have a 30 day notice to vacate. I hope they can follow through and evict these tenants. They are known to Sergeant Kessler as dealers on our street. The tenants of all these buildings must understand they will be evicted if they aid a criminal. This should include hiding their stash when the police approach, as I witnessed yet again yesterday evening.
We have registered a new domain to make it easier to access this site: RebuildingMadison.info. It should be online later today. I'll soon give this site some further attention and attempt to make it faster loading and better overall. Gary over on Eutaw and I are discussing his providing photos and information from the back of 1715-17. This will give us complete coverage of that building so we can document the trouble there and hopefully, soon, the progress in solving its many problems.
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