How Do We Build Community When We Can’t Be Near Each Other? (with PeacePlayers Baltimore and TAP Druid Hill)

This is the second part of a series. Click here to read Part 1.

Baltimore City reported its first case of coronavirus over the weekend. Mayor Young announced a second case yesterday, though Maryland’s official count still has it at one. The state has 57 confirmed cases as I write this, with the majority in the DC suburbs, and six in Baltimore County.

Today Governor Hogan announced a set of new measures to deal with the outbreak. Among other things, all state emissions inspection locations will become drive-thru testing centers, and MARC train service is being cut in half.

The Baltimore Sun has live updates here, and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has a podcast dedicated to issues around COVID-19 that you can subscribe to.

If all this is stressing you out, Hopkins mental health researcher Laura K. Murray offered steps to manage anxiety in The Sun yesterday. One of the recommendations is to limit your media intake. Yes, you can go ahead and close the browser now if you need to.

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For those looking to help out, Delegate Robbyn Lewis pointed out on Twitter that blood donations are especially important right now. You can schedule an appointment at a Red Cross donation center here.

Here’s a a mutual aid spreadsheet for Baltimore residents to offer help with childcare, pet care, emotional support and any other issues that might come up for neighbors and visitors. There are also sign-ups to support vulnerable neighbors in several Baltimore neighborhoods.

A number of rec centers, senior centers and schools are operating as food distribution sites. Click here for the map. You can also find food pantries through the Maryland Food Bank here.

Learning packets for students in city schools can be downloaded here.

Please email me if you have any more resources to add.

Continuing this series of asking people, How do we build community when we can’t be near each other, I reached out to LaToya Fisher of PeacePlayers Baltimore and Graham Coreil-Allen of TAP Druid Hill. Here’s what they said…

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TAP Druid Hill: Reclaiming the Park for the People

On Wednesday afternoons between June and September, residents who live near Druid Hill Park have the opportunity to shop for fresh, locally-grown produce – not to mention enjoy smoothies, baked goods and even massages – at the farmer’s market held at the southwest edge of the park.

If they can get there, that is…

That’s easy enough for Graham Coreil-Allen, an artist and transportation advocate who lives in the Auchentoroly Terrace neighborhood. All he has to do is wait for the right moment to dash across the nine lanes of expressway that separate the park from the homes to the west.

For some of Graham’s elderly neighbors, though, that’s not an option. It’s also not easy for them to walk several blocks up to Gwynns Falls Parkway, take two traffic signal cycles to cross Auchentoroly Terrace and McCulloh Street, and walk another several blocks down to the farmer’s market.

So instead of going to the market just across the street from their homes, Graham said some of his neighbors would “just sit in their lawn chairs and watch and listen to the farmer’s market” from their property.

“But they were unable to go,” he said. “And that’s not fair.”

Graham is part of a group of community stakeholders trying to fix that. They’re pushing to redesign the streets around Druid Hill Park in order to make it more accessible to the surrounding neighborhoods: particularly Reservoir Hill, Penn North, Auchentoroly Terrace and Mondawmin. The public face of that stakeholders group is called The Access Project for Druid Hill Park, or TAP Druid Hill for short.

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In the first half of the twentieth century, this wasn’t a problem. Residential streets in Auchentoroly Terrace like Bryant and Whittier Avenues led directly to the park. When looking at aerial photography from the 1920s, Graham counted more than 20 access points to the park from the surrounding neighborhoods. Today there are only five from the south and west, and only three more from Roosevelt Park and Woodberry on the other side.

The loss of access is the result of two expressways – the Druid Hill Expressway and the Jones Falls Expressway – built between the late 1940s and 1960s. As part of the new construction, Auchentoroly Terrace and Druid Park Lake Drive went from two-lane, meandering park roads to five-, eight- and nine-lane arterial roads to shuffle cars between the northwest outskirts and downtown.

As you might expect, there was resistance from the community at the time. The NAACP opposed the street-widening, arguing that it would hurt black communities, as did multiple community associations. But the primarily black and Jewish working-class neighborhoods lost the fight. It’s worth noting that a powerful advocate of the expressway plan, legendary political boss Jack Pollack, lived near the northern end of Auchentoroly Terrace. As Graham put it during a walking tour he was leading around the park, Pollack essentially gave himself an express route to downtown.

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