My neighbors across the hall, Dan & Gretchen, moved out of our building last year. One of those high-achieving, dual-income households, they owned a 900 square foot unit, were expecting a second child and needed more room. People come and go all the time in our 114 unit building, but their departure was especially hard as I’d gotten quite attached. Their first child, Wes, had health problems when he was a baby and we got to know each other as Dan walked him up-and-down the halls at night.
This young family could have moved anywhere. Terrace Park. Mt. Lookout. Somewhere outside the 275 beltway where they both grew-up — any place with no poor people and no poor people problems, certainly somewhere where they didn’t need to camp out in a tent for 16 days to get their children into the school of their choice. But instead they sunk everything into a house in Over-the-Rhine, vacant since the 80s, one that needed to be completely gutted. They bought it based on the architect’s drawings without ever going inside. I remember the night they signed the final papers. Gretchen was melting-down next to the elevator, scared to death at what they’d done.
The other day Dan posted this on his Facebook page:
“For all those that I’ve shared stories with about folks peeing and/or pooping (yes, humans) in the alley next to our house, I finally have an answer to the question: “What are you going to do about it?”
Here are before and after photos of the “prime spot.” Instead of installing motion sensing lights, cameras, water and/or paint guns, lasers, booby traps or any other suggestion that has been offered up, I figured that flowers might do the trick. At least the soil was fertilized, right?
Fight fire with flowers.
Perennials, not poop. (Would work better if I didn’t plant annuals)
If anything, maybe it will make someone smile when they unexpectedly see flowers and plants in an alley.”
I swear. The next kind, well-intentioned person I meet who brings-up gentrification in Over-the-Rhine – all this development for rich, white people – I swear I will punch them in the mouth – me – 59-years-old with my pathetic rubber-band arms.
These incredible young families risking everything to be part of the re-population of this neighborhood deserve all the support Cincinnati can muster. Living in a neighborhood in transition is not easy. Even so, Over-the-Rhine’s newest residents believe in something they can’t even put into words and they believe in it so deeply that they are willing to live with the hard reality of poverty on a daily basis, fighting fire with flowers to make it a better place for everybody.