The Vindicator ( Youngstown)
A man enjoys a brief respite at the 34-acre Wick Park on Youngstown’s North Side. Two groups want the city to follow up on citations issued to people found in violation of housing codes near the park area, and the Wick Park Neighborhood Association is asking the city for better security at the park.
Sharon Letson, executive director of Youngstown CityScape, shows redevelopment plans for the historic park.
Youngstown CityScape and the Wick Park Neighborhood Association are working on a $2.8 million revitalization of Wick Park on the city’s North Side. On Wednesday, the Youngstown Foundation donated $100,000 to the project.
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Those wishing to donate to the Wick Park Project are asked to email Sharon Letson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By David Skolnick
The city administration’s attitude toward housing- code enforcement is drawing criticism from two organizations.
And new Mayor Charles Sammarone agrees with them.
“I feel we can do a better job with neighborhood issues like code enforcement,” Sammarone said. “It’s what I’ve been saying for years. Good enforcement strengthens our neighborhoods.”
The Mahoning Valley Organizing Collaborative and the Wick Park Neighborhood Association wrote a letter Tuesday to Sean McKinney, the city’s buildings and grounds commissioner, about problems with the city’s code-enforcement program. About 100 people signed the letter.
“The code-enforcement program lacks focus and direction and fails to provide a systematic approach to code compliance,” the letter reads. “It is the public’s perception that this approach to code enforcement has been ineffective at best, and, in most neighborhoods, nonexistent.”
The letter specifically mentions a June code-enforcement sweep of the Wick Park area on the city’s North Side. The MVOC and the association assisted in the effort that led to 11 properties receiving citations for housing-code violations.
Those cited had 30 days to take care of the violations. The letter contends the city did nothing to follow up on the violations.
McKinney declined to comment Wednesday.
When told of the letter, Sammarone, mayor since Monday, said he agrees that the city’s housing-inspection program needs to be improved.
“We don’t need a letter to tell us inspections aren’t being handled correctly,” he said. “I agree that our inspection on zoning and following codes has to get better. Our inspectors have to get better.”
Sammarone said he’s meeting with McKinney to discuss the inspection issues.
Gary Davenport, president of the Wick Park Neighborhood Association, said he was pleased to hear Sammarone wants to address these issues.
While hopeful, Davenport said city officials have discussed better enforcement in the past and haven’t followed through.
The 34-acre Wick Park is bordered by Broadway, Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Elm Street.
After a July 6 sexual assault of a 19-year-old woman in the park, the neighborhood association is calling for security improvements there.
The association found that 29 of about 65 light poles at the park didn’t have working bulbs. First Energy has repaired most of them.
The association wants the city’s park and recreation commission to increase the wattage of those bulbs, add more security patrols and install poles and chains to block vehicular traffic at dark at the park.
Since last week’s meeting with the park and recreation commission, the neighborhood association is getting signatures on petitions in support of its proposals. As of Wednesday, the association’s petitions had 37 signatures.
Meanwhile, the Youngstown Foundation is donating $100,000 for Wick Park improvements including the replacement of concrete walk areas, grading and drainage improvements, the installation of steel-pipe swing gates and lawn seeding.
The project, announced Wednesday, will begin shortly and finish by June 2012.
The improvements are a part of a $2.86 million campaign, initiated two years ago, for improvements to the park.
The planned improvements include an amphitheater, sports fields, a playground accessible to special-needs children, a dog park, a spray fountain, improved lighting and rehabilitation work to the pavilion, rehabilitated tennis and basketball courts, realignment of trails and paths, pruning and thinning trees, purchasing new benches, picnic tables and waste receptacles.
Before this grant, the park improvement plan received $80,000.
“This is just the beginning,” said Sharon Letson, executive director of Youngstown CityScape, an organization involved in the Wick Park revitalization project. “It’s been incremental. This [grant] is a substantial investment.”
Sammarone, who lived near the park in the 1950s, said, “The park is worth saving.”