i found a condom in my compost and other ypsi stories

Just a few quick things. First, Steve Cherry just reminded me of an interesting post of his from almost a year ago which featured several photographs (like the one to the right) of the fences that surround Ypsi’s several government-subsidized housing complexes. For all that I rant about “gated communities” on this site, it’s good to be reminded on occasion that we have our own version here in Ypsilanti, and they are no less troubling. Second, I just got a tip from an anonymous reader that I should check out Mobster’s Cafe, a new on-line forum that has been setup for disgruntled township employees. I just spent a few minutes skimming around and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of useful content yet, at least from an outsider’s perspective, but I suspect little tidbits will begin to surface over time. And, third, while I don’t usually make it my business to traffic in local rumors, I heard one today while buying my Mother’s Day bouquet at the farmers market outside the Freighthouse that I felt was worth repeating. And I don’t repeat it necessarily in order to point the finger at any certain city administrator, but only to illustrate the fact that the people of Ypsilanti are still very confused as to the status of this beloved, and now off-limits, historic public venue. (The Frieghthouse was recently closed when the company insuring it refused to continue coverage until such time that several safety issues were resolved.)

The rumor went like this… “Someone in city government wanted to privatize the Frieghthouse (and, one would assume, get it back on the city’s tax rolls). In fact, there was a secret deal worked out with the owner of a nearby restaurant to take it over, once it was wrested from the hands of the people. The issue of it not being insurable was just a clever ruse to see the building taken from the community and handed over to private hands. And that’s why the city has been unsupportive of the efforts being undertaken by citizens to raise money, have the improvements made, and reopen the building for public use.”

Like I said, I have no way of knowing whether or not this is true, but it’s apparently at least one version that’s being discussed among long-time Freighthouse patrons, and I thought that you might be interested to hear it. As I spent many an hour seated next to the wood-burning stove, drinking coffee, sharing stories about Kentucky (where several of us are originally from) and watching my fellow Ypsialntians play bluegrass music at the Freighthouse, I come down pretty firmly on the “public space” side of the debate. While, as a tax-payer, I can appreciate the very real need we have to generate revenue, I can’t put aside the fact that in an era of artificiality like the one we now find ourselves in, we need to fight to keep authentic, community-based venues like these alive and thriving for as long as we possibly can. My real problem, if this rumor is true, however, isn’t that the discussion was being had, but that it was apparently being had in private, behind the backs of the citizens of Ypsilanti, when it should have been debated in the open, where we, the tax-payers, could have offered our input.

As an aside, I should mention that the Freighthouse is one of the reasons Linette and I decided to return to Michigan from Los Angeles and buy a home in Ypsilanti.

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14 Comments

  1. Posted May 9, 2005 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    We looked at an 1890’s farmhouse across the street from that fence. Nicely kept, huge yard, 6 or 8 bedrooms… $109,000.

  2. Posted May 9, 2005 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    And I’ll admit that I sent the forum link, Mark. I thought they might be interested in contributing to the Sentinnel. Evidently, they haven’t discovered my 2004 Township voter guide (http://bunker.defcode.com/index.php?p=233) yet. Some of the comments I received were very interesting.

    The freighthouse is still closed?

  3. Posted May 9, 2005 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    the freighthouse is still closed indefinitely until the repairs are made to the satisfaction of the city. the farmer’s market is completely outside, with no interior access (for bathrooms, etc).

  4. Posted May 9, 2005 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    FREIGHTHOUSE: I remember the insuance company issue coming up before we moved. I think they sent out an inspector who failed it for “structural integrity”.

    That’s seemed fishy to me but I could be wrong.

    The friends of the frighthouse can’t raise enough money to maintain the building. I have to wonder if the freighthouse’s best chance of survival might be in it’s sale.

    Maintaining buildings is expensive. Should cities be in the business?

  5. Posted May 9, 2005 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    steve, the structural integrity issue has to do with a floor support beam that needs replaced, and some brickwork needing restoration; there are also some code violations. The Friends had the repair costs estimated, and that amount could concievably be raised with the aid of State Historic Preservation grants.

    As for the city allowing a structure such as the freighthouse to fall into private hands in the hopes they’ll do something good with it, I think the MCRR depot across the tracks is pretty much exhibit A in the case against that argument.

    I would say the Peninsular Paper Mill, which the city could have more positively influenced the development of, could be exhibit B.

    In some towns and cities, private development can work. I’ve seen no evidence that this is the case in Ypsilanti, due to their poor record on code enforcement and historical preservation of non-italianate villas.

    We could go on at length about the issue, I’m sure, but my point is just that in this specific circumstance the city gov’t has a very bad track record of managing things themselves, or finding respectable private firms to manage things for them, so a non-profit group (with a charter and mission statement) serving as an intermediary between those two options does make some degree of sense in theory.

  6. Posted May 9, 2005 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Perhaps Friends of the Freighthouse needs some new blood. They seem to be perpetually cash-strapped with poor fund-raising tactics.

    I bet if somebody could write a grant to save the freighthouse for a few years they might be able to get elected to the histroical commission.

    I think one of the problems with the Freighthouse and Despot Town in general is it’s inherent “white-ness”.

    It was always odd to me that the Mexican and Black communities are rarely present at Despot Town events.

  7. Posted May 9, 2005 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    elected appointed

  8. Posted May 9, 2005 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    i agree, steve. Actually, myself and a few others joined the cause in the hopes of providing the ‘new blood’, though the ‘old blood’ seems to still be poisoning the organization, and it seems like some momentum has been lost since the big ‘preservation ball’ a while back. We supposedly have a limited lease for a while, to allow the friends to try and make it work before the city retakes control.

    Depot town is pretty damn white, I admit. It’s also overpriced, generally, when it comes to the cost of various services and the clientel the shops are hoping to attract (myself, I generally just go to aubree’s for their beer specials, and sometimes purchase inexpensive things from apple annie’s antiques; we still shop at the food coop for a lot of our groceries, but we’re no longer members as they now charge too much and the accompanying discount they offer is ridiculous).

    The Friends board does have two black members, incidentally, and one of them is a farmer who sells at the market. Whether your point about minority attendance at events has been addressed by the board, though, I don’t know. The meetings i’ve attended have seen me and others proposing ways to involve the community in general, but not specific demographics (beyond my suggestions for offering historic tours of the building to school groups, and existing programs like ‘roots and shoots’).

    If i get a chance i’ll bring the points up at the next meeting i can attend, as they’re all valid.

    as for your correction, i think ‘they might be giants’ said it best with the line:

    “If it wasn’t for disappointments, I wouldn’t have any appointments.”

  9. Posted May 9, 2005 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    The racial divide in Ypsi is ever-present, though I don’t even know how to address it. I always thought of just making appointments at the Churches and asking the pastors why things are the way they are. I have some of the answers but not all.

    Your TMBG quote is far more germane but I really liked:

    Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part that wonders
    What the part that isn’t thinking isn’t thinking of
    Should you worry when the skullhead is in front of you
    Or is it worse because it’s always waiting where your eyes don’t go?

  10. Posted May 9, 2005 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    steven, i think that by quoting early-90’s tmbg lyrics, you and i are sort of dating ourselves.

    i don’t mean that in a gay way.

    not that there’s anything wrong with that.

    damnit, i did it again.

  11. Posted May 9, 2005 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Wow, Ana Ng was released in 1989. I guess I failed to realize that I am now 138 years old. (http://www.tmbg.org/band-info/discography/indexg.html)

    I’m still sort of shocked about the fences and gates in Ypsilanti and how people aren’t really shocked by them.

    I like to see the evidence of the struggle between the people inside and outside the fences. Someone would remove a bar or bend them apart with a car-jack. Then the other side would weld bars across the fences preventing the bending.

    Now there are cameras pointed at the fences. I wonder how things will escalate. I know the cameras at the post office on 6 mile in Detroit have 3 foot hight metal cages around them with barbed wire on top.

  12. Tony Buttons
    Posted May 10, 2005 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    The rumor as I heard it was that the city had long been aware of the structural repairs that the building was in need of, but that they only really became an issue once the owner of Aubree’s indicated an interest in the building. That’s when everything suddenly became dire and the insurance company stepped in to that the structure was no longer insurable. I’ve also been told that when Friends of the Freighthouse found another insurer who said that they would be willing to insure the building in the contition that it was in, that the city said no, that they wanted to keep the same insurer. So, when you add it all up, it does sound at least plausible that a few different groups were in cahoots to transfer ownership.

  13. Anonymatt
    Posted May 10, 2005 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I got my copy of Lincoln (with Ana Ng) when it came out in late 1988, not 1989. Maybe you’re 139.

  14. Posted May 10, 2005 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps there was a cass-ingle I had forgotton about.

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