East side showing strong signs of life

Written by on May 1, 2013 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

Todd Perzynski of Bartlett Tree Experts trims a tree in Library Square, the triangular strip of grass and trees adjacent to the Patterson Park Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library on Fayette St. Chad Vrany, Bartlett’s Baltimore representative, said that his company donated “seven guys and three trucks” on Thursday, April 24, to trim the trees. The donation was coordinated through Baltimore Tree Trust, and is part of an effort to add to East Baltimore’s tree canopy. - Photo by Erik Zygmont

“Vital Signs 11,” a comprehensive data portrait of Baltimore city and its unique neighborhoods, was recently released by the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance-Jacob France Institute.

Neighborhoods on Baltimore’s east side fared well in many areas, most notably in walkability and in the number of residents who possess library cards.

The 11th edition of the report, which includes data primarily from 2011, tracks more than 150 quality-of-life indicators in eight broad categories: sustainability, crime and safety, education and youth, arts and culture, census demographics, and economic development.

Baltimore’s citywide walkability score—calculated using data from the Department of Transportation—is 52 out of 100, while Little Italy/Harbor East boasts an impressive 95 and Fell’s Point is not far behind with 94.

Such high scores—the second and third highest in the city—puts those neighborhoods in the  “walker’s paradise” category.

Not quite as high, but still very respectable, was Canton, with a walk score of 89.

East Baltimore neighborhoods also scored above the citywide average in residents per thousand who possess library cards.

Citywide, 249 people per thousand possessed a library card in 2011, but in Patterson Park, North and East, that number was 373 per thousand, followed by Highlandtown with 362 card holders per thousand. Canton came in at 268, still above the city average.

East Baltimore also earned other high scores—for liquor outlet density and property crime.

Harbor East/Little Italy, Fell’s Point, Highlandtown and Canton all had some of Baltimore’s highest liquor outlet density scores at 12, 10.5, 8 and 7.5 outlets per 1,000 residents, respectively. Nearly all showed an increase in alcohol outlet density over 2010 data.

The citywide average is 2.3 liquor outlets per thousand residents, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for a Livable Future.

Those same eastside neighborhoods had high property crime scores compared to the city as a whole. Baltimore’s average for 2011, according to Baltimore City Police data in Vital Signs, was 49 incidents per thousand residents.

Highlandtown’s score was 55; Canton scored 58, and Fell’s Point scored 70. Not numbers to be proud of, but modest compared to Harbor East/Little Italy, which scored 141 for property crime in 2011.

When it comes to tree canopy, or area covered by trees, East Baltimore, with its small or non-existent yards, earned even lower scores in one of the city’s key sustainability indicators.

Baltimore scored 23 percent for tree canopy coverage citywide—it’s goal is to reach 40 percent—while Patterson Park North and East scored 5, and Highlandtown scored the lowest of any city neighborhood with 3.5.

Those lackluster scores do not bode well for tree lovers who live on the east side, but local organizations, such as the Baltimore Tree Trust, are actively working on raising these numbers, specifically in neighborhoods north of Patterson Park.

Since 2011, the McElderry Park Trees for Public Health Initiative, led by the Tree Trust, has planted 140 street trees in the community, according to its director Amanda Cunningham.

“We planted 24 last week (with 50 volunteers), and we will be planting another 11 in McElderry Park on May 11,” said Cunningham, adding that the organization’s goal is to plant up McElderry Park with a total of 800 trees over the next five years.

“Over time,” Cunningham said, “the tree canopy would mature to cover 40 percent of the streets and sidewalks in McElderry Park.”

“This phase of our planting has completely changed the character of N. Linwood Ave., which had very few street trees,” she added. “The neighbors are very pleased.”

by Danielle Sweeney

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