Journal Entries for August, 2005

If you're new to this site,

please review the history section and be sure to read
earlier month's entries which date back to late July, 2002.

Tuesday, August 30, 2pm: The other evening I heard a knock at the door. It was a young man I've seen in the neighborhood before. When we first met, I thought he was high. So many stumbling along the sidewalk were in those times. He mumbles and slurs his words almost unintelligibly. At other meetings, when he'd come up to me to ask for bus fare or to try to say something I realized he was unable to speak properly, not high. Vaughn says he ranges over the whole neighborhood, all the way to Vaughn's church in Mt. Vernon.

This night, trying to understand what he wanted, I said "you want the police?" He nodded yes. I could see no injury or other reason but I called 911 and reported a man in my vestibule who wanted the police. As I came back from calling, Vaughn drove up and began talking to him. Vaughn is more patient than I, especially when it comes to deciphering. Turns out, he needed a ride to a meager homeless shelter downtown. His aunt who lives a few streets west had made him supper, but wouldn't let him spend the night. I had reservations about Vaughn driving him there, but he was back in five minutes. Turned out, he didn't know his bus pass was valid at night. He has a state ID for the disabled, on a chain around his neck, and apparently that entitles him to 40% off his transit pass. (why not 100% I can't fathom). When he understood this, he had Vaughn drop him at the subway which lets out a block from where he would spend the night.

The police never responded during the 20 or so minutes this all took. An officer drove up to the pit stop in back. Vaughn went to tell her not to bother, the problem had been taken care of. As he was telling the cop this, the call came over the radio.

Sometimes, when you dial 911, whether you're reporting an emergency or just an urgency, remember it's not always the cops' fault it takes a while for them to respond. Often it's dispatch.
I can't tell you how many arguments I've had with 911 operators over the years. They're exasperating to deal with too often. "Sir, how do you know they're selling drugs!?" The requirements for being a 911 operator are minimal. Check them out here. Note the typos on something put out by the city. Almost as bad as some of mine, but I'd expect better of the city.

Saw what one would have called "the suits" on a less hot and humid day at the lot of Pedestal Gardens last week. Obviously some people from Long Fence, including the hyper sales lady with the cell phone perpetually glued to ear. Didn't recognize the others. I suspected perhaps the actual owners or other reps. They have good reason to take a closer interest in the properties these days. One short, stout woman reminded me at first glance of Senator Mikulski. She smoked incessantly, casting butt after butt on the sidewalk as they all talked. I was relieved it wasn't our senator on closer look.

The "suits"

Turns out they must have been hashing out the final plans for the long awaited fence.

fence posts in

They began planting the posts late last week. Last night they began attaching the picket panels.

fence panels

It looks nice. We had Long Fence give us a quote for doing the same type fence in front of our yard at 1706 where we still have temporary fencing bolted. $1200 for 18 feet. Seemed absurdly high to me for a bolt in job especially since they were across the street already. It's tubular steel. We may check out prefab panels that look similar. This shouldn't be too easy to climb. Of course, the fence system's whole value will hinge on how the access system is done and managed. With Pedestal Garden's management history, that's a big question.

fire door painting

Saw a man painting around the sign of the fire door at PG the other day. Just touching it up. There must be another HUD inspection coming. Pressure is the only reason they've ever made repairs or improvements, from touching up paint to security people and systems. And consistently whatever's done is compromised, as little as they can get away with. While he was painting, that high pitched siren wailed around the block as it often does for hours when doors are left ajar, even while security personnel sit in their cars. How they or the residents can be oblivious to that sound amazes me.

Noticed the security personnel for Pedestal Gardens came back last week. I'm not sure if they were ever gone though. Perhaps they were working undercover, shorthanded, or on vacation. Whatever, they weren't visible anywhere on either side of the 1715-1717 building for a long time.

They're back

They still just hang out in their cars, thinking themselves police men, not security officers. I guess that's just what comes from hiring off duty police officers.

Whether their cars' presence or other factors, the block continues to be better. I saw a guy who did not look like an off duty officer out talking to some rowdy residents yesterday. It occurred to me they should put a "house mother" in the apartment that was set aside as a security office a while back. A waste otherwise. A live in building manager, security person might be a good move. There's no question the building requires constant baby sitting. We'll see if stringing a "play pen" around the building will make it better. At least it's sure to slow down the foot traffic from the dealers on the corner and that's a big plus.

Came home to see four guys hanging on the stoop of 1700 Madison at the corner of Wilson a couple nights ago. Common sight. The smell of marijuana wafted up and down the street. Two reminded me of Rastafarians with their dreadlocks and dress and smoke. They didn't overly concern me until we saw a couple cars pull up, deal, and drive on. We called it in. About ten minutes later, the Rastafarians sauntered past, probably to the park a block up Madison. We didn't see police. Perhaps they weren't overly concerned either. I'll take potheads over crack heads any day.

Monday, August 22, 2pm: Readers email me when I don't make a posting for a while. Some time back when there were lapses they were worried I'd been gunned down or beat up by the crack dealers we've so openly assailed. It seemed a possibility to me at the time. I'm happy to say I don't feel we live in a war zone anymore. There are still moments I wonder, as when Foxtrot circled tightly over my head earlier while I was in the yard with the dogs. Seeing it brought back the time it did the same circles and I watched as three overweight officers ran panting down the alley after a dealer boy. He thought he could escape through our yard and ended up entangled on the fence. Slowed him just enough for the officers to catch him.

Then there was the afternoon I was sitting at my desk when I heard a thump from the third floor followed by rapid footsteps down our rusty old fire escape. As I looked out the window, I saw a frantic guy struggling down the broken steps. When he got to the landing out my office/bedroom window I told him to freeze, pointing my shotgun at him.

"I'm just trying to get away from the cops!" Somehow that didn't make me any more hospitable. Instead of freezing, he got to the yard and realized it was now fenced in. Then drug squad sergeant Kessler collared him. I think he was the same suspect who'd boxed the sergeant in the eye.

And of course I will always remember Quentin showing me his 9mm one summer to punctuate his claim this was his block. Where is he now? Dead, jailed, moved on? I don't know. Sometimes I wish I could sit down with him and compare notes. Do you remember when ...?

Ah, those halcyon days of open war with the dealers. I miss them so.

I guess this is what TV calls a flashback episode. Those shows when the writers aren't feeling particularly creative. Or in this case, have little to report.

Told my mom a few days ago I felt I could spend a few days away from the house now, for a visit around the holidays. That's some statement for a house that had DefCon levels before Homeland Security made them popular.

Just saw the cement truck driver who seems to have discovered he could "score" at Pedestal Gardens when he was here to pour the driveway. What exactly he's scoring, I don't know. MIght be a sweetheart. Might be a hit. Maybe both. There's no one there to find out. Not that it's our business if it doesn't involve open dealing and shooting at each other.

Heard again the not so new Police Commissioner's house is no longer guarded 24/7 by two city police officers. One was posted on each end of his row house a couple blocks up the street. I'm told the K9 unit checks it out regularly and that officers in our sector have been instructed to keep an eye on it through frequent patrols. Rather than having two units sit there simply to guard his house, it seems we can all benefit from this change in policy. A reader asked me why the big cop with a gun needed guarding like that anyway. I suppose if a crack head broke in to steal his stuff to pawn on Pennsy, it'd be an embarrassment to a commissioner who constantly says things are better. Fortunately for him, sometimes they are better ... here in his neighborhood. I can't speak for others.

No progress with 1704. The "developer" chosen by those of such infinite wisdom at Housing is trying to craft a proposal that nets him enough of a loan to make the three $150,000 condos he proposes and, get this, pay the $30,000 he agreed to pay the city for the building. Closing seems to have been indefinitely postponed. Would have thought all these details would have been what making a proposal was all about. Apparently he either doesn't have the money to buy the place from the city or isn't committed enough. I do so wonder how he was chosen, though he seems a nice guy. Why wasn't one of those who wanted to live here the choice? If this guy can't convince First Mariner Bank of the feasibility of his scheme, he's already sunk. I still wonder if he was chosen so as to sabotage the effort, to retaliate for the criticism of these bureaucrats' doings from the neighbors and Council President Dixon. The 18 month window to sell it to owner/occupants hasn't even started yet, months later. How helpful to those who live here to see this place still wrapped up in bureaucracy almost two and a half years later. Sad comment on the reality DHCD ignores. I so wish I'd pursued private purchase of this house and kept it from the bureaucrats, as neighbors like Rachel suggested two years ago. I'm sure by now, it'd be lived in, not just another eyesore and rat trap we're left to tend.

Bought some fruit popsicles for the substation at Sam's last week. Good ones, with real fruit, not the Kool Aid type we always have anyway. They were gone one night. At 50 cents apiece, we can't afford to keep them stocked. Left a letter suggesting that if officers wanted stuff like this, we could put in a can for coins. No replies yet. Always have resisted charging for anything in there, but if officers' want stuff we can't afford, maybe it'd be a convenience to them. We'll see. The new AC continues to work flawlessly. Such a wonderful donation and so nice not to have to worry if the pit stop is comfortable.

Tuesday, August 16, 2pm: One of the most obvious indicators an apartment building is a problem for the neighborhood is the number of visits by emergency vehicles, both ambulance and police ...

paramedics visit 1700 ... again

This seems to happen at least once a week at 1700 Madison. Different people each of the last few times I've seen. For some reason the fire department invariably dispatches the ladder truck before the ambulance. In this case, the ambulance was not summoned. Perhaps it was simple heat exhaustion. Or perhaps something to do with the dealers who frequent this building? Same property owner with so many evictions, like again last Wednesday.

Same thing with Pedestal Gardens, though it's not four times a day anymore ...

another police visit to 1715 Mad Av

These officers tried hard to get into the building through the green fire doors on our side of the building. Like the firefighters, no one from Pedestal Gardens has bothered to tell them that's not wide open anymore, that the entrance is from the parking lot. I'm trying to get the word out. I hate to see them waste time on a door with no handle.

Work on the fence there is making no progress. Wonder why, but since I've cut off communication with the property management, I can't ask. Decided talking with them was a waste of time anyway. We're going around them for answers now.

cooling down fun

Watched the other day as a bunch of local kids played at the fire hydrant on the corner. Looked like fun. Called the fire department just a block away to ask if we could get one of those spray heads and that I'd handle putting it on and off if they needed a volunteer. Shouldn't have called. The fireman who answered said "We haven't had that spray nozzle program in years, but thanks for calling. We'll be right out to shut it off. That saps the pressure for other fire hydrants." They came out and shut it off tight. I felt like such a spoil sport. These kids have so little to do around here.

The kids at the hydrant provided happy sounds from the street where once all we heard day and night was "greens out, greens out, greens, greens, greens!"  I still find black vials in the yard, usually empty. Just yesterday when I was talking with the workmen renovating the 1712 Mad. Av apartment house, we found a green vial on their porch. I had warned them sanitation enforcement was going to cite the new owner for the jungle he had growing in the back yard. A place where a cop and I searched for a stash, amongst the overgrowth and debris. One of the workmen said, "That'll change. In ten years this'll be a good place to live." I surprised myself: "I think it's going to happen a lot sooner than that. The change has already started."

Regular readers will remember when I asked for an air conditioner to replace the failing one in the substation. It couldn't keep up with the heat anymore and seemed a waste just to run. Got a few calls. Thank you Jared and John and Louise (who also donated the restroom vanity at our opening). They donated a couple older AC's they weren't using. About the same time, I got an email from Chuck, a reader from Highlandtown. He wanted to know which AC we wanted. He wanted to donate a new one. I was as nonplused as when Julie of Bolton Hill made the same offer about the microwave provided in the substation back when it was being built. (see July 24, 2002 Journal Entries

Last week, we went to Chuck's house and picked up a brand new AC exactly right for the officer's pit stop. A Sears 10,000 btu window unit with a thermostat and energy saving features. He and his friend Amanda pitched in together to buy it.

new in the box

We unpacked and tried it out on the table. Worked fine. Next day I installed it permanently.

cool & comfortable cops

It works great. Quiet yet powerful enough to keep it comfortable even in those 90+ days. They went a step further and bought the extended in home warranty so we shouldn't have to worry about AC in there for three years at least. It's a high efficiency unit and I'm grateful that it cycles on and off and keeps the room just right without tending. No doubt will save us electricity, and that's been a concern.

A big thank you to Chuck and Amanda for such a generous donation.

We've gotten many notes from officers in the past three years since their break room was opened, but this one's for Chuck and Amanda ...

thank you
"Hey Chuck and Amanda, Thanks for the air conditioner. You don't know how much we appreciate it.
You see many of the [squad] cars don't have A/C. Once again, thank you very much.

I put a note next to the AC letting the officers know who donated it. An officer asked Vaughn a while back how much the city was paying us to provide the substation. She was surprised to learn she was simply a guest in our house and that many of the pieces of the room were donated by others. I don't think the academy prepares officers for this kind of support.

The fact it's comfortable and dry now even on the hottest days and nights has more officers using the restroom and taking their lunch in there again. Just the other day a couple officers were wolfing their lunches and writing a report.

Chuck has a blog. Far more personal than mine, it includes his feelings about the city and the concern he has for the too many lost to its raging drug war. You can read his blog at http://taotechuck.com/. A quote from a recent entry ...

"I'm finally beginning to understand that being responsible for our friends and families isn't enough; we also have to take care of each other. We are responsible for the drug dealers and the police officers, the politicians and the voters, the teachers and the children, the needy and the wealthy, the cats and the dogs. Learning this is challenging, because it also means learning that I can't save the world. My inability to help everyone, however, cannot be used as an excuse to do nothing. Helping one person is infinitely better than helping no one."

Reminds me of Vaughn's comment to the Sun reporter opening day for the substation, nearly three years ago now ...

"I've realized you can't change the world. You can't change the city, but you can change your own back yard."

Thursday, August 11, 2pm: As with the sidewalks, I've asked for years to get  proper traffic signage on our street. That finally happened this week.

new traffic signs

It replaced the diet posters and "we buy houses" boards always tied around it. There are new signs on the other end of the block, too. Perhaps this will cut down on the confusion around here. Now we just need those "angle parking only" signs back on the other side of the street. The same ones taken down by the "Wire" film crew for some reason last year. If people start parallel parking, the church will lose some spaces for Sunday services and we can't have that. <g>

White & Cooper conferring

Saw what looked like Pedestal Garden's Mr. White speaking animatedly with the AME Payne Church's Mr. Cooper about the new driveway yesterday. As I reported before, it seems the church was unaware what the plans were next door to its NIMROD building and is very concerned about not being able to use Pedestal Gardens as its parking lot after the new fence system is in place.

As seen here, as Mr. Cooper walked away, Mr. White was on the phone. I can only imagine to discuss Mr. Cooper's concerns with the head office. Cooper's probably insisting on Sundays and other church functions, the parking lot be left open for their use. I'm not going to butt in yet, but if that happens, we'll be extremely disappointed. That would be a clear violation of the new fence plan approved at the zoning board and endorsed by Com. Hamm and us. That parking lot is to be strictly for authorized Pedestal Gardens residents.

1715-1717 driveway done
view outside our window

The Pedestal Gardens new driveway is done after a day's rain delay. Heard jackhammers on the other side working on the fence yesterday. Now, I suppose there's nothing stopping the new fence we're so anxious to see.

Didn't include the workmen in this photo because they're very sensitive to people taking pictures. The city employee who supervised the new sidewalks over on this side said many are illegal immigrants so naturally they're apprehensive.

In the background of the same photo above you see yet another 30 cubic yard dumpster being hauled away from Kenset House at 1700 Eutaw. Today, they threw a huge piece of something out the third floor window and hit the power line connecting their neighbor (left) to the grid. I looked up to see the sparks fly. No fire, but you can still smell it in the air. I hope they're more careful.

Yet another 1700 Mad Av eviction
1700 Madison Avenue at Wilson Street

Yet another eviction this morning at 1700 Madison Avenue. The landlord who will rent to anyone, including crack dealers, so long as they have first and last month's rent in cash. Same landlord who lives in Gambrils who used to think it was OK to dump his trash in the alley 24/7 leaving others to clean it up until we made complaints to the city. It's sad to see these residents camped outside, guarding their possessions, no doubt waiting for friends with cars to help them. The most sad part of this is clear: the baby in the carriage and the toddler sitting on the steps.

1712 Madison Avenue continues to make lots of noise as they rehab those six apartments. The new owner hopes to rent them out for prices more like Bolton Hill. I hope he's not disappointed. And I certainly hope this new absentee landlord does not supervise his property like 1700 is doing or 1704 did until he was stopped.

Watched as one of our new off duty police officers sat in the 1715-1717 parking lot the other day. A car alarm went off for a while from a car parked in front of 1715. I went to look out. Not a flinch from his tinted windows even. Not that anyone notices car alarms. Saw a young woman point her remote at it from the second floor of 1715 and stop it, finally.

Interesting sight a couple days ago. I saw this same officer's SUV parked at the intersection in the photo above, pointing toward the school yard. Pity I couldn't find my camera. It seemed he'd been sitting there for some time. It was daylight of course. Not the usual time dealers hang out there, selling to the PG residents and others who live on either side, but still, it was gratifying to see. I was thankful. His presence also discouraged the dealers who often hang out on Wilson next to 1700 Madison where they often have control of an apartment.

Had a thought about why these new security guys are so often invisible. It is entirely possible that only one guy is covering all four Pedestal Gardens properties and they have fewer hours than they should. I've heard the main courtyard, with ten times more units, is much better controlled in recent months. That's great. The only problem I have with this is neighbors of 1715-1717 Madison have been repeatedly promised
for three years at meetings with HUD and PG that there would be one officer dedicated to that property alone. Maybe that's not the current schedule. The officer coordinating the new security officers would not have known this. He's new to this side of the game, though it's no game to me. Just another reason we've been at odds. I've come to realize it's not these officers who are to blame for lapses in security there. It's Pedestal Gardens management ... or the lack thereof. As it has been all along.

Saw a city officer about 2am, stopped in front, talking to a young man on a bike. An officer I've known for some time who uses the substation regularly. I had the happy thought someone else here had called the police to report something. But I'd guess he was just on patrol and thought this guy suspicious. Doing loops on your bike through the school yard and all of the PG properties at 2am is a bit odd, though not in itself illegal. This is the same officer we often hear telling dealers to "clear the corner!" He's quite diligent and understands the importance of deterrence not just response.

Susan dropped off some more waters last weekend. As always, much appreciated by the officers. We keep 'em cold along with those frozen fruit flavored pops they so enjoy when it's hot.

Monday, August 8, 2pm:

Pedestal Gardens new driveway

Work on the new driveway resumed today with the pouring of the driveway cut for PG. The contractor says they will be done this week. I imagine the fencing will then begin. At the very least this big project will add a more finished look to the block along with the new sidewalks over here.

Late the other night, I saw two young men chatting for a while with the driver of a small van outside our window. The van's driver lives on the block so I didn't think much of it except I was hoping they'd quiet down. Then I saw one of them hand the driver some cash. She handed him an empty soda bottle. Now, perhaps it was transparent soda like Sprite, but I thought it odd and called it in. I told the operator I'd seen money change hands. Around here that's almost always meant one thing. And several arrests at the old crack house involved empty soda cans with vials inside.

Two squad cars responded within minutes. The boys were gone, but they questioned the driver who had continued to just sit in the van. A big lady. I don't know what she told them, but the officers were apparently satisfied with it, even smiled. One said something that sounded like "it's just those guys," and gestured in our direction. Perhaps we're getting a rep for crying wolf now. I'm sure at times that's been deserved when we've misinterpreted what we've seen and these officers don't know me. I doubt they know what we've gone through.

Maybe when we call about suspicious "dealing" behavior now, it'll be written off as just part of my "vendetta" against Pedestal Gardens. Unlike some neighbors, we have never lied or exaggerated to further that agenda.

Otherwise, last night was quiet as a library. Some kids out late for a bit, but that's nothing new.

Saturday, August 6, 2pm: Several readers have asked me what happened to last night's post entitled "what the hell is going on around here?" I deleted it. It was too angry. I was too angry. I am too angry. I wish I could delete a message I left on the Central District Major's cell phone too, but I suspect he's disregarded that anyway. I wouldn't change my basic question, but I could have asked it bit less stridently. City officers should never doubt my respect for their work and mission, though that far from means we will always agree.

That posting and this concerns this city squad car in the vacant lot across the street yesterday evening.

on duty or not, and working for whom?

As usual, I watched to see if he was attending a call. I like to stay out of the way until they're done of course, but it looked more like he was just sitting there. I walked up to ask him what had happened, expecting to see him writing his report. "Nothing." I looked around the building for the security officer there and saw no one, as usual. Then it occurred to me what was going on.

Are you working for the city or Pedestal Gardens? "Both" was his reply. That could be understood a couple ways, but I think we both knew what he meant. I'm wondering if he was here at the request of the Major to help shut up the squeaky wheels of the block or if he was here as one of the off duty security officers we've been promised and so rarely see. Surely, he can't be working for both simultaneously? It just seemed odd.

A neighbor who lives in 1715 Madison stopped me on the sidewalk the other day, while I was sweeping up the gorgeous new concrete. I'm still like a kid at Christmas about that. "What happened to the security officers we used to have?" Gunshots in front of her door haven't inspired much confidence. I corrected her notion I had some control over it. Obviously I do not. I just shook my head and said "I have no idea what's happened or why it's being allowed to go on. We're organizing a movement to stopPGnow. Would you like to be a part?"

I would think residents there might be nervous the whole building could be closed down, but this lady is more interested in her children's safety. Like the Pall Mall apartments, I'm sure residents of PG would be relocated, likely to a better place since that would not be tough. But I'm not really pressing for that still. It ain't mine to decide and I'm all for private property owners' rights. Except when they allow crack inventories in their buildings and/or collect federal taxpayer dollars. The wrecking ball would be a permanent solution to the menace of Pedestal Gardens, but until then, I'd just be happy for reliable, conspicuous security presence as HUD has promised us often. You can lead a horse to water ...

One of the many who've contacted Ms. Henderson of HUD (410.962.2520 ext 3052) was Jimmy, one of the security guards and specially commissioned police officers who used to work for their truly horrible boss. The one that collected $25 for each manhour and paid $8 to $11. Anyway, long time readers here know Jimmy. He was involved in many arrests and was a big deterrent and not just because he's a big man.

He was visible because he was always in uniform. He would patrol all the properties of Pedestal Gardens in his car, but you couldn't miss him because he got out of his car. He talked to people, both the good and otherwise. If he saw a crack deal happening on the other side of the street from Pedestal Gardens, he'd chase after, often making arrests. But more often than not when he was seen, dealers were not. They knew he would not hesitate to go after them. He never said "that's not Pedestal Gardens property" when the dealers were working the center of the three buildings, where our elementary school sits. Mr. Kluver was that way, too.

We had some good officers then. We had our disagreements frequently, but we mostly worked together as we did when lobbying to get them proper radios. Who would have thought I'd be nostalgic for the days of private security guards?

Looking out the window, I see an SUV no doubt with one of the off duty officers in it. You can't tell because of the snazzy tinted windows. Could be a drug dealer's SUV if you didn't know better. If he's sensitive to telepathy, he'll get out of that lovely SUV and stretch his legs. Otherwise, it's just another parked car.

I wish I didn't feel at odds with these off duty officers now, but they know I am very much at odds with their boss. It truly saddens me. But I can't abide a city officer playing lobbyist for the property owner when on their payroll. Most homeowners in the area would agree.

Ah, darn. He just drove away without ever getting out of his car. Perhaps off to one of the other PG properties to sit like a parked car there.

There sure are a few people who hate this website. And based on the emails I get, and the stats, several hundred who like it. I think that's part of why those few hate it so. As I've often said, I just write what I see or don't. For some, that's bad.

Thursday, August 4, noon: Things are a changing around Mad Avenue ...

excavation for the new driveway
The kids were fascinated for a while.

Excavation for a new driveway began yesterday. The new entrance for the Pedestal Gardens building across the street will be directly in front of our house. Was joking with a former special police officer here, one who was very effective and very visible unlike the current officers. I said the new gate will have a good surveillance system: me. It'll be the only entrance and is supposed to have a passcard system and cameras. Of course, cameras and a passcard system have done little to reduce drug trafficking through PG, but we can hope.

Bumped into Mr. Cooper with the Payne Church. He wasn't sure what all the excavation was for. His big concern was that his parishioners be allowed access to the parking lot: "The owner in New Jersey told me it was OK for us to park there." I informed him that was Mr. Miller, the property manager, not the owner and that if passcards are given out to all the church goers, how could they possibly keep track of them. "That would make it as useless as the new security regime," I told him. I've often said that church considers us nothing more than their parking lot. I guess that hasn't changed.

new sidewalks all along 1700 Madison AV
New sidewalks all along Mad Avenue. Only three years of asking. And I don't even care if the color doesn't match, unlike our finicky Councilman.

New sidewalks along the whole block last month. New fence and driveway across the street. New apartments two doors north, and soon to be new condos next door. Golly, the renaissance of Baltimore has finally arrived here as I promised Vaughn it would ... about four years ago. We were joking about that last night. "All this is what you said would happen ... four years ago." I suppose now we'll have to get serious about fixing up our house to keep up with the Jones's. And to avoid retaliation from the Housing department.

An officer who uses the substation regularly was telling me about her "detail." She sits in her car in front of Commissioner Hamm's house two blocks up Madison Avenue. A hot gig when you're just sitting there so she comes by occasionally to grab a water, use the restroom and cool off. I guess she doesn't just run the engine for the AC as I might. 24/7 his house is guarded. I always see a police car and officer there. I guess that's why he doesn't worry about the crack market or the effect it has here. I still wonder at his complacency about his own neighborhood. I guess he thinks the fence he endorsed (as we did) will make all the difference at Pedestal Gardens, too. Just as it has at Madison Park North. Not. Lots of "show" from IRM (the Pedestal Gardens property management company). LIttle substance.

From the emails I'm getting, interest in closing both projects is growing and will not be stopped, regardless of new fences. I'd be happy for real management as a start. I'm sure PG would like us to believe the new fence is the answer. I'm hopeful it will help, yes, but I think our safety from the crime magnet of Pedestal Gardens has more to do with visible security to serve as a deterrent to things like the shooting in front of that property and ours last month. This bopping around in your private car and truck, dressed in whatever, ain't cutting it, though it's costing taxpayer's big bucks. As is this snazzy new fence.

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