Time for action

We’re done. This News Dog is sick of the ongoing lawlessness and criminal actions of the vagrants who continue to occupy Independence Plaza Park, using it as their public toilet, their drinking area, and their playground for criminal activities.

A case in point: last Friday one of the “residents” of the park struck another “resident” with a brick pulled from the park’s north wall. Two people were transported to a local hospital and the suspect was given a free ride to the pokey.

Two staffers from Scuola Vita Nuova (SVN) came over to the park afterward to ensure it would be safe to walk their students to the Northeast Community Center two blocks to the east to use the play equipment. Let that sink in. The school, due to safety and crime issues, must walk past a public park with play equipment, to use play equipment in a private, secured location to ensure the safety of their students.

“We have to have our kids walk down to the Northeast Community Center to use the playground because we don’t feel like we can do that safely anymore because there’s so much criminal activity going on in the park.”

That’s straight up from an SVN staffer after last Friday’s little fracas.

The situation was discussed at length last week in a Northeast Chamber-sponsored Coffee on the Corridor event that doubled as a Zoom conference call attended by a host of community stakeholders who border the park, the Kansas City Police Department (KCPD), the Independence Avenue Community Improvement District (CID), the Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association and SVN.

Strangely absent from the community conversation, however, was any top-level management from the Parks Department, the very people who determine direction and priorities for the parks and boulevards. Let that sink in for a moment as well.

Given the Parks Department is slated to shovel close to $1-million in improvements to the park over the next year or so, this community-minded News Dog thinks it is time for some outside the box thinking, leveraging those public dollars with private monies to forge a public-private partnership transferring maintenance and daily management of the park, including its opening and closing, to the community stakeholders that border the park. The key entities would be SVN, Brinshore Development, the Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association, and the Independence Avenue CID.

Brinshore Development, the deep-pocketed folks overseeing the $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Grant responsible for the re-development of the Paseo Gateway Project, could designate funds toward the project in terms of park and playground improvements, working with Parks Department planners and PH neighbors to re-design a secure access to the park from only the north side, making it easier for neighborhood residents, not the resident vagrants, to access the park.

Enforcement needs to be increased and consistent in order to be effective with all partners, working toward the same goal of returning the park to a point where it can be used in a positive way and not as a staging area for ne’er-do-wells.

Resources could be allocated to Titan Security or off-duty KCPD to enforce the posted Park Rules and Regulations that already govern the use of public parks. A zero-tolerance policy could be adopted, much like the Scarritt Renaissance Neighborhood adopted in the late 1990s to deal with the Sunday afternoon lawlessness that plagued Concourse Park.

Here’s the bottom line. This type of activity wouldn’t be tolerated in Loose Park or Shoal Creek Park so why should the residents of Northeast have to put up with it here? It’s time for the stakeholders to come together and forge an agreement that gives control of the park to those entities with a stake in improving the community and wrench it away from the drunks and derelicts who continue to make life hell for the surrounding neighbors.

We’ll be happy to offer the space for those conversations.

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