25 January 2009

Percy Jenkins Pleads to Save Home

Some things never change, but often the specifics do drastically change. For example, people still get forced from their homes. Years ago often it was government doing the demolition under the banner of Urban Renewal. Today it is more likely to be foreclosure or condemnation.

I found this compelling photo in an old book in the office, and thought it was worth sharing:
In this photo, a man threatens suicide in an attempt to prevent the authorities compulsorily purchasing his home as part of a London redevelopment project. "Percy Jenkins made a last defiant bid to save his home yesterday...but failed. For four hours he resisted bailiffs and police, council officials and welfare workers. He roared at them from the rooftop, threatened to hurl himself from a 30 ft high window ledge and barricaded his doors. But in the end, weeping he had to concede defeat." - Daily Mirror June 19, 1969. (from the book "Architecture vs Housing", 1971, by Martin Pawley


Mark Miller said...

And only a few months back the City and County voted to give taxation and eminent domain powers to the Port Authority.

Sure, they wrote-in a little oversight provision. But now the power to seize property fundamentally lies with appointed rather than elected officials. Just another layer of bureaucracy to make politicians less accountable to the public, and make it more difficult for folks to stand their ground.

The problem's gotten bigger, not smaller.

CityKin said...

In their 9 years, I haven't seen the Port Authority abuse their power by forcing people out of their homes. I think that the fundamental problem is "big scale" planning. It is the kind of thinking that says we can remake the city by moving everyone out and tearing down "slums" and building a new.. sports stadium, modern housing complex, shopping mall etc... The real way to grow a vibrant city is by empowering individuals and encouraging an ownership society.

Mark Miller said...

Port Authority's been limited to the riverfront (all government owned) and brownfields until now. There's been nothing to take. The new rules leave me hopeful, but sceptical. They exist for the sole purpose of doing enormous developments, and that always has a habit of running roughshod over smaller interests.

And you're exactly right that smaller interests are what it takes to make a city great. Lots of small developers or businesspeople trying to build a dream on their half acre of turf is what created the city in the first place.

Little debacles happen every now and then, but they're usually redeveloped quickly, and can be tolerated when surrounded by gems. Mammoth disasters like the subway or Freedom Center endure for decades or centuries because their sheer scale makes dealing with the failure impossible.

CityKin said...

Is the subway a debacle only because it wasnt' finished? I definitely do not think the Freedom Center is a debacle, although I would have done it differently. Why don't you mention the stadia as debacles?

Mark Miller said...

Subway's a debacle because the City saddled its citizens with a huge debt (several hundred million in todays dollars), and got zero return on the investment.

Freedom Center is a debacle because citizens were promised huge $ in annual economic impact from a million visitors a year in exchange for a 1-time investment of $55 million tax dollars. With annual attendance at about 60,000 any economic benefit is more than wiped out by the life-support subsidy they extract from us. Prime riverfront real estate should make us money. Money-losing attractions belong at that other debacle, Union Terminal.

Thanks for reminding me about the stadia. Their only saving grace is that the voters explicitly asked to be taxed for them. Now that all the ramifications of Bedinghaus' self-serving, one-sided deal are beginning to emerge, I would have to put those in the debacle category as well.

Lest I be too negative, there is one great move the City made long ago; and ironically enough, it was a rail initiative. They bought a freight line down in KY/TN for cheap and leased it out. Somebody else does all the up-keep, and it continues to net the City about $15 million a year. Darn near free money.

Some of those old farts who gave us this city were pretty sharp. Today's crop of politicians is a major disappointment.

CityKin said...

Union Terminal, aka the Museum Center is one of the greatest attractions in the region, and if you consider that a debacle, you are wayyy out there Mark.

Cincinnati NAMjA said...

i doubt that we will see too much of the in OTR.

Mark Miller said...

Yeah, I am pretty far out there...guess I'm just in a misanthropic mood today.

But you remember George Psihountakis' Restaurant and the Union Terminal Mall, don't you? And roughly a decade of vacancy on both sides of that short lived experiment?

That was the debacle.

Moving the museums there was an elegant solution to the problem of what to do with the grandest train station in the world after the sudden demise of passenger rail.

CityKin said...

I remember a clothing store in the rotunda but not the restaurant. I think that was the early 80s?