Historic Northeast neighborhood association presidents met on Thursday evening, Sept. 1, for a roundtable discussion about their community. The meeting, hosted by the Northeast News staff at their office at 2659 Independence Blvd., was the first of its kind in nearly a decade.
Representatives from each neighborhood bordering Independence Avenue were in attendance: Kate Barsotti of Columbus Park, Evie Craig of Paseo West, Cynthia Herrington of Independence Plaza, Sean Arkin of Pendleton Heights, Scott Hale of Scarritt Renaissance, Patricia Hernandez of Indian Mound, Gregg Lombardi representing Lykins, and Mark Morales and Carly Benjamin of Sheffield.
The group quickly found they have similar concerns and challenges, sharing their frustration with illegal dumping, break-ins and fires at vacant houses, vandalism, poor response from the City, stray animals and a lack of safe and affordable housing.
Lombardi shared solutions that have been working for Lykins, like taking the initiative to board up open vacant properties, taking legal action to obtain properties from out of state owners who have let them fall into disrepair, and working with developers on infill housing.
While Lykins has built a strong leadership team, has a paid staff and created many helpful connections, some neighborhood leaders feel like they’re starting from scratch. As completely volunteer organizations, the time commitment and lack of funds are often felt.
Some neighborhood leaders, like Benjamin and Indian Mound Vice President Jimmy Fitzner, are currently participating in the University of Missouri – Kansas City Center for Neighborhoods (CFN) Neighborhood Leadership Program, a 12-week course focused on four pillars of neighborhood vitality: leadership and governance, health and safety, communications and technology, and planning and development.
Leaders shared safety concerns for both their housed and unhoused neighbors, their frustration with organizations that drop in with a “band-aid” fix and then return to the suburbs, and the presence of generational homelessness and poverty.
As the Paseo Gateway Project nears completion, they discussed the progress the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant has helped Northeast make. With Chouteau Courts being demolished and replaced by smaller housing units nearby, the western end of Northeast has been left with large brownfield and stalled development.
The neighborhood leaders recognized that they are a stronger force when united, especially when taking issues to the City or leveraging community benefits from future stadiums and other large developments. They also plan to help each other hold landowners who delay development accountable.
Following a nearly three hour meeting, leaders came away with concrete action items before their next meeting, including sifting through arson data in an effort to save some of Northeast’s precious housing stock, looking into Kansas City’s newest homeless plan that was released last week, building relationships with area nonprofits and service providers, and working together to create cohesive and complete bylaws for each neighborhood.
The group plans to meet regularly from now on in an effort to once again unite the neighborhoods of Historic Northeast.
To attend a neighborhood association meeting, please reference the schedule below: