Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A 25 Mile Bike Ride Around Richmond, Va; next eleven posts

I think a good portion of the pleasing aesthetic this buidling emits is because of it's marked contrast to the surrounding environment, which is dismal. Three people here were waiting for the bus along the cracked and potted sidewalk of Jefferson Davis Highway.

A few blocks north of the Model Tobacco building the abandonment continues. There are ten blocks between this point on Jefferson Davis Highway and it's intersection with Hull Street; that intersection is the largest in the south side of Richmond. On these ten blocks, nearly every building on this side of the road is abandoned, whether residential or commercial.

Looking back towards tobacco storage, the Model Tobacco building, and woman in her twenties walking down the street eating a chocolate crunch bar. This is a six lane highway.

Abandoned Housing on a Mass Scale

"Watch for Children Playing" says the crooked sign.

These are the North Ridge Apartments, which had subsidized rent, near Highland Park in North Richmond. I cannot find how long the 114 unit apartment complex has been closed, or for what reason. The only search result was a court case, where a tenant didn't pay rent because she was attempting to leave:

"she desired to terminate her lease . . . due to her fear of crime and because she did not feel safe in the premises." ...during the tenancy, "she became aware of drug sales and criminal activity in and around the apartment building." She said her "car was vandalized and broken into while parked on plaintiff's premises provided for tenant parking."
In addition, she testified that "[o]ther tenants were unruly and threatening, and left trash in hallways which were common areas" of the three-floor, six-apartment building. Also, she said "[d]og litter was . . . found in the hallways." She complained that "[o]ther tenants regularly propped open the [building's] security door, allowing unauthorized persons into the common hallways."

The problems of immense poverty are stark. What is the response from business and the government? Abandon more of the deperately needed, scarce low- income housing, and leave it as a wasteland in the community.

Across the street is similar housing, which appears to be in decent condition, yet even some of it is boarded up. The closest nearby building is a national guard armory.

This public housing is isolated between the valley of a railroad and the surgical incision of an interstate. Several bland, ailing, four lane roads also cut the opposite direction through the area.

Clearly, many cannot afford cars though. Earlier a father walked by, taking his kid home from school.

The mottled dirt below this highway bridge is the "pasture" for the police horses, with a stable on the other side. As to what's leeching off of the hill, the fence, the bridge, I sure don't know.

People live under either side of that bridge, and the one I'm standing on.

All of this housing has been evacuated and boarded up following massive flooding. See next post down.

Looking down towards a railroad, an abandoned service station, a rusty trailer, piles of trash, and up to a tower of public housing. That tower is in the isolated community decribed in the last post, Gilpen Court. It has an astonishing share of murders within the city of Richmond, inevitably tied to it's immense poverty, stagnation, and isolation: http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD%2FMGArticle%2FRTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1031775642661&path=%21news%21special%21generic4&s=1058750351796

(it's area number 5. It's sad and tragic that in naming the regions with high murder rates, the map mostly just names variuos public housing complexes; everything with the name court.)

This graveyard is as populated as some of the residential lots behind and around it.

No, it didn't snow in Richmond yet. This is Battery Park, a beautiful series of sports facities in a valley lined with winding stone pathways and stairs. In early fall, the entire park was flooded twice after heavy rains. The valley gets narrower a few thousand feet up. There the water filled the entire space creating what seemed like a lake, except the lake was stinky and filthy and flooded out many homes and residences.
The cause? To the right in both photos, there is an old landfill, right in the middle of a residential area. The drainage pipe carrying water under the landfill collapsed, and all of the water had little place to go. After both floodings, the pump dried the park out after several days, leaving a muddy residue over the entire landscape. Now that has been covered with something else, perhaps lime.

Heavy stones create interesting walkways all over the park; this is now all fenced off. The orange pumps carry water snaking in tubes at least half a mile away, to another valley.

Phillip Morris in Richmond

As the living conditions of masses of ordinary people in Richmond plumment to ever-greater depths, Phillip Morris expands with a huge new complex in the cities downtown. It is a "research center." What socially useful research could develop from studies on how to continue to profit off of a deadly product is a curious question indeed.

And of course, the company didn't even clean up after itself, within the same city. No more than two miles away from the new complex, a facility occupying an entire block sits unused.

There is no shortage of ancient cars in Richmond, or cranky old overloaded pickups carrying pallets, scrap, junk, and trash around.

An enourmous, ambitious, several mille long steel railroad trestle, a floodwall, a path carved by shoes and wheels, and wachovia securities.

The four most prominent buildings being constructed in the city of Richmond: this waterside tower of "luxury condos," the previously mentioned Phillip Morris research center, a new Courthouse, and a new business building for Virignia Commonwealth University.

Affordable housing, decent jobs, community centers, socially useful production- of these one will find little.

The long Hull St. bridge across the James River, from downtown to the southside of Richmond. A grain elevator looms overhead.

Every single building across the street from this lot is boarded up. Meanwhile, one foundation has been laid on this otherwise empty block, which undoubtably was already developed and demolished.

Farther up the street. The matress stuck out among all the trash and filth in between the abandoned houses.

A lady who lived in the house in the left of this photo came out to talk to me. She held up hopes that all the houses around here would be fixed up, and mentioned some of the very meager actions towards this recently. She agreed that the housing stock in Richmond is criminally old, crumbling, and unaffordable.

Railroad cars headed south, to return North with paper products.

All of the cars in this train are owned by Tropicana Products. Going north in this photo, they are loaded with 5,000 to 6,0000 tons of juice products loaded in Brandenton, Florida. Each day a train like this travels to northern New Jersey, where the products are distributed for the entire New York metropolitan area. Even with the problems of the private rail system, this is vastly more efficient and safe than highway transportation.

The newest thing is this photo are the leaves, by far. The tree is old, the building is nearly beyond recognition. The bridge is likely at least 80 years old, if not more. The railroad engines were both built in the late 60's, along with the freight cars they are pulling.

Over ten miles away from Richmond lies yet another decrepit shopping center. This store is closed, with a Food Lion supermarket remaining it's awkward partner. I tend to think as the distance from the city increases, the economic situation improves. In most directions from Richmond, though, urban poverty stumbles into rural poverty.

Dupont Chemical Corporation has an enormous facility near this apartment complex, which is lovingly named Duport Circle. Just to ensure a "fair and balanced" picture, the most of the actual Duport family lives in mansions on enormous tracts of land in northern Delaware.

Dupont Circle is in the distince, with an unused distribution center in the foreground. The center is seperated from the abandoned department store behind the photo by a tangled barrier of thorns, weeds, roots, and trash. Somewhere in that mix there is also flowing water, supposedly.

What an aesthetically pleasing residence to barely afford to live in for the rest of one's life. The circling seagull's were pretty, though.

Another shopping center, hardly alive.

The obligatory Richmond sunset picture, the 51st picture in this series of pictures. If the railyard was cropped out, this would be like all of the promotional photos. Of course, the other 50 I took would never be used, except perhaps those of Philip Morris.