UPDATED MAY 10, 2013: The empty property located behind our house that was mentioned three years ago in this article, still looks the same if not worst. This is a recent photo of the garage. Below there is a 2010 photo of the same building.
Urban decay/blight is the process whereby a previously functioning city, or part of a city, falls into disrepair and decrepitude. It may feature deindustrialization, depopulation or changing population, economic restructuring, high local unemployment, fragmented families, political disenfranchisement, crime, and a desolate, inhospitable city landscape. Wikipedia Dictionary
The question comes up time and time again, what has made Gloucester City change from what it used to be? Longtime residents or those who come back to visit will say “This is not the Gloucester City I remember growing up.”
One reason this has occurred is a result of the housing problems that plaques the City. There are too many rentals to begin with, nearly 1900 properties. On East Thompson Ave, for an example, 50 percent of the homes between Lane and Harley Avenues are rentals. Some of which are duplexes and triplexes.
It is hard to get to know your neighbor if every few months someone new is moving into the home next door to you. Most renters are very nice people, but there are some who could care less about our city since they are only passing through. Thus they lack a connection to the community. They come and go like gypsies in the night.
The same with many of the landlords who own properties here, they live in another
community. And once again lack any connection to the City of Gloucester City. They put the least amount of money into maintaining the building and grounds; and for the most part just consider the renters as a commodity. As long as the renter can make the monthly payment they could care less what kind of individual he or she maybe.
PHOTO: The backyard of a home located in the Riverview Hts. section of Gloucester City. The weeds are has high as five feet.
For example this property located near my home has been allowed to look like this photo for many years. As a result some of the properties in this neighborhood are also slowly decaying. The Housing Office was contacted about it but apparently is busy elsewhere in the City. This is not an isolated case. When we first moved to this area some 40 years ago a well known family occupied this home. If they were alive today this property would have been like it was back then, spotless.
Born and raised in Gloucester City I remember people having pride in their homes. It was instilled in you by your parents and grandparents. You were embarrass to, let the grass grow too high, leave trash pile up in your yard, dirt on sidewalk, the leaves pile up in the garden. You painted the house, the garage, the fence when it needed it, there was no reason your home couldn’t be kept cleaned and well maintained. All it took was some “elbow grease”. In our City and elsewhere people would even white wash the curb/steps in front of their house.
Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director of Keep Iowa Beautiful wrote a paper on community pride. He defines it as such,
There was an expression that I heard as a youngster time and again from my mother -
"We may not have much money but that is no reason for not having your shoes polished and your clothes clean". What she was doing (without me knowing or understanding at the time) was building pride and confidence in her son. These key elements are important in making a person successful and a contributor to society. They are also the "glue" that makes your community stick together resulting in healthy and prosperous town.
How does a community build that sense of pride?
Presenting your best face to the public tells the visitor that you care about property and each other. It indicates that you have a sense of respect for others and it reflects in every resident's commitments to improving the community.
Those communities that take pride in their town often win awards and recognition for beauty and cleanliness. More importantly they also tend to be the communities that are economically healthy. They become attractive places to reside, raise a family and grow a business. Resident's attitudes become positive as they walk around the town or drive through the various neighborhoods. You feel good about what you see. If you live in a community that has little regard for its surroundings individuals living there will tend to have a negative attitude and not feel good about themselves or the town. Equally important is that potential investors in the community will develop the same attitude and invest in another community with pride.
Pride spreads and it is contagious. One individual, one family, one neighborhood can and do influence others and soon the pride becomes community wide. The painting of a building, removal or demolition of rundown buildings, the rebuilding of a fence, the removal of trash and debris from the back yard, removing weeds and cleaning up a vacant lot, planting flowers, trees and shrubs along a street or in a park, fixing up the city square, removing or renewing signs, picking up litter from roadways, parking lots, parks and school grounds, supporting Main Street efforts and beautifying the entrances to your community are all elements of how we can start building pride in our communities.
Note that Mr. Schnepf said nothing about fining violators or creating stricter housing laws. Instead he is saying that community pride comes from within each person who lives in a town or city. Until people realize that I don’t see things changing much. The court can force the owner of the home in the photos to cleanup his property but until he has pride in its appearance the cycle will only continue.
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