Posts Tagged ‘monroe park advisory council’

The First Will Be Last: On Monroe Park

By Derek Jones (Food Not Bombs member)

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Editors note: This essay is a creative essay. Neither the author nor the publishers would ever promote illegal activity. But we do promote keeping Monroe Park Public, Open, and Free by Any Means Necessary! You figure it out. This is a slightly edited version of a statement read at the Land Use Committee meeting this week, where the committee made the bad choice to move the Monroe Park Lease to Council for voting. We hope to see you all out on Monday March 24 to STOP this plan.

The Master Plan for the Monroe Park renovations says that, “50 years of crime and vagrancy have tainted Monroe Park’s reputation” (pg. 1). and that the park needs renovations because of the “[…resurgence in popularity of many of the surrounding residential neighborhoods, retail corridors, and the recent increase in enrollment at VCU” (pg. 1).

But this plan is not driven by the increasing need for public, open space in Richmond.

Alice Massie said before City Cuoncil on February 18th, that this plan isn’t about “excluding any type of people or demographic”, but anyone that read the plan knows that is not true.

A permit requirement that is to be issued at the discretion of the Monroe Park Conservancy and a charge of $35 per application for an event will keep feeding and clothing distribution groups from having access to the park.

The Conservancy may well decide that the park needs to be fenced off for an unknown amount og time during renovations, thereby preventing anyone from using it.

Alice Massie would have you believe that the renovations plans are about building fields for plauing quoits and pentanque because they are popular pastimes among park goers in Liverpool, England, about allowing certain vendors the opportunity to sell coffee and pastries in the park, and about cutting down 62 trees and replacing them with 80 new “canopy tree” species that were there 110 years ago because for an unexplained and expensive reason, 1904 is heralded as the “golden age” of Monroe Park.

But the sprucing up of the park detailed in their plan is incidental to it’s main purpose: The displacement of the homeless, the Blacks, and the poverty ridden. I say “Blacks” because according to a 2009 survey by Homeward, out of more than 1,000 homeless Richmonders they surveyed, more than 2/3 identified as African American or People of Color, and it is no secret that Monroe Park is on the outskirts of a “white” part of Richmond.

Page 55 of the plan dismisses the notion that chronically homeless citizens of Richmond are valid and stable park users, calling them instead “transients”, reading, ” Park goers generally fall into 2 groups: VCU students and transients”. It says that Monroe Park WAS (as in used to be) a site for Churches and Community groups to feed the needy on weekends, that as many as 50 people could be waiting in the park on weekends. There were actually about 400 people waiting on food or clothing this past Saturday, and people provide services in the park on weekdays as well.  The plan also says that “though the hiring of a park keeper in 2007 has helped to deter homeless feedings, that park remains a popular gathering place for Richmond’s homeless population during the day” (pg. 55).

Most disturbingly, page 61 of the plan for renovations  says that “[privately financed park managers] must make frequent visitor counts, with special attention paid to female/male ratios… The ratio of non-homeless to apparently homeless ones must be at least 75-100: 1 to draw female visitors in great numbers” (pg. 61).

If you approve the Conservancy’s plan to lease Monroe park you will be declaring Class War on all of Richmond. We will Occupy the Park indefinitely. Instead of petanque and quoits fields, we will plant vegetable gardens, fruit and nut trees. We will march through your neighborhoods and we will expel you from your restautants, grocery stores, and homes as you have done to us. You will become residents of Monroe Park, and you will be treated as second class citizens there because in our kingdom the first will be last and the last will be first.

keepmonroeparkopen

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VRandMPAC

For folks who are unclear about the connection between Venture Richmond and the Monroe Park Conservancy (previously MPAC) and their efforts to privatize Monroe Park. 9 out of 11 MPC members are either on Venture Richmond’s board or related to someone on the board or have a board member as their boss….

All 3 city reps on the Conservancy are from the Mayor’s administration and closely tied to him as well as under his thumb.

Fixed error or previous image to call the Monroe Park Gentrifying Committee by their current moniker, the Monroe Park Conservancy.

 

Our friend Liz Sussan is going to be facilitating Yoga in Monroe Park on a weekly basis. Anyone is welcome to participate.

Bring your own mat if you have one. Liz will have two spare mats to share. Please bring a towel. If you don’t have a mat, you can bring two towels, and use them to pad the ground.This is donation-only, so drop a few bucks down if you can, and if not, no problem, just come and practice!

Let’s meet at the corner of Laurel and Franklin. Liz will start by teaching Vinyasa basics like Sun Salutations, and lead us in a nice, flowing practice.

We will shoot for Wednesdays at 10 am. When it gets too hot for 10 am, we will show up earlier. This event is weather permitting.

Whether its practicing yoga in Monroe Park or going to eat at Food Not Bombs, using Monroe Park on a regular basis is something that can help keep the space visible and help prevent the sort of renovation plan that Charles Samuels and the Monroe Park Advisory Council would like to see.  Continued use of the space and discussion of the renovation issue are ways to keep working against their plans to gentrify the park, even when the status of the project is unclear. Monroe Park is a gorgeous area that is perfect for hanging out it, practicing yoga, etc. so let’s use it!

Channel 8 news aired a piece tonight in response to Todd Woodson’s  inaccurate post on oregonhill.net – Unfortunately the news coverage did little to correct the many errors and problems in Todd’s original post.

While they had the opportunity to show both sides of this issue, Rochelle Dean, or some editor at Channel 8 news clearly decided not to. Rochelle Dean actually contacted Food Not Bombs today, and came to the Wingnut to interview Eric Scott about this situation. She recorded a lengthy interview with him, and then also engaged in conversation about the issue with 2 bystanders. Eric got about 10 seconds in the actual news coverage, while Todd Woodson received much more.

Todd Woodson is only mentioned in this ‘news’ piece as an Oregon Hill resident, not a member of the Monroe Park Advisory Council, the group pushing for a particular set of renovation plans that are clearly part of a gentrification agenda. That would pretty clearly be a relevant aspect to mention in this story.

Also, the fact that the time stamp on Todd’s photos does not match the day he says he was there, as mentioned in a previous Wingnut post, was not included in Channel 8’s story. That discrepancy deserves acknowledgement. (more…)

This article was posted on the Oregon Hill neighborhood website by Todd Woodson. He gives his perspective on the Monroe Park Advisory Council and the history leading up to their current renovation plans. What is more interesting than the article itself is the comments. Online Commenter ‘Michael’ does a really nice job of arguing the reasons for keeping Monroe Park open during renovations.

‘Michael’, who is not associated with Food Not Bombs or other programs in the park  says:

“Renovations are done to important city infrastructure in segments ALL THE TIME. We don’t close the entire Fan District to address water pipes and repaving and whatever else has been worked on in the city. The park is an important resource to a lot of people, it would be very sad for it to be completely closed off for 18+ months.

As I understand it, the park has been used for feeding programs because of its openness and central location. It is a gathering place, a public space where people who aren’t as fortunate as you and I can go to gather their wits without having to deal with being constantly observed and shuffled about by owners of a building. It is a free space in a central location with public facilities, with lighting and nature and a variety of patrons. Its a special place that should not be shut down in the opinion of quite a many number of people who are tax-payers and concerned citizens.

Why not fight for this or that? I’m not in the business of deciding what is better for other people. This is a public place that others CHOOSE to utilize. We don’t have to bus people in and out, no one has to maintain a building, no one has to be shut away from the public eye, this is a public space and in my heart I believe it should remain that way. Want to renovate? Great, do renovations in the park, but find a way to do it without closing it down and locking people out. (more…)

There is a new website about Monroe Park and keeping it open throughout the construction process.

check out http://www.monroepark.org

Monroe Park is Richmond’s oldest park, and is one of few large green spaces in downtown Richmond. Current plans for renovation, backed by the Monroe Park Advisory Council, the VCU administration, involve closing the entire park off for 9 to 18 months and then reopening it under the control of a private non-profit corporation. This site is part of an effort to coordinate the activities of people who oppose the closure and privatization of the park.

The Monroe Park Advisory Council removed from its website the document of their plans to renovate Monroe Park. This was a publicly available document up until sometime recently when they apparently decided to no longer make it available. Fortunately, at the Wingnut, we had saved a copy of this document. We have now uploaded it onto archive.org to make is publicly accessible again.

http://www.archive.org/details/MonroeParkRenovationPlans2008

You can’t view it on archive.org, but if you right click the PDF link, you can select, ‘Save Link As’ to download the renovation plans to your computer. If you can’t download because you are on a public access computer, you can come by the Wingnut Anarchist Collective to view the file on our computer. We have open hours on Wednesdays and Fridays from 4-10 and you can call 804 303 5449 to arrange to stop by some other time.

Make sure you check out page 61 on the bottom left side where it has the desired ratio of homeless and homeless appearing people to everyone else- 75-100:1. Read about the plans for private security for the park.

Please download, print, and share this document with others so you can understand their plans for renovation, and also see first hand some of the troubling aspects.  When confronted, MPAC pretty much refused to take accuontability for the plan that they developed.  MPAC has also done things to deliberately become more secretive- removing their email contacts for MPAC members from their website, lying about no longer having meetings, and apparently removing the content from the link to the plan o their website. (more…)

Charles Samuels and the Monroe Park Advisory Council are putting a lot of energy into telling people that the renovations of Monroe Park must be done all at once with the entire park fenced off for the duration. The cite money as one of the major factors of this. And they have also frequently insisted that it is basically impossible to do the construction in stages. At last night’s meeting they even had Glenn Telfer, an engineer from Draper Aden Associates, get up and speak to the need to close down the entire park to do the necessary renovations.

However, I (Mo Karn) went up to Glenn Telfer after he spoke and asked him about the possibility of doing the renovation of Monroe Park in stages. He said it was of course possible, though potentially more costly. But plans for a staged renovation keepig a section of the park open the whole time could be made. He said if the City of Richmond wanted such plans drawn up he or his firm would.

If you think about it, lots of utility work and construction on public use areas is done in stages. Take roads for example. When a highway like 64 has to be repaved, they do not just shut down the entire highway to repave it at once. They repave roads in stages. Yes, it takes longer and can cost more money to do this work in stages. However, VDOT and the City of Richmond frequently do important renovation work in stages because they are balancing the financial cost with the human cost. It would be incredibly inconvenient for entire roads to be shut down for repaving, or entire lengths of roads shut down at once for working on water mains or what have you.

Public works projects are commonly done in stages, at a slightly higher cost, because the idea is to avoid inconveniencing people too much during renovations. It is possible that the only reason this has not been the suggested method of construction in this case is because the folks making decisions about the Monroe Park plans do not place value on the people they will be inconveniencing the most. At best this is an oversight on their part. One which we wish to point out.  The people who use Monroe Park ARE valuable. It would be incredibly harmful for a variety of reasons to shut down the entire park, just like it would too harmful to shut down all of Chamberlayne to re-pave it. The park is used by a lot of different people and has developed many different types of community and connection through the interactions of people in that space. Not only will homeless people be inconvenienced, but also VCU students, Oregon Hill residents, and many others.

The engineer at the meeting also mentioned that they were dealing with some unknowns in terms of what exactly is under the park as utilities.  This makes it seem even more important that a section of the park remains open. Unknowns might make the renovations take much longer than the projected time period. Who knows, this might even turn into some Big Dig fiasco. The unknowns and lengthy time period make it vital that a section of the park remain available. If not we may have VCU students who miss out on using the park for years of their Richmond experience, homeless who can’t connect to other homeless or any homeless services, and a city missing a vital greenspace.

Other things to consider are that Monroe Park has the only public restrooms and drinking fountain in the area. If these will be unavailable, there need to be others made available and well advertised.  If not, where will people go to the bathroom without risking trespassing or public urination charges? If there is not a supply of public drinking water how will people with little or no money stay hydrated through a hot Richmond summer? (more…)

Richmond Food Not Bombs has been sharing food in Monroe Park for over sixteen years now. We have developed many connections and friendships over the course of our existence, helped provide healthy food to many individuals who may not have had access to it otherwise, and become a staple of social activity for many people’s Sunday afternoons.

The proposed renovations to Monroe Park are an attack , a judgement on who the park should and shouldn’t be for. It is an attack on the homeless, the “homeless-appearing” (whatever that means – it’s in the Monroe Park Advisory Council’s renovation plans), and groups and individuals who don’t judge people by their social status or whether they have conventional means of acquiring shelter.

We will not stand for it.

The only change that the park really needs is for the city to do its job when it comes do doing maintenance on the bathrooms, as they are functional but one of the water pipes to the sinks has corroded away. Other improvements, such as installing permanent chess tables, or a playground area for kids would be nice, but NOT at the cost of driving out the folks who currently congregate in the park, shutting the entire park down for 18 months, or privatizing the security of the park.

Food Not Bombs will resist all attempts to shut the entire park down for any amount of time. (more…)

The Monroe Park Master Plan:  A look at the costs

by Dave Thompson

This document is intended to be a quick reference guide for the costs of renovating Monroe Park, mostly using data from the  Monroe Park Master Plan (http://www.monroepark.com/roadside/Monroe_Park_Report_2_2008.pdf).   This is a draft and may still contain some errors, please double check my numbers before you use them, and if you find anything wrong with this document, let me know so I can improve it. (more…)