Two weeks ago residents of the neighborhood around Elsmere and Mason Place watched with Detroit Mayor Dave Bing as three abandoned and burned out apartment buildings were leveled.
Since then things at that corner in Southwest Detroit have changed. Adults and teens from The Greening of Detroit are turning the empty lots into places of beauty.
Rebecca Salminen Witt of The Greening of Detroit told Detroit 2020, “In the moment after a building comes down, you have a blank slate. In that moment you have the opportunity to make something that is good and beneficial that doesn’t just become a different kind of problem.”
The Ford Foundation made a $ 10,000 grant to make this project possible. Mayor Bing says foundations have been generous in their support of Detroit’s efforts.
What does the mayor say to critics who think the money might be better spent to hire more police officers or avoid layoffs? “The last thing we wanted to do was have any cuts to our public safety departments but that’s a reality we have to deal with,” the mayor told us. And he pointed out, “This is part of safety. So if we don’t have buildings for criminals to hide in and do the drug trade and all of that, when we start cleaning that out, they’ve got to go somewhere else.”
That’s one of the reasons the young people applied for jobs with The Greening of Detroit. 21- year old group leader Amber Vasquez told us, “When I was younger, walking down the street, seeing those things, stuff happened to me that was dangerous. It was chaos and I’m just happy that my nieces and nephews, when they walk home from school or when they’re with their friends, they’re not going to have to be scared or get hurt.
Rubin Godinez rides his bike by the corner of Elsmere and Mason Place every day. He likes what he sees now “A lot of improvement. We need some of this stuff out of the way because the kids come over here and do their stupid things.”
The $ 10 Million from the state will help erase a lot more blight. Mayor Bing says that will probably pay for another 800 to 1000 houses to be torn down.
The mayor is looking for even more help. He told us he is going to Washington next week to talk to HUD to try to convince them that the program is working and see if we can get additional funding.
And if you’re ready to act, there’s work you can do. The mayor says, “They can call my office. We’ve got a lot of things that people can get involved in and can do to help us turn our city around.
So there will be more corners that are transformed from blight to right.
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