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Letters to the Editor

An Open Letter To The City

Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) held its fourth (of four) meetings for the Fairfax Park on Tuesday, April 17. We learned that DPR is back to the drawing board for the design and the neighborhood is divided on its location.

At that meeting neither DPR Director Happy Haynes nor Councilman Chris Herndon were present to listen to the 80+ residents. In a brief presentation, after which he left the meeting, DPR’s Gordon Robertson affirmed the department’s commitment to build a park on the block.

Since no one from the city with authority to speak was present, developer Ben Maxwell of HM Capital answered questions about the planning and approval process. HM Capital is the developer of Park Hill Commons, extending the entire east side of 2800 Fairfax. According to Mr. Maxwell, there is no contract in place between the City and HM Capital. However, he stated that if the land swap does not happen, HM Capital will redesign its project to be all residential (current listings are $1,000/mo. for micro-units and townhomes starting at $2,500/mo.), eliminating the retail and commercial elements.

Many minority residents feel abandoned by our representative, Councilman Chris Herndon, and held hostage by Mr. Maxwell, with the land swap being used as a fear-mongering tool to pit neighbors against each other. They have expressed concern about gentrification and being profiled if the park is embedded in the east-side development. The vocal land swap proponents at the meeting were white residents concerned about losing the retail amenities, like a chiropractic office and a wine bar, if the development becomes all residential.

We are requesting that Councilman Herndon explain why subsidizing the developer over $1 million is equitable for the neighborhood. Before this swap is submitted for City Council vote the contract should be issued for public review and a public forum held.

Everyone wants a successful, safe and welcoming park on the 2800 Fairfax block. Success is dependent on community engagement. The Park Hill community is full of resources. Let’s use our resources to engage with the city, plan to build the park for the community, and not cater to interests which isolate and exclude minority residents from public spaces. Embrace community, diversity, and inclusivity, and keep the Fairfax Park on the west side.

Blair Taylor, Owetta McNeil,
Nancy Francis, Shanta Harrison,
Maria Flora, Kevin Wiegand
Park Hill

Editor’s Note: The GPHN has learned the city and the developer signed a Letter of Intent to move forward with the land swap deal on Nov. 1, 2017 – before the Parks and Recreation Department announced a series of meetings to determine where the park will be. Click to read this month’s news story and timeline of events.

An Open Letter to Mayor Michael B. Hancock

My grandparents moved to Denver in 1950, during the Great Migration of African-American Southerners to western and northern states where they fled for safety and opportunity. They worked extremely hard. My grandfather was a mechanic at the Firestone off 19th and Broadway for several years after serving in World War II. My grandmother worked in the dietary department at the former St. Luke’s Hospital and retired in 1987.

They purchased their first home on 28th & Gilpin where the Fuller Dog Park now exists. They raised my mother and my five aunts and uncles there until they were able to purchase a bigger home on the corner of 29th & Birch. The family home was two stories and had five bedrooms, two bathrooms. Since the home was on the corner we had three yards to barbeque and play in, a rock garden surrounded by beautiful flowers that of course we couldn’t touch. My grandmother won an award a couple of summers for the beautiful yard that she and my uncles cared for. In the early 90’s when the home next door went up for sale, my grandparents helped my mother purchase the home.

“We didn’t know what kind of people would have moved in, so we got it,” my grandmother would later tell me.

Three generations of my family were blessed to be able to roam and play in the streets of Park Hill. Three generations of us were blessed to be able to ride our bikes to grab a drink and a bag of chips or candy from Paradise Corner Store on 28th & Colorado Boulevard or the little market on 28th & Fairfax. Three generations of us remember the skating rink, Safeway, laundry mat, small corner store and the summer carnivals that took place in the parking lot of the shoppette off 33rd & Dahlia.

Depending on what our parents or grandparents were doing that day, we could get a sack lunch from Mutdears. Denver Health’s Park Hill Clinic and a school are now housed where those memories remain.

Three generations of us remember and survived the 1993 Summer of Violence in Denver. We studied at Stedman and Smiley and when high school came around, most of us northeast Denver teens either went to George Washington, East or Manual. We represented different mascots and teams, however after the school day was complete we all went home to Park Hill, Eastside or Five Points.

We remember the village that consisted of our friends, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors that we had on every corner that we turned on our bikes, skates and heels. I’m a late-aged millennial so those are just the memories I have. So many before me not only remember Park Hill in its glory, but also the glory of the Eastside and Five Points.

We don’t expect city council members Albus Brooks, Chris Herndon and Robin Kniech to understand the strong emotions us longtime residents of northeast Denver are feeling as a result of gentrification, displacement and discomfort in our former neighborhoods because after all, they’re from California and Wisconsin, respectively.

However Mayor Hancock, we absolutely expect you to understand our emotions because you’re from here. You went to school with some of our parents. Your parents attended the same church as a lot of our elders did. The fact that you were from “the hood” was one of the things you sold us longtime residents in 2011. You “understood our needs.”

I was priced out of Park Hill in the last two years and now live in southeast Denver. My grandparents’ home was feloniously sold and flipped for a little under or a little over $500K. While not under the same circumstances, several neighborhood and childhood friends have similar stories as to why they can no longer afford to raise their children in the village of warmth and love that we were blessed to have.

The development of the Five Points and the entire east side of the 28th block on Fairfax was done without the input of us long-term residents. How many of us will be able to afford the complexes that are being built in A&A’s restaurant’s former home? Mr. Mayor, you’re from the neighborhood so I don’t doubt you understand our needs. However at this point I firmly believe that you don’t care.

I rooted for you, sir. We all did. But you, Brooks and Herndon chose to line your pockets and pad your resumes over looking out for your people’s best interests and that is no longer accepted nor will it be forgiven.

Tamara Greathouse-Pruitt,
A third generation
(former) Park Hill resident

 

In Memoriam

The Trees of City Park Golf Course

by Jeffrey Hersch

they lie where they have fallen their once strong grey arms stretched to the sky,

their skins deeply crevassed, rough and wrinkled and looking much in death as when alive.

They are elephants lying scattered on the plains of Africa, tuskless. headless,

they are wolves in red patches on the snow,

they are wild horses stuffed in corrals

they are bison shot from trains

and now they are 267 trees waiting for the whine of saws and the belching of tractors

in our park.

Where once they stood tall strong, waving in summer breezes and green with leaf,

glowing yellow and orange in the autumn sun, and

dark bare silhouettes in the cold of winter, reminding us not all is frozen in sleep

their buds only waiting for the first touch of spring sun.

soon they will lie on the brown ground, pointing north south east and west

they have shaded us for 75 years, through wars and presidents drought and freeze, brown clouds and even little errant white golf balls banging off their sides,

while a city grew around them.

they cannot trumpet like elephants or howl like wolves neigh like horses or bellow like bison

they are silent save for their creaking in the wind like a familiar rocking chair, and the rustle of their leaves in summer

but if you listen , if you allow yourself to listen, they speak

 

Editor’s Note: We love your letters, and give preference to those that address an issue that has been covered in the newspaper, or a topic that is Park Hill or Denver-specific. Join the conversation and make your voices heard. Send letters to editor@greaterparkhill.org, and include your full name, and the neighborhood in which you live. Deadlines are the 15th of each month, for the following month’s issue.

 


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