27th and Penn Heating Up Again

Summer is definitely here.  There are three more problem places in this area:  2712/14 Penn (formerly owned by Ben Coleman and family, now purportedly owned by someone in the Bronx, NY), 2707 Penn (owned by Bob Zeman), and the southeast corner of the intersection itself.

2712/14 Penn’s tenants, while not as bad as previous tenants, are trashing the vacant lot next to the property.  It was planted with grass seed when the house was demolished last year, but tenants have been driving their vehicles (and visitors have as well) between the alley and Penn, so any blade of grass that was brave enough to give it a go has been wiped out.  Before the house on the vacant lot was demolished, the city had installed bollards to block anyone from driving onto Penn Ave from the property (there is a curb cut because there used to be a driveway there).  When the house was demolished, the bollards came out, and now cars enter from Penn and drive out onto Penn from this vacant lot.  The tenants have moved a couple of chairs onto the vacant lot.  But mostly, they have been dumping their paper trash, and the lot just looks trashy.  The tenants like loud music, preferably coming from one of their cars.  This property has been a problem for the past 7 years at least.  When the rental license was up for renewal recently, it was renewed despite repeated police calls (most probably from me) and calls to the City Council Member’s office to get it revoked.  I have video of former tenants doing crack on the front steps and numerous loud and disorderly gatherings there.

2707 Penn Ave has also been a proplem ever since Bob Zeman bought it for $33,000 or $34,000 (he charges about $1200 in rent, so clearly it is a money maker for him).  Zeman typically rents to single mothers who promptly allow one or more men to move in with them.  There are many visits to the house of the 2-minute variety.  Two weeks ago, the tenants carried a 5-gallon bucket of urine up the alley and dumped it on the ground behind my garage.  The stench was horrific.  This was reported to 3-1-1 and to the police (as well as to Mr. Zeman who said he couldn’t understand why his tenants would do such a thing…and neither can I, but they did it).  The tenant has two small children living there, and at one point, the person living next door to Zeman’s property found a soiled diaper that had been thrown into her backyard from this property.

Then there is the southeast corner of the intersection itself.  At nearly any time of the evening or night, there are either prostitutes or drug dealers there trying to drum up a little business.  What is most upsetting is the level of trash they dump on the street while they are standing there.  Just a few days after the city swept the streets, it looked worse than before the sweeping was done.  Litter is the #1 problem in North Minneapolis in terms of turning people off.  When the neighborhood looks so trashy, who wants to live here?  I can easily pick up 25-50 candy wrappers from my lawn and sidewalk every week.  Children need to be taught to respect themselves and others and stop littering!

Finally, last night, it got a bit scary.  About 10:30 p.m., I noticed a car in my driveway with its headlights on.  I looked out the window, not hiding the fact that I was looking.  The car didn’t leave.  After about 5 minutes, the headlights were turned off.  The car remained.  I called 9-1-1, and they put me on the list for a squad to check it out when one was available.  Using my video camera, I was able to get almost the entire license number of the large-ish maroon car:  348 AH_.  I couldn’t see the last letter because it was behind the pole of my fence.  The driver was very large and, I think, white.  There were at least two other occupants in the car.  Finally, around 11 p.m., the vehicle’s headlights came back on, and it backed out of my driveway and left.  I never saw anyone enter the car or leave it.  My guess:  prostitution.  Someone picked up one of the prostitutes at the corner of 27th and Penn and stopped in my driveway to do their thing.  The stop was too long for a drug deal.  9-1-1 never made it … they said it was a busy night last night, and I believe them.  There were lots of sirens, the smell of smoke (large fire kind) and a couple of times when squads streaked down the street with lights flashing.

So we have a little more cleaning up to do over here on Penn Avenue.  While there are some families with children, this block also has a lot of older residents on it.  There are six houses near this intersection with residents over 60, including a couple with residents in their 70s and 80s.  We’ll work together to clean things up as much as we can.  If we could get close down the two properties at 2712/14 and 2707, it would eliminate the last remaining strongholds for drugs and prostitution.


3 Responses

  1. Hi, Vy! Welcome (as of the end of July). I’m so glad you wrote and asked how you can contribute. We need neighbors like you to join the rest of us (and there are a lot of good people here).

    I’d suggest you attend a couple of meetings (a board meeting or two as well as any of the committee meetings that sound interesting to you). Committees always can use extra heads and hands.

    Join the neighborhood e-mail list. I’d join now so you can get a feel for who folks are. You can find the list at http://www.groups.yahoo.com. You’ll need a Yahoo account (free) and can then forward posts to your personal e-mail if yours isn’t a Yahoo e-mail. Once you have a Yahoo account, go to the groups.yahoo.com and type JACC into the search box (I think it says “Find a Group”). There are about 30, but scroll down to the one JACC that says it’s for the Jordan neighborhood. You can request membership at the group site. If there’s a problem, let me know here and I’ll get you in touch with the list moderator. Th e-mail list will notify you of upcoming activities and you’ll see discussions among the members about issues, good news, whatever comes up.

    If you’re willing, reply to this with your general location (nearest intersection is a good way to do it), and I can be more specific on safety issues or refer you to folks who can. I’ve found Jordan to be pretty safe for me. I believe that one’s attitude makes a big difference. People who expect trouble or crime seem to experience more of it. I’ve walked in the neighborhood for years, and I often walk alone. I don’t do it after dark, but I’m not afraid to be out walking. Recently, I walked alone in an area that someone had complained about, saying there was a large group of young men and gang activity going on there. As I walked down the street, there was a fairly large gathering of young men on both sides of the street. I felt that inner caution for a moment, but I kept walking, gave a smile and said “Hi!” to the one guy sitting on a car facing me. He gave me a big smile and asked how I was doing. Everything was fine, and I felt safe.

    Many studies have been done that show there is a victim energy/presentation/posture that criminals often pick up on. The key is not to feel like or look like a victim. That means not letting fear get the best of you. You may feel it, as I did that day, but by recognizing it and not letting it control you, you will do better. This doesn’t mean taking foolish chances (I would avoid individuals or groups that appear to be drunk or angry or arguing loudly), but it does mean not expecting trouble at every corner or with every gathering of people. I think people should trust their feelings/intuition as long as they first ask themselves why they are feeling what they are feeling. If you understand why you feel nervous, you’re in a better position to evaluate the situation realistically.

    In the seven years I’ve lived here, the only thing that has every happened is a small window pane was broken shortly after I watched a drug deal from my window. I was not making any attempt to be discrete. I wanted them to know I was watching. So a small (4″ x 12″) pane of glass was broken on my stairwell. Perhaps a warning, but it hasn’t deterred me from keeping an eye on things.

    My post here may not have sufficiently acknowledged that things are much better here than they were 2-3 years ago. I just want it to be better yet…and it will be if we all work at it and are not afraid to be out in our own neighborhood.

    Finally, meet your neighbors. That is the best way to create safety for yourself and your property. If there is a block club where your home is located, join it and be an active participant. We all are responsible for creating the safe neighborhood we want to have. Many have done a great deal over the past several years to make it the safer place it is today. And a little more remains to be done.

  2. I will be moving to the jordan neighborhood by end of july…actually bought a property there. What are some of the things that I should do to contribute to the community there and something I should do to be safe and cautious daily.

  3. This sounds all too familiar of what we live with on a day to day basis around here. Sorry you are suffering some of these livability issues. Please keep writing and telling us what we can do to support our neighbors on Penn!

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