Friday, November 19, 2010

Good Fences, Part 2: A Night at the Opera

Now we had to clean up the BND --    no small undertaking. 

First, we had to discourage and re-direct the trafficking coming through the alley. the BND had garages which backed the lot up to the alley, with walkways from a kinder era between the garages to get from the alley to the back yard.  So we started by putting up 8’ high fences, and screwing the walkway doors shut.

The "neighbors" didn't take this inconvenience kindly.  While The Man was in the yard screwing the door shut, crackheads were in the alley pushing against it from the other side.  More than one junkie, in a really big hurry, scaled the new fence, only to find himself locked into the backyard, with the only way out being to do it again, albeit with less of a running start.  Somehow they all made the jump back out before the cops came.  But it was good for a couple of laughs in the meantime. 

As far as the vacant building on the other side of the BND, surprisingly, by merely contacting the owner, he agreed to put up a fence.  It wasn’t much of a fence, just some 2x4s and chicken wire, but, amazingly, the crackheads were apparently too lethargic (probably from all that fence jumping) and stopped shooting up in his building.

Besides renovating, there was the problem of trying to get good tenants into a building with a bad reputation.  The druggies in the alley, with their noise at all hours didn't help.  I repeatedly called the police, but Crack Alley was so entrenched by this time that their spotty coverage was ineffective.

I’d read about a convenience store which had large groups of kids hanging out, discouraging paying customers.   They solved their problem by piping Muzak over loudspeakers outside their store, which drove the kids away.  I figured, why not?  But we’d need the big guns:  Opera.  So we set up a loudspeaker in the gangway between garages, and, being the days before mp3s, turned an opera tape on continuous play. LOUD.  We figured we could use some extra help, so I called the police chief.  I asked him if there was a noise ordinance in the city.  I told him what we were doing, and to refer any legitimate complaints about the music to me.

I don't think the police wanted to be the brunt of the joke, so they helped for a while, actually stationing a patrolman right in the thick of it some days.  I could’ve sworn I saw a bullseye on that officer’s chest, but maybe I was just hallucinating.

After a while of continued harassment, the crowd thinned.  It took 10 years, and to this day there’s still some “hanging out” in that alley, but now it’s mostly the Alley Cats, a bunch of old guys who hang in their garage.  Or maybe they're actually crackheads who simply didn’t age well.  Anyway, they don't disturb us, we don't disturb them.  
But the building and yard today is beautiful, actually a double yard shared by the two buildings, with grass, shrubs and patio furniture.  In fact, the yard is so nice now we advertise our apartments in both buildings as being on "a beautiful double lot, with a fenced-in yard."

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