As a merchant on Brookland Park Boulevard, I was disheartened at reading “North Side Blues” (News & Features, Sept. 22). As someone who spends more time on Brookland Park than anyone, myself and several other merchants were disturbed with the numerous inaccuracies in your story.
Admittedly there are a number of issues negatively affecting this area. Crime, specifically loitering, is a huge deterrent to the progress of this area and we are fighting hard along with the police department to eradicate this problem.
There have been a number of businesses leaving this area that can be attributed to two things: poor planning or no planning and the slumlord mentality of the property owners. Most of these businesses open without a short-term plan, let alone a plan for the long term. We, the Brookland Park Area Association, are working to open an office that will assist these new businesses in achieving stability.
The biggest deterrent to the growth in this area can be singly attributed to the slumlord mentality of these property owners. The majority of the business owners are not the actual property owners. These property owners charge exorbitant amounts of rent for ragged properties that they refuse to maintain. These businesses' only recourse is to leave instead of renewing leases. Reginald Epps, the self-proclaimed mayor of Brookland Park, is the biggest problem of them all. A number of these exiting businesses were tenants of his. He wants to blame the city for his own self-inflicted demise.
Admittedly the city has been slow in revitalizing this area, but plans are finally under way. The mayor's office has approved infrastructure improvements for Brookland Park Boulevard that will get under way this spring. The Brookland Park Area Association is working hard to see that Brookland Park Boulevard becomes the shining light of North Side. Our wish is that these businesses would stop fence sitting and help us to make this community what it should be.
Willie Hilliard, President
Brookland Park Area Association