Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pine Street Inn Wins; Neighborhood Yuppies Crestfallen....

I was very pleased to learn that the Pine Street Inn has finally acquired the Upton Street property presently known as Hope House and has not given in any further to the baseless demands of the Union Park Neighborhood Association.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the controversy, the Pine Street Inn had been planning to purchase the property for quite some time for use as low-income housing for people who were previously homeless. Stringent guidelines for acceptance into this program have been in place and acceptees into the program have shown a track record of successfully integrating from homelessness back into homeful society, at least in 26 other similar Pine Street Inn housing locations. On-site supervisors are part of the plan as well.

When the Pine Street Inn formally announced its intention to purchase the property, neighbors on Upton Street (hereinafter, "Uppity Street") wouldn't hear of it. After a series of meetings with the Union Park Neighborhood Association, which includes Uppity Street, Pine Street Inn agreed to cut down the number of residents from 45 to 37 and finally to 30. This despite the fact that Hope House, the current occupant, houses 60 people in recovery from alcohol and substance abuse. Of note is the fact that those 60 or so Hope House residents are transient in nature, whereas the Pine Street residents are looking to put down roots in the community.

Additionally, Hope House has been on Uppity Street for more than 25 years. Presumably, the Upton Street residents so outraged by the Pine Street Inn have not. As one astute South Ender pointed out in a letter to the editor of the South End News, purchase prices on Uppity Street properties in the last 25 years have assuredly reflected the presence of a single room occupancy building complex in a discount to the buyer. That's why Uppity Street properties generally don't cost as much as Union Park properties (well, that and the fact that one-half the street overlooks a particularly unattractive back of the West Dedham Street post office, there's no garden and/or fountain in the middle, etc.).

One would think that the Uppity Street residents would be thrilled at the prospect of having one-half the number of occupants living in the subject property, complete with supervisors and a population that wasn't nearly as transient as the present population, not to mention the fact that drug or alcohol abuse would result in not being accepted into the program.

However, according to last week's South End News, the president of the Union Park Neighborhood Association stated that the Uppity Street neighbors have a "preference for ownership....When you have ownership, the people who own those apartments care about crime and they care about trash and they care about the schools. When you have a neighborhood filled with renters,...the neighborhoods tend to deteriorate fairly quickly."

Translation: When you have people who look like you and act like you and earn like you and spend like you, its much better. As one high-up Uppity Street resident was quoted in a Boston Globe article several months ago, "unlike you and me, its difficult to tell who these people are."

I'd like to know where these owners are who care so much about trash and schools. Certainly not in the pages of the South End News where one South End yuppie, a couple months ago, explained that she sends her darling daughter to kindergarten outside the city as there are "no good schools in the South End." What about the trash scattered all over Waltham Street on every trash pick up day? I doubt its all just renters who lazily toss their trash outside of proper trash tossing hours.

And what about the lazy empty-nester couple in my building who couldn't be bothered to put their trash in the proper place and repeatedly just threw it down, untied and unsecured on the floor in the trash room? Owners!!

The noisy trust fund brat beneath me (see entry entitled "I own here") who thought nothing of blaring her stereo speakers out in the courtyard at 3am on a weeknight? Sorry, not a renter.

The other trust fund babes who lived across the hall and thought it was funny to play fetch with their dog up and down the hall also at 3am on a weeknights? You guessed it, owners (well, at least their parents were owners).

The creepy older guy in my friend's luxury condo building who always reeks of alcohol and has troublingly young prostitutes coming in and out at all hours? Owner!! Bet he really cares about crime, trash and schools.

The dog owners who think nothing of letting their dogs pee in the doorway of my friend's store time and time again, despite having been asked not to? Owners, not renters!!

The person who threw a beer bottle out of his luxury loft window which landed on the head of an innocent passer-by? Owner!!

Although generally speaking, I agree with the sentiment that owners care more about their neighborhoods than do renters (take a walk around Commonwealth Ave. in Brighton/Allston sometime). However, that generalization fails to apply in the South End of recent years. Which has become, in effect, Brighton/Allston East. To put it another way, you get pretty much the same element, only in nicer cars and in nicer condos, which are paid for primarily by mommy and daddy. And in Brighton/Allston, there aren't as many heirloom tomatoes or over hyped and overpriced restaurants. Also, in Brighton/Allston, you can still buy toilet paper - the regular kind. I think you might still be able to find toilet paper in the South End, but only of the hand-woven, organic, fair-trade, hand-painted-to-match-my-guest-bathroom variety.

But getting back to the Uppity street issue, as I've stated before, I only wish that I had been given the opportunity to pick and choose my South End neighbors as the Uppity Street Ass-sociation thinks it has the right to do. If you live in a city, you do not get to choose your neighbors, especially when your neighbor had previously been a home to 60 former alcohol and substance abusers in recovery, thereby removing the surprise element from the argument (What? That charming townhouse next door with the elderly couple is being turned into a house for recovering substance abusers?!??).

I wish there had been a community meeting to discuss whether or not it was appropriate to allow my neighboring (but apparently high functioning) alcoholic, binge-drinking, late-night partying frat boys and sorority sisters and creepy old pimps to purchase their luxury condos near mine. And I wish that my building and ones like it had the availability of an on-site supervisor to help my high-income neighbors with their addiction problems. I also wish that there had been a community meeting to discuss the propriety of the disgusting and offensive anti-Pine Street Inn posters that popped up in windows all over Uppity Street this summer.

Those options are not available, however, in a city. I think that the Uppity Street folk so up in arms about the prospect of, well let's just say it, poor people moving in next door belong in a suburban gated community. Their suburban mentality, whereby they believe in a homogeneous, white-washed and polar-fleeced neighborhood population, does nothing to add value to the South End. In my opinion, it has made the "neighborhood deteriorate fairly quickly," to put it into their own words. Apparently, if you have no maple and granite counter tops (the mark of the nouveau South Ender), cannot drop $100 on two pieces of sushi or a meal involving pan-seared pea shoots, heirloom tomatoes and whatever else was trendy in most other cities about 5 years ago, and can't bring South End real estate prices into every conversation, then you are not welcome here.

I've always been somewhat fascinated by the oval garden in the middle of Union Park and how the residents of that street have taken such pride in maintaining such a beautiful, yet exclusive (to them) public urban space. Perhaps the Upton Street residents could make an appeal to move the iron fence over one block so that they could gate themselves in, far from the poor people and minorities who are so different from themselves.