On Notice: Loss in OTR

On Notice: Loss in OTR

by Dr. Mark Mussman
Field of Green fences going up for condos Photo: Dr. Mark Mussman

Sometimes I feel like I’m punishing myself. Living, working, and focusing my life around Over-the-Rhine is a difficult and relentless existence. I am a very emotional person, guided by a sense of justice and beauty. What is balanced brings me joy, and right now, I feel no joy about OTR. My story is long and complicated, and for right now, doesn’t feel wrapped up nice and tight. This is a meandering walk through my current struggle – the struggle for a peaceful existence.

In our neighborhood today, a young artist, a budding revolutionary, calls me to tell me that he is being evicted because his name wasn’t on the lease. He and his roommates have less than 24 hours to vacate the premises. They have nowhere to go, thrust out of OTR, as there are no options here now. Peaslee has been working on showing just how many housing units we’ve lost in the past 15 years – a number that is staggering, yet still unclear. Affordable, or market, the number of housing units available has decreased significantly. Where is the renaissance for the artists?

Yesterday, as I walked past the basketball courts on 13th, the devastation has begun, and the construction workers get their parking lot. No more basketball court. A place where people played even in the cold winter, running laps around the lot, and occasionally picking up a game of 3 on 3 to stay warm. This spring saw a lot of friendly activity on the court. To my knowledge, 3CDC has never built a basketball court. One simple question will answer why: Who uses basketball courts?

Fence posts going up on Imagination Alley Photo: Dr. Mark Mussman
Fence posts going up on Imagination Alley Photo: Dr. Mark Mussman

Last week, a fence was placed in front of Imagination Alley. Over 300 Over-the-Rhine residents, mostly children, spent a hot summer creating the mosaics that you see on the walls, ground, planters, and arch on Vine Street. This was a project that I participated in, and now 3CDC has it fenced off, leaving us wondering what will happen to the space in the near (or distance) future. Will we be able to access our community work?

In Washington Park last month, a huge tree fell on the dog park fence. Just feet from where Joann Burton was killed. Remnants of the tree still mark the fence posts. Just a month before that another 100+ year-old tree was removed from the 13th street entrance to the park, looking at the trunk, it seemed healthy. People fought to keep the trees in the park before, during, and after 3CDC’s renovation. Why was it removed? Did they remove the wrong one?

Keep Our Courts greenspace across from Rothenberg Photo: Dr. Mark Mussman
Keep Our Courts greenspace across from Rothenberg Photo: Dr. Mark Mussman

Walking up Pleasant Street, on my way to Findlay Market, I noticed the “Field of Greens” park, which was used last summer by our kids, was also fenced off. Of course, we knew this was coming, as new condos will be built on the entire block, but it still doesn’t lessen the impact when I see it. The center of the block will be a surface parking lot, with condos on the Race, 14th, and Pleasant sides of the block. It may be a small lot, but it was one where kids would play while listening to their own music, without having to follow the strict rules of Washington Park. Where can they listen to their own music now?

Hopefully, you have seen the push to Keep Our Courts, in the paper and even in video online. The #KeepOurCourts campaign started last year when developers were rewarded a preferred developer status for the block across Main Street from Rothenberg Elementary. The City, in all its infinite wisdom, wants to sell a city block for $1 to build $600,000 single family homes on it. In a neighborhood where the average income is just $12,000/year. This land was the first donated to create Cincinnati Public Schools. The development put on it will pay no taxes for up to 30 years, which means the schools will not receive any property taxes on the parcel. Why do we think it’s a good practice to shortchange our children?

The Homeless Coalition is focused on educating the public about injustices that happen in our neighborhood, but also the wider community. We resist privatization because it represents a loss of community wealth. A good way to learn more is to come on a Social Justice Walking Tour with me. It’s rather inexpensive ($40/group up to 15 people), and it’s a good way to support the Coalition as well. Consider getting a group of friends together and sending me an email to schedule the tour. We can do a short tour (1 hour) or a long tour (2+ hours) depending on your time frame. I would act quickly, as the neighborhood is changing right before my eyes. Each time I give the tour it’s a little different because of rapid pace of gentrification.