May 5, 2007

One fine spring.

The apartment building has been reliably quiet of late, and I'm much happier, as might be shown by my lack of recent posts. Incidentally, I've also been quite a bit more productive in my software development, and have started to feel quite comfortable and safe in the neighborhood. There are some more condos that are opening up nearby that I expect will have a positive impact on the neighborhood, and with spring in full effect I've been able to ride my bike quite a bit more. The Stevens neighborhood is magically situated in the middle of everything, between uptown and downtown, the lakes district and the University, easy access to the freeway, it's really very pleasant.

One of my favorite things is to ride my fixed-gear Bianchi at night or during storms up Nicollet to the green-way, which is like a freeway for bicyclists, and take that under Uptown, ride hard around the Lake of the Isles, and then up the massive hill on Franklin, back toward Hennepin and across, down the hill toward the Wedge on Lyndale, where I stop for a recharge and putter home. It is a delicious and scenic ride.

I'll post pictures soon of the hanging vines on the side of the building--one of my favorite things in the spring and summer. There are pigeons that live on the windowsill in my bathroom. My lease was set to expire on July 1 and I had considered giving two months notice, but because of the diligence of the people in this community I have discovered a new sense of confidence and decided not to leave. I'm looking forward to another scorching summer and pleasant autumn in my new home.

April 1, 2007

A very quiet Sunday

Today has been the quietest and most relaxing Sunday I can remember in some time here at Mallbrook. I've been resting and enjoying the quiet all afternoon.

It is the first of the month, so the garbage situation in the back alley has emerged once again--the dumpsters are overfilled and spilling into the alley. I don't think this is too difficult to solve, nor is it necessarily caused by folks in our building. There are six buildings that share an immediate vicinity to our plot of alleyway, and this tends to concentrate the problem. One thing that could help dramatically is if all of the apartment buildings on the block reminded their tenants that they were required to use garbage bags. It seems like a simple and common-sense thing to do, but I often see people upturning containers and dumping the garbage directly into the dumpsters. Homeless people will later come by and rifle through all of the loose garbage looking for blankets or alcohol, discarded clothing, and aluminum cans. I also think that we could use two more dumpsters--four to be shared by six buildings is proving insufficient. This, however, would cut into parking space and might prove impossible.

When people vacate and move into the building, I think there is a tendency to overstress the railings in the back staircase. The railings coming up from the ground floor to the second floor have shaken loose and need to be reaffixed to the wall. It's probably just wear and tear, but it's noteworthy.

I also saw today that the security camera was wrenched around and pointing at the wall near the first floor rear entry. I turned it back to face the entrance, but I'm not sure if it's actually connected yet, after being damaged earlier in March. These two minor issues and a burned out lightbulb on the third floor hallway mark the only areas of improvement that leapt to mind today.

Make no mistake. The difference in atmosphere between today and two weeks ago is palpable. I feel like a siege is being lifted on the building, and I'm very happy to spend a quiet and restful day at home.

March 31, 2007

Coalition of the Winning

The good news is that the efforts of the MPD, our building's management team, and at least six residents (by my count) have immeasurably improved the quality of life here in a very short period of time, and we did it by speaking out. This is the only way to keep the information flowing.

I welcome all of the other Mallbrook tenants to join me in sharing information and helping us keep a watch on our neighborhood, starting with our own building and the streets and alleys that surround it. The good news is that this isn't hard or even dangerous.

In the next few weeks I'm going to look into buying an outdoor patio table and chaining it to one of the fences inside of the community garden areas, so that we can spend time outside in the back alley, perhaps get a small charcoal grill, and help get some eyes on the alley. I know that this can be done, because several of the Residence Halls on the University Campus have similar setups. If anyone is known for stealing outdoor furniture and doing crazy/stupid/illegal stuff with it, it's rowdy college guys. So, if the University can pull it off, I'm sure we can set something up in our alley.

Once we have a place to meet, we can hold cookouts and the like. Bring out a transistor radio, listen to baseball games, and generally have peaceful gatherings that are respectful of our neighbors' need for quiet while keeping some eyes on the alley. Spending time back there will give us more opportunities to police it for litter and garbage, and if anyone in the building has a dormant green thumb they might help maintain some of the area gardens.

Thanks again to the folks in the building who've spoken up and helped management to clean up our home. We're winning.

The efforts of management are definitely helping

This building's management has been extremely active and responsive to the problems we've been having of late. I don't want to give the impression that they're not working on our side or are ignoring the problems here, because they are most definitely not.

I think that the best recipe for success in resolving problems with crime in apartment buildings is when law abiding tenants keep an open channel of communication with their landlords. Good news and bad news should flow both ways, (as long as the privacy of the tenants isn't violated, of course). The reason that problems in Mallbrook got as bad as they have is, in my opinion, because we the tenants were probably more forgiving and timid than we should have been. Since the building managers don't live in the building, they don't know what we don't tell them.

Although the last few weeks in the building have been a very frightening experience, the management of the building is convinced that these problem tenants aren't nearly as organized or intelligent as they might have frightened us into believing. So far nobody (that I know of) has been injured and all of the problem tenants have been very cooperative in leaving the building when asked. I had a very peaceful night's sleep on Thursday.

The other tenants in the building whom I've met in the last two weeks have been nothing but kind and considerate, decent people. We're definitely in the majority, and I foresee a very stable and comfortable living situation coming into form this summer. One of the things that I'm keen on doing is cleaning up the garden spaces between the buildings, getting the trash out of them, and finding ways to help the neighborhood dog owners clean up after their pets so our sidewalks don't get littered on.

March 29, 2007

All quiet in Mallbrook

The last couple of months have been hard here, but they've recently culminated in a lot of effort and attitude change by the people who live in the building and especially the management. I think, perhaps, things are improving.

I was going to go to a neighborhood council meeting tonight, but decided to go buy a push broom and dustpan instead. I'm going to go out into the back alley and sweep up some of the garbage. A neighborhood sees itself in the cleanliness of its most hidden parts. If an alleyway is filled with heaps of garbage and littered with broken glass, how are people supposed to take pride in it?

The first job I ever had was when I was 10 years old. I pushed a broom around restaurant and grocery store parking lots in a small town in Northwestern Wisconsin for 20 bucks apiece. This money I saved up to pay for boy scout camp in the summers. I have had many different jobs, but I'm not too proud to go back to the principles of that first one.