Monday, April 17, 2017

Faith Leaders to Unite at #TentCityATL

On Tuesday evening at 6:30 pm, faith leaders from different communities in Atlanta will hold a prayer session  for Georgia State University and Carter Development at #TentCityATL (755 Hank Aaron drive). On the days following Easter, faith leaders will pray that GSU and Carter respect the NPU-V community members and include them in development of Turner Field and the surrounding parking lots. They will pray that development projects not drive-out longtime residents as they have before. They will pray that Carter and GSU include community voices in a binding social contract that will ensure development benefits everyone in the community.

On April 1st residents of the area marched to the site formally known as Turner Field and set up a tent city. Residents have been staying there in an act of civil disobedience for 18 days through extreme weather and police intimidation. Our ask is simple; include longterm resident voices in the development of the area and so far Carter and GSU has refused to respond to numerous requests for a meeting.

“For years, we have met with residents across Peoplestown, Summerhill, Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh to develop a Community Benefits Agreement to ensure that any development on the 80-acre turner field property benefits the community and our future generations,” explains Deborah Arnold of Mechanicsville who has been camped out since April 1. “More than 1700 of us have participated in community meetings to develop this CBA since the Braves announced they were leaving, but Carter Development and GSU have refused to meet with us, and instead have slandered us and pushed forward plans for development that doesn’t meet community needs.”

We’re drawing a line in the sand. We won’t allow GSU, Carter of any other developer to extract wealth from our community. After suffering through multiple mega developments that promised economic development and delivered broken promises this is our last stand for a community we want to be able to stay in,” says long-term resident and Housing Justice League member Alison Johnson and an organizer of the #TentCityATL. “We no longer have anything to lose. If they aren’t developing with us, they aren’t developing for us.”

Since the #TentCityATL began thousands have signed an online petition to bring Carter and GSU to the table and the story has been covered nationally.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

#TentCityATL Continues; Day 11




ATLANTA, GEORGIA -- More than 40 residents of four of Atlanta’s historically black neighborhoods surrounding Turner Field (Peoplestown, Summerhill, Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh) are now in day 10 of a tent city occupation at the site of the former Atlanta Braves stadium in their fight for an accountable community benefits agreement. The fight is quickly becoming a national battleground between community-led organizing for equitable and fair development versus publicly supported luxury development taking place across the nation.

“For years, we have met with residents across Peoplestown, Summerhill, Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh to develop a Community Benefits Agreement to ensure that any development on the 80-acre turner field property benefits the community and our future generations,” explains Deborah Arnold of Mechanicsville who has been camped out since April 1. “More than 1700 of us have participated in community meetings to develop this CBA since the Braves announced they were leaving, but Carter Development and GSU have refused to meet with us, and instead have slandered us and pushed forward plans for development that doesn’t meet community needs.” 
  
Last year the City of Atlanta sold the public stadium site to Carter Development and Georgia State University. Despite countless asks they have refused to meet with residents and resorted to spreading lies through the media about residents intentions, including implying that all residents want is a cash payout. Such a request has never happened.

“We didn’t make this decision to pitch tents lightly, says Columbus Ward of Peoplestown. “We have families, we have jobs, we have responsibilities. But at the end of the day, Carter, GSU & the city are threatening the very existence of our neighborhoods. This is a fight for our future. For our right to remain and thrive. We refuse to be seen as commodities. We are real people.” 

On Monday residents will get a lift from students of Georgia State University who are organizing an action to call on GSU President Mark Becker to support local residents demands and urge Carter to negotiate a CBA.

“We’re drawing a line in the sand. We won’t allow GSU, Carter of any other developer to extract wealth from our community. After suffering through multiple mega developments that promised economic development and delivered broken promises this is our last stand for a community we want to be able to stay in,” says long-term resident and Housing Justice League member Alison Johnson and an organizer of the #TentCityATL.  “We no longer have anything to lose. If they aren’t developing with us, they aren’t developing for us.”

#TentCityATL is the latest in what are becoming increasingly regular and escalated fights led by working class communities and communities of color to push back against privately funded, publicly supported luxury development across the nation. In March, teenagers from Boston’s Egleston Neighborhood led a 3-night sit-in at the Mayor’s office to demand increased affordable housing and community engagement for development projects in their neighborhood. On March 31, Pittsburgh residents announced a major victory in their campaign to stop the the replacement of 300 units of affordable housing in the historically black East Liberty neighborhood when they got Whole Foods to back out of the development.
  
Some Atlanta residents aren’t waiting on the city, and are taking the fight to the ballot box. Tanya Washington -- a Peoplestown resident currently under threat of eminent domain related to the Turner Field development -- announced Thursday, she will run for city council after discovering that the city council member that represents her neighborhood has received campaign support from Carter Development.

“We’re not going anywhere,” says #TentCityATL and Housing Justice League organizer Alison Johnson. “Come down and join us. We’re planning actions for May Day, hosting movie nights and building community.”

There has been push back. One needs to look no further than the Peoplestown Next Door website to see all kinds of wild accusations about the #TentCityATL efforts. Although the draft Community Benefits Agreement has zero asks for pay out to individuals or organizations, newer white neighbors continue to claim the effort is about a cash grab. The reality is the Carter and GSU stand to extract billions of dollars from the up and coming neighborhoods and while this might excite already affluent homeowners it has produced a palpable anxiety amongst long term residents that have called these communities home for generations.
 
Last night a number of students and long term residents held a sit-in at GSU president Mark Becker’s office hoping to facilitate a meeting between Becker and longterm residents. Becker refused and instead had folks in the group, including former state house rep Douglas Dean , who has lived in the Pittsburgh neighborhood for over 50 years. As this blog post is being published, they have yet to be released.

One of the things we often hear is that gentrification is inevitable but around the country regular everyday people are fighting back and winning. #TentCityATL is a line in the sand around the issue of gentrification and mass displacement. At its core is the notion that those that live in a community should have a voice in what happens in it, that residents are not disposable, that there can be room for everyone to survive and thrive.

What can people do to support #TentCityATL?

3.       More than anything there is a need to have folks there. there are regular events organized at #TentCityATL like this one. Donate an hour, donate a day, pop a tent and stand in solidarity with one of the most important fights in the city! 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tent City at Turner Field!


 After the Braves announced that they would be leaving Turner Field residents of Summerhill, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, and Mechanicsville began meeting to discuss what would become of the almost 80 acres.

 Over the course of almost three years over 1700 residents and countless experts gave input on a Community Benefits Agreement that would ensure that the voice of the community would be included in any development and that whatever ended up at Turner Field wouldn't end up displacing long term residents that are loved and needed in their community.

 Since Carter Development and GSU has purchased the land they have not only refused to meet with residents, they have resorted to spreading lies through the media about residents intentions, including implying that all residents want is a cash payout, such a request has never happened.

 Residents have drawn a line in the sand and simply will not allow GSU, Carter, or any other developer to extract wealth from a community that has suffered through so many bad developments over the years without allowing residents to have a voice and a binding agreement about how their community is developed.

 
The Neighborhoods surrounding Turner Field have been plagued with mega developments that have brought countless broken promises of economic development. 50 years ago Mechanicsville, Summerhill, Peoplestown, and Pittsburgh were thriving communities. It was a place where one could buy fresh food, go to the doctor, enjoy the theatre, attend a decent school, and enjoy a walkable community. Interstate 75/85, the Fulton County Stadium, the Olympic stadium, and Turner Field have all had detrimental effects on the surrounding neighborhoods.

Each of these developments ended up displacing residents by the thousands and destroying small business in the area.

Today residents say no more. No longer can we allow mega developers to extract wealth from our community without any accountability. If you aren’t developing with us, you aren’t developing for us.
Those that live in the community should have a voice in how it’s developed!


That’s why residents and GSU students are taking a stand by organizing a Tent City, and we invite you to join! Follow the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition and the Housing Justice League on Facebook for updates!

You can support the tent city in several ways!


2. Come down and spend time at the Tent City, 755 Hank Aaron drive, it's a 24 hour occupation and the more people present the more powerful we are!

3. There are a lot of expenses and you can help by making a donation and spreading the word! Click here to donate!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Who is the Beltline For?

This past weekend the Housing Justice League did a day of canvassing with the support of SURJ Atlanta. It's park of an overall effort to gather data for a report that would highlight the impact of Beltline development to low to moderate income residents. 

We know the Beltline has already brought a net loss of affordable housing along the areas that have been complete. As the popular project makes it's way to Adair Park, Pittsburgh, South Atlanta, and Peoplestown we want to make sure that development doesn't displace. If the Beltline is going to be the inclusive beautiful project it was designed to be our city and those working to develop the Beltline must do a better job of making sure that everyone can enjoy it, not just affluent newer residents.



The results we are already seeing are unfortunately not shocking; the Beltline is squeezing out non-rich folks as it snakes it's way around the city. Mega projects like the Beltline and Turner Field beg the question, Who are we developing Atlanta for?


Our hope is that solid research can point us to policies our city can adopt to make sure development can benefit everyone and that long term residents can have the opportunity to stay in their community, to enjoy things like the Beltline instead of being squeezed out to make room for new people.


If you would like to get involved in this project we could use your help! Right now we need help with data analysis, data visualization, mapping, qualitative analysis of surveys and interview data, report writing, and editing.


There will be an open meeting  Saturday March 18th from 11-1pm at Hodge Podge Coffee. Email Katediedrick@gmail.com to get more information on how to plug into this effort!


Do you live in a Beltline neighborhood? If so we need folks to take the survey! It won't take long at all! Click HERE to take online survey.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Turner Field Neighbors Disrespected and Threatened With Arrest Today


Today residents with the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition delivered apetition to Carter Development urging the developer to sit with long term residents to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement. The petition delivery was organized as a result of Carter’s CEO, Scott Taylor’s refusal to meet with the coalition. The coalition, which is comprised over 30 organizations in the community has been trying to have open communication with Carter and GSU ever since the sales process begun. To date the only residents Carter and GSU have been willing to meet with are homeowners in Summerhill more interested in their own property values.

“We want development in our community, we just ask to be included as there’s a history of broken promises in our communities. We want to know that development in our community works for both new and long-term residents, a binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) is a huge step in that direction.” Stated long term resident and coalition member Alison Johnson.

Once residents showed up to Cater Development's office to deliver the petition they were met with extremely aggressive building representatives that threatened to have them arrested immediately. Some staff even put hands on residents who simply intended to deliver a petition to Scott Taylor.  Residents decided to kneel down and pray for their community but building staff seemed set on yelling over clergy’s prayer, yelling, “Get out now!”, as Imam Furqan A Muhammad with the Masjid Al Muminun Mosque, which is in Peoplestown, led the group in prayer.
 
Today what could have been a simple petition delivery urging a conversation with residents ended up highlighting the extreme disrespect and disdain that both Carter Development, GSU, and some city officials have demonstrated through the whole Turner Field sale process. If Atlanta is going to be a city that works for everyone then this unsustainable, backroom deal approach to mega developments must change.
Carter and GSU along with our city officials did not plan with the communities. This was a backdoor deal which as stated above, is full of conflicts of interest.  They disrespected the democratic process used to create the CBA and they ignored the communities and refused to allow them a seat at table. They took the alternate route and bypassed the people, because they decided the people don’t matter. 
 Many residents are disappointed and scared of what this may mean for their community. “This is a hostile takeover of our communities for profit. This is ethnic cleansing.” These back door deals happen because low-income, minority communities and long-term residents are not valued as stakeholders and partners. “Instead we are looked upon as outsiders by insiders.” 
For fifty years, the communities surrounding Turner Field have been neglected, an almost forgotten footnote in Atlanta’s race to prove it is the “city too busy to hate.”

Once thriving neighborhoods fell victim to the economic priorities of others: busy interstates divided communities and families; stadiums rose and fell, flooding communities with crime and raw sewage; local schools were neglected and underfunded; and promises for positive development were as empty as the scores of parking lots that litter the area.

Now, there is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change all this.
It’s called the Turner Field Community Benefit Agreement (CBA). A Community Benefits Agreement is a legally-binding contract with the developer that describes mutually-agreed and enforceable goals for the development project. This agreement is driven by local residents and the over 40 community organizations that make up the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition.


What would a CBA mean for our communities? A world of difference–for everyone. A well implemented CBA could alleviate flooding; improve transportation and create new public space; provide jobs for residents and create opportunities for training, education and services for people of all ages; create housing for people of all incomes and prevent displacement of existing residents; and make our streets and communities safer and cleaner, while providing places to shop for people in the neighborhood.