Mayor Hales – What’s the Plan?

After ignoring the summer’s invasion of traveling gangs into the North Park Block, the city surrounded one park block (between Burnside and Couch) with barbwire-topped chainlink fencing to cordon off the block from all public use.

City either ignores problem or denies all use

Not surprisingly the gangs moved across the street to the playground block in front of the Emerson school. The remaining blocks up to Flanders now have a higher concentration of drug use, prostitution and off-leash dogs.

This morning Michelle Cardinal CEO and Co-Founder of R2C Group wrote Mayor Hales  requisition clarification regarding his plan to reclaim the park. We will publish his reply.

Mr. Mayor

I was wondering when the North Park Blocks will be finished with fencing for fixing of irrigation system and prep for Art Walk? Last week – the city did fence in just one block at corner between Burnside and Couch. But have not completed entire section between Couch and Glisan.

This partial fencing, has caused many of the vagrants and gangs to move into a smaller are in front of the Emerson School and also our offices on Davis and Flanders, all the way down to PNCA. Making the situation even more unbearable.

On a safety note – things continue to spiral out of control on the North Park Blocks. I’m sure you saw the story of our neighbor who’s dog was attacked by an unleashed Pit Bull over the weekend? 

At night we continue to have large groups of gangs setting up tents and camping on our sidewalks – especially on Davis/park – under an overhang across the street from our office.

I am very concerned – there is a heightened sense of palpable fear in our neighborhood. These traveling gangs of hooligans, seem to have no fear. They are brazen, because they know the police have no authority to do anything. I worry something horrible could go wrong. When can we get some relief soon?

Your swift attention is appreciated.

Yours truly,
Michelle

North Park Blocks Stalker

North Park Blocks Stalker
North Park Blocks Stalker

North Park Block neighbors are warned to be on the lookout for this man.

Email from a North Park Block’s business owner August 24, 2015:

On Monday night after departing my office my husband and I were stalked by a young man under the influence. He wanted money, then asked for my phone so he could check his Facebook. He physically threatened us. We ducked into the lobby of one of our buildings and he tried to enter the building after us.  He then waited outside the door in a threatening manner.  I called Clean and Safe – who did come and informed us there was nothing they could do.  Just move him along…

I was pretty shaken.  I typically walk to my car alone at night after working late

KATU-TV: Park Drugs, Public Sex, Off-Leash Dog Attacks

KATU-TV’s Jackie Labrecque reports on the break down of the North Park Blocks – drugs, public sex, off-leash dog attacks.

Note: Aug 25th – In an attempt to restore order to the North Park Blocks, the city began to cordon off the park with barbwire-topped chainlink fencing. More

KATU-TV ~ PORTLAND, Ore. — Neighbors in North Park Blocks have had enough of people using drugs, camping out for days, and even having sex in the middle of a public park in broad daylight.

The area runs along the south part of the Pearl District, and neighbors are begging city leaders to do something about it.

“Just in the past couple of months, the influx of homeless has been crazy,” said Amy Mullen, who takes her son to the park regularly around the city. It is his favorite, but she would rather avoid it.

NPB Burnside / Nw Park 8-12-15
NPB Burnside / NW Park 8-12-15

“People are shooting up, just out in the open. People are having sex, people are drinking. People are camping, they’re littering,” said Tami French, who lives right along the park.

French is fed up, and to make matters worse, her dog was attacked Saturday by another dog.

“It was the most horrifying experience. I thought he was going to kill my dog. I could not get this dog off of Yogi.”

French filed a report with Multnomah County Animal Services, and snapped a photo they asked us to include in our video report. They hope it will help them identify the owner who took off. Neighbors say the man hangs around the park a lot and the dog is rarely on a leash.

“We stand at that corner and look to see, Okay, where is the safest place to walk our dogs because there’s illegal activity occurring all the time in the park,” French explained.

Neighbors are posting each crime on their website, and are continuously calling on city leaders to do something. Police say they are aware of the pictures neighbors are posting of people having sex and shooting up and are addressing the problem with regular patrols.

While out talking with neighbors, the KATU crew ran into Bruce Stephenson who studies city planning.

“I’m trying to figure out how the park blocks are used,” Stephenson explained.

The professor from Florida is writing a book about the Pearl District. Each day he observes the North Park Blocks.

“What I’ve seen over the last two months is an increase of people with camping gear in the park blocks,” he said.

The very spaces moms would love to enjoy again with their kids.

“It’s understandable, it’s an unfortunate situation,” Mullen said. “But it isn’t fair. We’re a little nervous having a small child here.”

“Definitely, I would like to feel safe taking my kids to the neighborhood park,” said Jennifer Vesbit, who was at the park with Mullen.

City Tries to Take Back North Park Blocks

Da Tung and Xi'an Bao Bao behind fence
Da Tung and Xi’an Bao Bao behind newly installed  fence

In less than two weeks the North Park Blocks will host Portland’s premier Labor Day event – Art in the Pearl. After ignoring deteriorating conditions all summer, the city finally took first steps to try and restore control of the North Park Blocks.

As we have reported, this summer the North Park Blocks have been overrun by traveling gangs, rampant drug use, prostitution and off-leash dog attacks.

Today the city began erecting barbwire-topped chainlink fencing to cordon off the park from all public use. It’s unfortunate that the city’s delayed response  to weeks of unlawful behavior requires such drastic measures.

Hopefully the North Park Blocks will be  a safe and livable space for all to enjoy during the art fest and beyond.

Displaced camper watch installation of park fencing
Displaced campers watch installation of park fencing from Park playground

Meeting with Mayor Hales – Aug 18, 2015

Crime and Safety report image

Michelle Cardinal the CEO and Co-Founder of R2C Group (and North Park Blocks neighbor) met with Mayor yesterday to bring his attention to our criminal vagrant problem.  She presented this slide deck at the meeting.

Here are Michelle’s  notes from the meeting:

The meeting with the Mayor went well today – thank you for your support and input in our meeting yesterday. Tom Manley from PNCA and Bob Packard from ZGF were also in attendance (who I encourage to please weigh in on my notes or make additions).

The Mayor brought a large group, I didn’t get cards for all of them, but most notable were: Commander Westport – Portland Police, Josh Alpren – Chief of Staff, Patty Howard – Parks (works for Amanda Fritz, there were also representatives from Clean and Safe and Portland Business Alliance and Eloise Damroch – Executive Director of Regional Arts and Culture Council.

We presented PowerPoint deck (download it here: Crime Safety North Park Blocks 2.1MB pdf )and also a short film my employees made – showing exactly how life on park blocks has gotten unbearable. Film included real life testimonials of harassment, drug dealing, vagrancy etc…and overall lack of livability here (your photos were very helpful, thank you!). The video along with hard photos we left behind really made our point – loud and clear – they all seemed a bit speechless. A picture truly is worth a thousand words…

We clearly and concisely laid out our concerns;

We are now experiencing an unprecedented influx of crime led by gangs of drug dealers as well as abnormally large numbers of mentally ill and drug

Addled vagrants threatening our safety. This is not an indictment of the homeless community, instead an attempt to shine a light on a growing and vibrant criminal element who are smart and organized – taking advantage of the truly indigent and needy.

Big picture – Mayor appears to understand big backlash from constituents coming his way on this issue… Attempting to get ahead of it. Was open and willing to dialogue.

Here’s where we netted out: Some short term wins, to disrupt criminal activity in Park and a seat at the table to dialogue with Mayor on this issue.

Wins:

  1. Mayor encouraged creation of our Park Blocks Consortium – (I hope you like the name, I made it up to avoid confusion with PBAlliance) and wants to work with us through creation and expansion of Business Improvement Districts (BID) as Jacob suggested last night.
  2. Tom Manley (PNCA) – successfully floated idea of “Programming the Park” – whereby events are scheduled in the park (music, art, festivals) – to discourage vagrancy/criminal activity and encourage resident and tourist use. This would be partially funded by our Business Improvement District as well as other funding from PNCA. Mayor used “Holiday Park case study as excellent example” – and highly supports this.
  3. Three Week “Park Shut down ” – Mayor and Patty Howard (Parks) – Agreed to “shut park down” for three weeks in preparation for Labor Day Art in the Pearl – for reseeding and repairs of irrigation system. This will require complete clearance and fencing around the park.
  4. Three Week – Temporary “High Pedestrian Zone”on our sidewalks (directly across from Park) – which means no camping of sleeping of any kind.
  5. When Park reopens – Irrigation will turn on at 9AM and 12AM – daily.
  6. More Police will be assigned directly to North Park Blocks – Commander Westport – also gave me information regarding the hiring of “ off duty police” service – (which Jacob referred to last night a tool SW Park Blocks are also using). We would do this through our new BID (and our new Park Blocks Consortium).
    Next meeting – Mayor would like to have a follow-up meeting in two weeks – to follow up on above game plan and include additional people from our group.

Non Starters:

  1. Our request for a “ Drug Impact Area/Exclusion Zone” was shot down – with explanation that District Attorney is no longer prosecuting those cases (due to high failure rate). Failure rate is related to ACLU Claims that these laws unfairly target minorities. (Exclusion Zones were dropped by Potter in 2007 – due to ACLU lobbying – same issue).
  2. Open Town hall/Forum – was also shot down . Mayor wants to have solutions and plan before opening dialogue citywide.

Maybe:

We floated idea of the brand new, unused “Wapato Jail Facility” – to be used for homeless facility . This could be done fairly quickly and provide lots of quality space. This was met with lukewarm enthusiasm – because it is owned by County and too far from city services. Others in the know – think this is great idea. So we should continue to push this.

Concern :

New Methadone clinic is opening in ChinaTown/Oldtown? Not sure of location. Will impact our area.