Advertisement
Readers Respond

East Baltimore community’s only green space fenced off by Weinberg Y, residents unite in protest | READER COMMENTARY

Last week, we were shocked to discover a 6-foot chain-link fence surrounding the only centrally-located, open green space in the Waverly and Ednor Gardens neighborhoods of East Baltimore. For most of the past two decades the field at the old Memorial Stadium, now known as Stadium Place, has served community members of all ages as a space to exercise, hold potlucks and walk their dogs. The field provided a perfect space to watch fireworks on the 4th of July and go sledding after snowstorms. Sports teams use it as extra warmup space during competitions, and it has seen more than one parent teach their child to fly a kite.

After the pandemic upended daily life, the Stadium Place green space transformed into an essential resource for the community — a safe space to reconnect with neighbors. Historically, low-income communities of color, like those in East Baltimore, have been denied access to quality green space. Residents say it’s vital to their well-being, and multiple studies have confirmed that green spaces in urban environments can improve physical and mental health, reduce stress, increase life expectancy and provide relief from extreme heat spurred by climate change.

Advertisement

Now, access to the field has been lost for, we are told, an entire year while the Weinberg Y in Waverly, which controls the land, builds a new child day-care center and pavilion on their 33rd Street campus, projects we don’t oppose. City permits mandated the closure for sediment control and safety reasons, but we question whether the entire field must truly closed for a full year. The Y has verbally committed to keeping the field accessible for community use, but we were never told that construction could require temporary closure of the field, and without a Community Benefits Agreement in place, we have little leverage to hold the Y to their word.

Residents now have to travel to either Sherwood Gardens (1.2 miles), Lake Montebello (1.3 miles), Wyman Park Dell (1.4 miles), or Stony Run (2 miles) to find a lush reprieve from city life, which creates barriers for those with accessibility challenges or who don’t own a car. The communities where residents now must travel tend to be more affluent, have higher life expectancies and have access to ample green space.

Advertisement

After a meeting with dozens of residents Tuesday, Baltimore City Councilwoman Odette Ramos is requesting a portion of the field be temporarily reopened and working with residents to identify an alternative for the community, as are community members through the newly formed Greater Waverly Coalition. But finding a new space is both far from certain, and could be a lengthy process that won’t address the immediate need for green space for those who live adjacent to the Waverly Y.

With summer vacation already underway, the timing could not be worse. What message does a metal fence around an open recreation area send to youth in predominantly Black neighborhoods of East Baltimore looking for a safe place to play?

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police, The Y of Central Maryland issued a statement confirming its commitment to principles of anti-racism and stating that they “believe that we need not only to respond to inequities when they are pointed out to us, but also to actively seek them out and address them.”

This is an opportunity for the Y to live in this commitment and work with the community to save this vital community asset.

Jaisal Noor, Trevor Shull, Erica Leyder, Alexia Bishop, Kimberly Leighton, Karen Harris, Ian Bukowski, Kate Dunn, Caldwell Bishop, Julia Coffin, David Patterson, Shengshuang Wang, Bidyum Medhi, Vernon Anderson, Donna Jones, Jamie Wallace, Ashley Hoard, Alexandra Dildine, Todd Dildine, Daniel Ryan, Stephanie Baker, J Little, Chris Flint, Sabiha Chowdhuri, Randy Clinton, Rodney Douglass, Alisa Bochnowski and Jimmy Logue.

The writers are all residents of Ednor Gardens and Waverly.


Advertisement