The Fall Creek Place neigbhorhood has undergone quite a transformation in the past several years from a crime-ridden place once called Dodge City to a successfully revitalized neighborhood, which has brought a diverse group of people back into Indianapolis' inner city. Rep. Julia Carson (D) has been a major supporter of that effort. But what she is permitting to happen right under her own nose is nothing short of an outrage.
The Julia Carson Government Center houses Carson's congressional office, as well as office space for Center Township and a Key Bank branch office. But soon it will house a bar, and to make room for that bar, the city has given up a park adjacent to the building to make room for a parking lot for the bar--a park that opened just 6 years ago to provide a playground for the neighborhood's children. The Star's Will Higgins clues us in:
Al E. Polin Park, at 300 E. Fall Creek Parkway, is being dismantled, its playground equipment removed by Indy Parks and placed in storage.
Coming soon in its place: a parking lot.
That is the plan of investors who hope to open a restaurant and bar in the Julia M. Carson Government Center, adjacent to Polin Park.
They'd call the place 300 East. But first they need additional on-site employee parking. The space occupied by tiny Polin Park fits the bill. They'd lease it from Indy Parks, which has signed off on the arrangement.
Polin, 69, is philosophical. "Time moves on," he said. "Changes have to be made, and you just have to accept it."
Polin's reaction to the park's demise is quite disappointing. He seems to think it's okay to tear down the park because the bar's landlord will be Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer, who has decided to lease the space to business entity owned by Lacy M. Johnson, III. That would be the son of Lacy M. Johnson, II, who is a partner at the law firm of Ice Miller, Carson's long-time campaign manager and the Chairman of the Indianapolis Airport Authority board. Johnson, who lobbies the state legislature for gambling interests, has been accused in a recent lawsuit brought by a former airport manager of using his position as the airport authority's board chairman for old-fashioned political graft. The deal was obviously greased well in advance as the city park's department had already pulled the playground equipment from the park before the matter was even taken up by the city's Metropolitan Development Commission.
It is bad enough that Drummer doesn't have any more sense than to think that it's okay for a government building to have a bar, but he apparently thinks it's okay to discriminate as well. "It won't be a dance place," Drummer said. "It'll be a place where African-American professionals can go after work and relax and network and enjoy one another's company." That should make good grist for a future civil rights lawsuit against the township.
The real person in charge here, though, is Rep. Carson. None of these characters would have proposed this shady deal if she had raised an objection to it. There is very little green space as it is in this neighborhood, and the last thing we want to do is take away park space. According to the Star, Councilor Patrice Abdullah, who represents this neighborhood on the council said he'd "not done enough research on that particular proposal in order to give a yea or nay on the proposal." Yeah right--as if it even matters now that the decision has already been made. Thanks for standing up for the people in your neighborhood Patrice--another reason to make sure you're voted off the council in 2007.
Had Abdullah bothered to consult with his constituents, he would have heard from people like Laki Moore-Scott:
But Lakia Moore-Scott, 16, a Tech High School student who lives a block from Polin Park, doesn't care how classy the new nightspot would be. She liked the park. Often she'd take her nieces to play there.
"Why would they take down something that was for the children just to make a profit?" she said. Moore-Scott didn't know Polin Park was in jeopardy until a few weeks ago when she took some kids there. "It was just gone."
With crime in the city out of control, the last thing this neighborhood needs is another bar. In case these folks didn't notice, someone was shot in broad daylight just up the street at the Starbucks as a result of someone trying to steal a lady's purse. This much-welcomed recent addition to the neighboord may not last long if people have to worry about being shot or robbed. Carson, Drummer, Abdullah and Mayor Peterson would all do well to focus their attention on fighting crime instead of using our public lands to line the pockets of political cronies. And by the way, Polin has been assured by these folks he'll get his name on another city park.