Everyone deserves decent, safe and sanitary homes

Read Sandra Bright’s response to Leonard Ford’s column.

By Leonard Ford

Some 10 years ago, Cecil Myers, then executive director of Innercity Revitalization Corporation, told the Public Works Committee of the Alexandria City Council that too many of Alexandria residents were living in houses that weren’t fit to call home. That sentiment remains true as many of Alexandria’s citizens, especially those living in the city’s black communities, are still living in houses that are so dilapidated and beyond repair that many of them look like they could topple over at any time. If you doubt me, ride through the Sonia Quarters, Samtown-Woodside, Lower Third, and Oil-Mill neighborhoods.

Ten years after Myers made that statement, several new housing developments (Oak Mount Village, Silverleaf, Pine Oak, Enterpirse Place, Riverbend Subdivision, Lawson Heights) have been built in Alexandria. These developments offer housing to those people who might not have otherwise been able to afford purchasing, leasing, or renting a home to better their living condition. Without these housing developments, many of those may be living in substandard housing.

I believe such housing developments are good for the residents of the city and the city itself. Living in a nice home with nice amenities improves a person’s self-esteem, improves their quality of life, and gives them the opportunity to take care of something for which they can be proud. When people vacate dilapidated and substandard houses, the city can come in, condemn them and tear them down. By doing so, the city can build better housing on the property.

With even more developers wanting to come to Alexandria to build these lease/purchase   developments or add to existing ones, such as the planned expansion of  Riverbend Subdivision that will include 10 duplexes, one would think that people in the communities where the housing developments will be built would be happy to have new housing locate there. That’s not the case. Opposition to that project has come from several residents and others, most notably from former police juror Joe Fuller, Sandra Bright, spokesman  for Lower Third Neighborhood Watch/Concerned Citizens, and District 3 Councilman Jonathan Goins. All are concerned about flooding in the area. Fuller and Goins both stated that the duplex project, Riverbend 4, does not need to be built. Bright did not voice whether or not the expansion should be built, but she did express that she is worried about the new subdivision causing additional flooding problems on Seventh Street, which is already prone to flooding.

Is their concern about flooding their real reason for their opposition to the proposed new expansion, or could they have more underlying reasons for it? You may recall that Goins and Bright both opposed the city’s plan to build a gated rental apartment complex on the site of the former Dominique Miller Livestock Market, as both felt that more rental property wasn’t needed in the Lower Third community since the area already was inundated with an over abundance of rental property. Could this be why they and Fuller are against the Riverbend expansion?  No one will know for sure, but it sure makes you wonder.

My view on the expansion of Riverbend and any other new housing developments that may be built in Alexandria is this: This city needs new affordable housing for which it citizens can choose to live. Just as we want to live in a nice home that we can afford to either purchase or rent, those citizens who are now living in some old dilapidated house want that same opportunity, and building new affordable housing is the best way to give them that opportunity. We must also remember that everyone does not have the finances to build or purchase a home. That is good for those who can afford it, but for others, their only option of living in a nice home is by renting. We all should be thrilled that new housing is coming to our communities.

And yes, most of the new housing developments are predominately being built in Alexandria’s black communities. What’s the problem with that since that is where the largest concentration of people living in substandard housing live.

With any new development and construction, there is bound to be some opposing points and views. Sometimes we have to overlook the bad to see and realize the good. We should think about that before we go about opposing something.

Lower Third community needs its residents

By Sandra Williams Bright
Lower Third Neighborhood Watch/Concerned Citizens Organization

Do you want to be informed about the plans for your community proposed by the City of Alexandria? Do you want to make your community a better place by reporting crime and illegal drug distribution? Do you want to make a difference in your community by participating in projects that enhance the living conditions for its citizens with emphasis on youth and senior citizens projects?  If so, you need to be a part of the Lower Third Neighborhood Watch/Concerned Citizens Organization.

I am amazed by the number of Lower Third community residents, who are not aware of this organization, which has been around a long time.
Many of the founders are elderly or  in ill health or have died. That’s why we need committed and dedicated members to join, work and make a difference in this community.

We now have a generation growing who has not been taught core values of respect for self and others, honesty, hard work and accountability. We have to “take back” our neighborhoods one neighborhood at a time. We have to “draw a line in the sand and take a stand.”

When people work together they CAN make a difference. Sociologist Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has.”

Several proposed projects are in the making for the Lower 3rd community-S.P.A.R.C. initiatives, Third Street Streetscape project and Ruston Foundry reuse. Many other issues need to be addressed such as drainage  problems,  street repair, illegal drugs distribution, loud music, school dropouts-especially among male high school students and “slum lords/tenant” problems  to name a few.

The community needs its citizens to become active and participate in these issues. Whether offering a solution, to some of these problems to reporting street problems, drainage issues and illegal drug activities to the appropriate authorities-each citizen can do his or her part to make the community a better and safer place to live. Police can’t be everywhere. The citizens are the eyes and ears of the community and must work with the police if “we” want to see a change. We need to be the “neighborhood watch” for each other’s property.  Activities like illegal drug sales flourish because we look the other way and allow it to happen.

When a community takes a stand and works toward eliminating the drug problem, the violators move to other areas. Just because one area of town is having a problem with illegal drug activity, does not mean that your neighborhood won’t be affected.

Illegal drug “stores” and distribution houses are rampant throughout the parish. Drug dealers are like roaches-when you put the poison to them, you may “knock off a few, but the rest just move to another area that has not been treated with the roach poison and set up shop. Roaches multiply faster than rabbits. When you see one, others will soon be showing up. Getting rid of roaches takes a concerted approach by all communities-half treating the problem causes the roaches to become immune and multiply faster.

People, we have a lot of work to do in our community. It starts with one project at a time and one person at a time. We tend to sit back and let other people do “our” work and say, “I’m glad that you are doing this or that. Keep it up.”  Why can’t you be the one participating in this “work?”

One person can’t do everything.  We profess to be a Christian nation and community. What will you tell St. Peter when you make it to the “Pearly Gates?”  I hope it is not, “I was too busy taking care of the missions overseas to do any missionary work in my community.” Charity begins at home.
Everyone has a talent or skill. Our organization needs your talent or skill in order to form committees, become incorporated as a non-profit in order to garner grants and resources to make a difference in the neighborhood and overall community.

The next meeting of the Lower Third Neighborhood Watch/Concerned Citizens Organization is at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 14, Wilborn-Dempsey Multipurpose Resource Center.  Guest presenters will be Meyer, Meyer, LaCroix & Hixson, Inc., professional engineers, along with Jeffrey Carbo, professional landscape architect.

Discussion will be centered on the proposed Third Street Streetscape project. All community residents, landowners and businesses located along the Main Street and Third Street corridors from Casson to Broadway Streets are urged to attend this important presentation and participate by asking questions and offering solutions as to “WHAT THE COMMUNITY WOULD LIKE TO SEE ACTUALIZED ALONG THIS CORRIDOR.”

Lend a hand to this organization to make our neighborhood and community a better place to live. Let’s reverse the downward spiral of urban blight. I’m greatly sadden to see how the neighborhood in which I was born and raised in has become so “trashy with an aura of decay about it.”

It dismays me to see the disrespect shown for senior citizens in their “golden years” who have given their lives in service and hardship during the civil rights movement to ensure we have the rights that were given to us as citizens of America under the Constitution.

Let’s join forces to bring back the neighbor in neighborhood, especially in the Lower Third community.

See you on at the meeting.

Ruston Foundry site cleaned, celebration held

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality joined public officials and members of the Alexandria community on July 15 to celebrate the completion of the cleanup at the Ruston Superfund site.

“Getting the property back into productive use is one of our highest priorities,” said Richard E. Greene, EPA regional administrator. “Encouraging redevelopment, strengthening communities and energizing growth creates a proud legacy for everyone.”

The Ruston Foundry site was an abandoned metal foundry that operated from 1908 until 1985 and is located in an urban area with mixed development within the city limits of Alexandria. Initial site operations began with clearing activities to open up the area for cleanup. Cleanup consisted of the demolition of old site buildings, foundations, as well as the removal of an underground storage tank and closure of onsite wells. Additional cleanup included the removal of asbestos-containing material and contaminated soil.

“This is a monumental occasion” said DEQ Secretary Harold Leggett. “A one-time Superfund site that is now available to be put back into commerce. This is a great day for the state’s environment and for the business community of Alexandria. The completion of such a large project is an example of local, state and federal agencies teaming up to work for the betterment of the state.”