I bought the house I grew up in, my parents having purchased it in March 1970 a month before I was born. A lot of ups and downs have hit this corner of Cleveland and, as I have been at one time passionate about this city as a whole, I was always trying to be involved in North Collinwood and the East 185th St. area. In general, this part of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie has many assets and so much potential. While I never, nor did many of ny neighbors growing up who have long since moved away or died off, really think they had anything in common with Waterloo or the area around St. Jerome’s at East 152nd and Lakeshore Blvd, let alone with anything south of the freeway. If anything, we gravitated towards Euclid. Five Points was for me just as distant as Shaker Square or my grandmother’s old neighbborood around Payne Avenue.
So much has changed since 2000 that will not be mentioned here. It doesn’t matter because we can’t go back to the way it was (which to be honest in 1980 was basically your average working class white ethnic community). However, I along with more than a few people of various backgrounds did have a dream of re-inventing the place. In some ways, such as the Metroparks taking over the lakefront parks to the restaurants on East 185th St dong great business, we have succeeded. In others, well, is what many people who used to live here and moved expected.
This past week, as I checked out my cellphone at work, I was shocked to learn that two people were shot on my street. The way the Google Map with the article showed it, it looked like it was on the block facing East. 200 St. in one of the houses. Even when, after talking with the Councilman’s assistant and learning it was actually on East 200th St. across from our local Discount Drug Mart, that didn’t make me feel any better. Two fifteen year olds with guns shot a couple who confronted them about bikes they stole at a playground a few days previously. One of the victims was shot five times. This is on top of a terrible shooting at a home on Pawnee Avenue in January of this year (Which Cleveland EMS refused to pick up because the victim went across 200 into Euclid). While Frank Jackson may be saying they are really trying to finally hire more police, the fact is that we need them now.
On thing about some of the conversations I had this week with people is how frustrated and in a way despondent they are. One even said they would move if they could afford it, this is the same person who a year ago was talking about how a relative who moved in from Medina loved the short commute to the job now that she moved here. The problems of the inner city seem this week to be hitting this area and it shouldn’t be that way.
Of course, as the incident with the man with a walker on Puritas on the West Side shows, all this can happen everywhere. The permissiveness of gun laws has led to this, even in the suburbs. The fact that the City failed to hire enough cops last year didn’t help. Yet, something has to be done.
Things are quiet again as I write. I have been driving about on my endeavors in this heat, went out to Burton Ohio for a steak fundraiser, went on an elusive search today for a cellphone (still have the old one), and things are calm. Funny, yesterday morning, as I drove up East 200th St. to go to this diner on the Euclid side of the border, it didn’t occur to me that I drove right past the crime scene. On the way home, I tried to see if there was yellow tape or anything around indicating where the shooting took place. I didn’t see that but, in a planter in front of one of the buildings I did notice some yellow daisy like flowers that seemed to be put there.
Another thing that is going on which disturbs me in some way. While two bankrupt development corporations merging and starting anew is a good thing. The fact is, the demise of Northeast Shores Development Corporation and everyone now moving to the South Collinwood-Nottingham Village offices at Five Points (near Collinwood High School) makes me feel like years of hard work on my part has gone down the tubes.
It feels like an uphill battle but as our mayor so eloquently puts it is what it is.
This will never happen, but it would be nice if there was a community development corporation just for the East 185th St./Beachland area where I live with a staff that not only lives in the area (not Cleveland Hts. or Old Brooklyn) and can build upon not just all those studies that NE Shores spent money on (such as for East 185th St.) but emerge from the work done by the Neighborhood Watch Group, the moribund Merchants Association and of course the beach clubs north of Lakeshore Blvd. I heard that the owner of the Cleveland Brewery wants to revive a version of the old East 185th St. Old World Festival. That’s exactly what a local CDC could help organize and promote. I would also like such an organization to aggressively promote and market the housing stock on the Indian Streets all the way to Nottingham Road. It is time to stop people from buying and fixing up single family houses to rent and instead move in for a bit, take care of their yards, and become part of the community. Yes, I want people to say in the same breath as Tremont, Gordon Square, and Old Brooklyn to say the East 185th St area is really going to take off and be a hot place to live.
Now, personally, do I plan to live here my entire life? Probably not. Who knows what will happen in ten years. Will I even be in this country let alone Cleveland the way things are going with this nation it’s hard to tell. On the other hand, even if I live say near Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, I’d most likely take a drive up to the old neighborhood now and then and see what’s going on. It would be nice to think that it will be better than it is right now and a community success story. To have East 185th Street talked about in the same breath as Murray Hill Road or Gordon Square, would be wonderful. Ultimately, it’s up to the people who live there.
Photograph by James Valentino