“I’ve got a guy pooping on my door, which I have to clean up every morning,” said one business owner.
At a meeting dedicated to improving the S. Broadway corridor north of Fell’s Point, the absurdity of the goings-on in that area elicited a few chuckles, but mostly groans and several enraged monologues that brought applause.
Business owners and residents have long complained about a large concentration of homeless and vagrant individuals in the area, and other problems such as public drinking, trash issues, loitering, panhandling, public urination and defecation, and other quality-of-life issues.
“Councilman Kraft, to me it’s shameful that nothing’s been done,” said Ed Marcinko, former president of the Upper Fell’s Point Improvement Association. “All these promises you made in 2004, and nothing’s been done.”
“C’mon man, we’re talking three blocks,” he added. “How hard is it to clean up three blocks?”
“You’re all just sitting here doing nothing, and it’s driving me crazy,” said a long-time Upper Fell’s Point business owner, addressing the entire meeting body—public, elected officials and city employees. “You have all these meetings—nothing!”
That speaker, who stood up several times during the meeting, did not want to be identified by name.
Councilman James Kraft (1st) had scheduled the Broadway Corridor Improvement Meeting that took place on Monday to, he said, put residents and business owners in touch with the city authorities who are supposed to handle many of the quality-of-life and business issues.
“The city won’t do this, or the city won’t do that—There is this monolithic, faceless city,” Kraft said. “We need to know who is working in these neighborhoods so we can hold them responsible for what they should be doing.”
To that end, the councilman brought representatives from multiple city departments and agencies.
Bob Murrow, 410-396-4511, handles constituent complaints for the Department of Public Works. He said that multiple 311 calls without a resolution are “the worst thing we can get,” and that 311 calls closed without a satisfactory resolution are “the most egregious breach of the 311 system we can have.”
Stanley Janczack, the superintendent for Code Enforcement, said that his department is planning a “blitzkrieg” of the area.
“Business owners, you may get cited, so don’t live in a glass house,” Janczack advised.
He can be reached at 410-545-7550, and Assistant Superintendent Shirley Edmond is available at 410-545-6520. Janczack said that he would ask any citizen who calls him with a problem for their 311 report number to ensure that the proper channels have been tried first. He also said that citizens with 311 complaints need to be extremely specific with regard to locations.
“We get a complaint that says Fleet and Gough, but that intersection has four corners,” he said.
Gabby Knighton, outreach coordinator for Homeless Services, said that her agency is mostly concerned with building trust relationships with homeless individuals who initially refuse services.
“Fell’s Point is a hot spot,” she said, noting that an outreach worker is in the area three times per week, making contact with hard cases:
“I’ll be back to check on you. Please let me know if I can help you.”
Councilman Carl Stokes, whose district covers some of the western side of the Broadway corridor, came to listen, he said.
Many comments came from the assembled public. Joanne Masopust, president of the Fell’s Point Community Organization, noted that intoxicated individuals detained by police are refused admittance at central booking. The arresting officer must then sit with that person until he or she sobers up, Masopust said, taking an officer off the street for several hours.
Some said that the homeless and addiction services in the area—the Beans and Bread Center soup kitchen and the Powell Recovery Center, for example—add to the problem.
“I have bad news for you,” said Marek Tarasiewicz. “We’re bringing the city homeless people here. There are busses…It’s too late, we voted for them, to have the services coming here.”
Kraft adjourned the meeting with plans to have a follow up in about 90 days.
In the meantime, he said, residents and business owners who attended Monday’s meeting would be contacted and asked to meet in smaller groups to come up with solutions.
One meeting participant asked if in 90 days “you guys will have a plan.”
“I’ll say this,” said Kraft. “It’s not going to be ‘us guys’ coming to you. It’s going to be people in this room coming up with a plan. We’ll deal with it here.”
by Erik Zygmont