Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Organizing to Win in Peoplestown

We were well represented at the launch of the coalition
So I wanted to update folks on all the exciting work going down in and around the Peoplestown community. Some of you might be aware that last year we partnered with residents and community organizations to facilitate a listening project in Peoplestown. After looking at the results it was clear that Peoplestown residents cared deeply for their community and have deep concerns about it's futures. On the top of the list of concerns was the lack of affordable house, access to good food, and trash in the community.
Canvassing Team Gets Ready to Knock on Doors

Residents Participate in Free Tenant Rights Legal Clinic
Since the listening project I'm excited to report that we have worked with Peoplestown residents to develop and anti-displacement campaign and a series of housing justice training's. One of the exciting developments has been a strong effort to organize tenant associations in the communities surrounding Turner Field. We also launched a weekly free tenants rights legal clinic with Attorney Joshua Davis. It's already been announced that the Braves will be leaving Turner Field in 2017 and all that land will be up for grabs for developers. Fighting mass displacement means pushing for a process that includes long term residents and ultimately benefits the surrounding neighborhoods. If history teaches us anything it's that development comes with lots of promises to the community but usually ends up hurting and displacing long term residents. In order the fight for a process and result that lifts up those that have been holding down the community long before it was cool or profitable to buy property here residents have realized now is the time to organize people around a platform insure residents aren't displaced, real jobs are created, and that those that live here have a say in what happens to the land.

Residents Stand Outside Boynton Village Demanding Fair Treatment
One exciting development is that in the effort to organize a tenants association at Boynton Village tenants have won a huge victory. The owners of Boynton Village, the Woda group, have agreed to sign a new agreement with HUD to keep the complex affordable for the next 20 years. This is a big win considering other apartment complexes will consider converting to market rate as the price of rent in this area continues to increase with each passing month. This may not have happened if residents hadn't organized together, holding meetings, launching petitions, and demanding face to face negotiation with the Woda group. That work has been a launching point to meet with other tenant leaders in the Peoplestown area.
Tommy Moore Trains a New Generation of Gardeners in Pittsburgh

Responding to the lack of  good food in the community we have been working with Pittsburgh(right next door to Peoplestown) resident Tommy Moore to help him raise funds to develop community gardens. Tommy is a miracle worker in the garden and has used the resources to develop multiple gardens sights, teach young people to grow food, and feed the neighborhood free of charge. We're so excited to to able to work with Tommy are currently working with him to break ground on a new garden this month.
Spellman Students Help Facilitate Community Clean-up

We have organized to big trash clean up days with college students focusing on the peoples town community.

During Housing Justice 101 Training
We have joined and put energy into building and strengthening the Turner Field Benefits Coalition, with is a coalition of over 40 groups, mostly based in the neighborhoods surrounding Turner Field. At this point the coalition is fighting to insure that those that live in the neighborhood will have a real voice and an impact on what happens to the land the Braves used after they leave. Sadly up to this point it seems as if community members have not been given space at the table. It's a cruel irony that many of the things the neighbor hood wants did used to exist. Fifty years ago Peoples town, Summerhill, Mechanicsville, Pittsburgh, Adair Park were considered more a part of downtown than Midtown is today. You had everything you needed to survive in the community. From grocery stores to theaters, to doctors offices, and local business. The highway came through, the Olympic stadium, Turner Field, all came with the promise of positive development for the community, all ended up hurting more than helping. We are excited to be a part of a coalition aimed at challenging the model of development that displaces long term residents and treats the neighborhood like a giant ATM.

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