Boost for public market neighborhood

Malcom Taaffe and stepdaughter, Janessa Lotemple, 8, stroll through the Public Market on the way to her school.

Malcom Taaffe and stepdaughter, Janessa Lotemple, 8, stroll through the Public Market on the way to her school.

Source: Democrat and Chronicle - Patrick Flanigan (02-11-06)

Strategy for Marketview Heights revival calls on residents to pitch in.

Georgia Nesmith attended one meeting and they pulled her right in.

Now she’s a full-fledged community activist, caught up to her ears in an effort to revitalize one of Rochester’s most troubled neighborhoods.

“I wanted to move, but there’s no way I can,” said Nesmith, who lives on the corner of North Union Street and Kenilworth Terrace in Marketview Heights. “I figured, ‘OK, maybe I’ll do what I can to make it better.’”

Nesmith now finds herself engaged in the Marketview Heights Revitalization Strategy, a potentially multimillion-dollar program started almost a year ago by residents and nonprofit and government agencies to improve safety and living conditions in the neighborhood bordered by East Main Street, Clifford Avenue and North and North Goodman streets.

A draft of the strategy released this week calls for launching the project right outside Nesmith’s door, along Union Street - the gateway to the Rochester Public Market, the neighborhood’s namesake.

“We felt it would be good to really use that asset as something we could build around and create momentum,” said Spring Worth, the project manager for Rural Opportunities Inc., a nonprofit agency that has more than 180 residential units in the neighborhood.

In addition to the plan to revitalize Union Street from East Main Street to Central Park over two years, Phase I of the strategy includes calls for such neighborhoodwide improvements as renovating the landmark Eastman Dental Dispensary, focusing attention on crime hot spots and developing an “equity assurance” program to stem the erosion of housing values. The strategy estimates the first phase would cost $5.2 million over two years.

Julio Vazquez, the city’s commissioner of community development, was unaware of the plan when approached Friday. However, he said it points out the need for the city to conduct a market study and develop a comprehensive housing plan that sets priorities and a direction.

“We need some strategies,” he said. “Everybody now is talking about different projects.”

Marketview Heights organizers say the plans and proposals are pointless without more community involvement, which is where people such as Nesmith will play a vital role. She has volunteered to start recruiting her neighbors to walk in police-citizen patrols or join in street cleanups, among other things.

She’s fully aware of the risk involved with knocking on strange doors around her. Since she moved to the neighborhood in 1999, four homicides have happened within a short walk from Nesmith’s apartment. And drug trafficking remains a constant issue on nearby Weld Street.

“I’ll be honest, I’m a little bit nervous,” Nesmith said. “But I think the time has come for us to do something.”

Hanif Abdul Wahid, a member of the Marketview Heights Neighborhood Association and founding member of Rochesterians Against Illegal Narcotics, agreed to join Nesmith in the recruiting effort.

Nesmith, a former journalism professor who sometimes teaches online courses, said she rented her apartment after she was disabled by severe depression, chronic fatigue and chronic pain.

She said she recently has begun to emerge from her depression and last year planted flowers outside her building.

“I’ve lived here six and a half years and I got tired of it being ugly,” she said. “But after I planted (the flowers), people stopped to talk to me and thanked me. It’s like I’m part of the neighborhood.”

Photo by: Max Schult

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