Stir It Up
The city can't respond to requests from everyday Detroiters, but jumps when the rich call
Published: August 29, 2012
Anderson admitted that "money talks" and that a big project like Hantz Farms is going to garner more attention and response from city officials. He pointed out, though, that there is plenty of land to go around. Data Driven Detroit has calculated that there is about 20 square miles of vacant land available in the city. Anderson also said city officials need to "change our obsolete thinking" about what is possible in the city and how things get done.
"Trying to effect change in the city of Detroit can be maddening from the inside," he says.
It's also maddening for folks on the street. Rosie Sharp, from the Shepherd Greens Community Garden, reported that her group can't even get a price from the city for the two lots where they have built a gazebo and planted sugar maples to create a community gathering spot. Bobbi Birnam from the Springwells Village neighborhood talked about her efforts to buy two lots adjacent to her home that she has been caretaking for years only to find out it was sold to someone in Brooklyn. The Brooklynite has never had the grass mowed and reportedly hasn't paid any taxes since 2006.
"I'm willing to pay taxes," says Birnam, adding that if the owner ever shows up, "He's going to have a hard time taking it back."
There are a lot of people willing to pay taxes and do the work to clean up vacant lots and make them neighborhood assets. It would help if there were a fair and equitable process that everybody can understand in order to purchase land. Right now the only thing that seems clear is the city can find a way to make it work for the big players, and it can't seem to find the small folks at all.
Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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