Residents and business owners say that there has been some improvement to the upper S. Broadway corridor, but the situation is by no means peachy.
“I will say that I’ve noticed the police presence, and it’s been great,” said resident Ed Marcinko, former president of the Upper Fells Point Improvement Association.
Marcinko, however, expressed much more frustration than satisfaction, and he said that he is still seeing major shortcomings in the city’s 311 system. At issue for the past few weeks has been a small alleyway off Portugal St. and behind the 400 block of Griffin Ct., near the intersection of Bank St. and S. Broadway.
The walkway is, as of Monday, Sept. 2, filled with human and animal waste, bedding materials, empty liquor bottles and general trash. A strong odor emanates from the walkway to Portugal St.
According to Marcinko and another resident in the area who did not wish to be identified, the 311 ticket requesting a cleanup of that area was closed and reopened multiple times, without the area being cleaned. The Guide continues to receive emails stating that the area is still a mess.
At the July meeting, Bob Murrow of DPW said that a closed 311 ticket without a resolution is “the most egregious breach of the 311 system we can have.”
The alley behind Griffin Ct. displays the byproducts of many of the problems—vagrancy, public drunkenness, litter and associated quality-of-life issues—that were discussed at a public meeting about a month ago.
For that meeting, Councilman Jim Kraft assembled representatives from city departments such as DPW, police, Homeless Services, the Baltimore Development Corporation and Code Enforcement, among others.
The meeting brought residents’ and business owners’ simmering frustration and anger to the surface. Marcinko leveled criticism at Kraft, stating that the councilman had told him that Broadway would be cleaned up if he were elected. Other residents criticized the city.
One business owner, who did not want to be identified, criticized the entire room of people, saying, “You have all these meetings—nothing!”
Following the meeting, Kraft’s office requested volunteers for three committees to focus on three major issues: economic development; crime and vagrancy; and beautification and sanitation.
Marcinko said that he was not going to be serving on a committee.
“[City employees] need to do their jobs,” he said. “Everybody at that meeting that was sitting up front—that’s their job…We can’t do our jobs, our businesses, our caregiving, and do the city’s job too.”
Emily Shriver of Kraft’s office reported to the Guide last week that about eight people had signed on for each committee, and meetings were beginning this week. Residents and business owners interested in joining the committees may call 410-396-4821.
The impetus behind the meetings on S. Broadway was Joe Sayre, manager of Karmic Connection, a head shop located on the 500 block. Sayre said that he approached Kraft’s office about the situation on Broadway early in the year, and that business owners met with the councilman in late winter or early spring. Sayre said that the July meeting was tame compared to the earlier meeting, which involved much “shouting at each other,” he said.
Sayre said that there has been some improvement since the most recent meeting.
Vagrancy, he said, is “still going on to this day, but now that they know I stirred up so much s—t, they won’t hang out in front of the store.”
He added that the removal of the park benches along the Broadway median had an impact, an assessment also stated by Marcinko.
However, Sayre said, “I see the same people, but now they don’t have a bench to sit on, so they congregate in other places.”
Sayre is grateful for the help of the police, especially patrol officer Larry Fasano, who he said is “way cool” for, among other things, attending the Broadway corridor improvement meeting on his day off.
“You saw—he even dressed up [in uniform] for the meeting,” commented Sayre.
Sayre said that due to a past incident, he never calls 311 for any reason, a non-practice he is “religious about.”
However, he said that the businesses themselves could do a lot to solve some of the problems. For example, Sayre noted that while some businesses will sell alcohol or other products to obvious drunks, he will not sell them tobacco. One man, he said, recently came in to buy tobacco, telling the store manager that he had left Karmic Connection alone for a month. Sayre did not relent.
“I told him, ‘I respect you having been outside for a month, and that tells me that my idea worked,’” he said.
Marcinko also said that business owners could help alleviate some problems, though he said that the main problem lies with city employees not doing their jobs—“Fire everybody; find somebody else to do it if it’s too difficult.”
“We need to take a lesson from Canton, Little Italy and Harbor East,” Marcinko said. “It’s education, education, education.”
by Erik Zygmont