By ELISE McKEOWN SKOLNICK
The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. and the city of Youngstown solicited input from West Side residents at the first of what’s intended to be a series of meetings.
“The most important thing we’re doing here tonight is obtaining your feedback,” Ian Beniston, YNDC deputy director, told the residents filling the community room of Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted on Wednesday.
Beniston briefly discussed the YNDC’s recently released neighborhood conditions report, which contains information about Youngstown neighborhoods’ populations, socioeconomic conditions, housing, transportation and health/environment.
The meeting focused on the portion of the West Side from the Wick Recreation Area to north of Mahoning Avenue, known as the Rocky Ridge neighborhood.
“We’re not presenting a plan to you tonight,” Beniston said. “We’re here to solicit feedback.”
To do that, residents were asked to list what they considered the neighborhood’s top three assets and the top three priorities.
Bill Black, a West Side resident, counted Mill Creek MetroParks, good streets and an old church turned into a community center as the area’s assets. He listed heavy school area traffic, a need for youth activities, and a need to fight poverty as the priorities to be addressed. Children play in the streets, he noted, and poverty-stricken residents aren’t able to maintain their homes.
Black attended the event after reading about the YNDC report.
“I’m basically just trying to figure out what it’s about,” he said.
Residents were also asked to list the one thing the YNDC and the city need to know to improve the city and its neighborhoods.
Politics will probably trump plans, Black noted.
The people who compiled the report are well-meaning and working hard, he said. However, he’s unsure if the plans will be implemented.
Doris Baugh, also a West Side resident, is hopeful something positive will come out of the meetings.
Rental properties in the area are not being maintained, she said, and sees that as a priority.
“Our area of the neighborhood’s really nice, but the rental property area isn’t,” she said.
Renters and landlords don’t maintain the properties. The yards don’t look nice and unused vehicles are on the street, which lowers property values, she said.
“We spent a lot of money keeping our house up and maintaining it, because we’re not going anywhere,” she said.
Meetings will be held in other areas of the city, to solicit input, Beniston said. The data obtained will be compiled and within a couple of months citywide recommendations and priorities will be determined. Neighborhood-specific plans will take longer.
“There are some constraints,” Beniston said. “The city does have limited resources.”
That makes it important to prioritize, he added.
The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. March 4 at the Newport library branch, 3730 Market St.