On July 2012, City of Brookhaven was incorporated. The city was born to keep tax dollars local, “providing services that are truly focused on the needs of our community, and operating efficiently with full transparency” as it is stated in one of the websites advocating for the city incorporation.
Many people feared what this new city would mean for many of the residents that were usually not represented in townhall meetings, elected offices and decision making positions. In one word: Minorities living within the new city limits or in their boundaries.
Shortly after the city incorporated, A plan to “revitalize” Buford Highway was launched (Buford Highway Improvement & Economic Development Strategy). A very vital corridor, by any standard, home to some of the most diverse schools in the state that already suffered of indiference, denial and avoidance by many of the white and wealthy nearby residents and decision makers.
While between 60-70% of City of Brookhaven is white, acccording to the “Buford Highway Improvement Plan”, the area that needs revitalization is made up to 50% Hispanics.
The goal of the plan was to provide an attractive, safe and trafficable environment, with an emphasis on pedestrian accessibility for all residents. While nobody is arguing that possibly new strip malls and townhouses will infuse the area with a sense of renewal, the key question is: At What Cost?
The plan, that includes wider sidewalks, green spaces, improved bus stops, etc also includes the tear down of several apartment complexes that house thousands of residents, mostly immigrants, the majority Latino with no actionable plan to relocate them. Yes, there is the talk of “affordable housing” but nobody really knows what it means and how would affordable be defined.
If you look at this data, a third of all Brookhaven residents make over $100,000 a year, the median household income for City of Brookhaven is $67,000 yet the average income for the families being pushed away is around $22,000. Let’s add to that the assumption that the process to access affordable housing often times require paper work that proves legal residence; that would be a problem for families with no papers or mixed-status.
Not only it seems they want us OUT. Apparently and according to Joel Reed, Pulte’s Vice President of Operations and Land Acquisitions, leading the new development, people interested in purchasing $700,000 houses would not want to enter their beautiful homes through Buford Highway, so he is requesting the Briarwood Park Conservancy to give him a strip of land to avoid the eye sore of immigrant owned businesses and families crossing the street.
Add to that the current challenges to literally “integrate” children from predominantely minority schools in the area to Chamblee High School and the nasty comments by people that feel that opening up the door to discussing racism and segregation is not only an insult but apparently the blog author’s fault. Add to all the animosity against plans for re-districting that could finally bring a much needed injection of investment and new interests to the Cross Keys Cluster of schools that currently sit along a narrow and long district pretty much segregating children and families by incomes and by how they look.
Add all of that and you will probably understand my feeling that we (minorities) are under attack along the Buford Highway Corridor.
Several local organizations and individuals are raising their voices and say what we all know is likely the truth: That if specific measures are not taken, the Buford Highway corridor will likely be destroyed to make room for surgically clean and terribly boring work, live play communities that look very much alike to each other. That the small mom & pop shops, the dry cleaners, the hair salons, the small ethnic restaurants, grocery stores and markets will be closing since the demographic that supports them will be forced to leave (probably north) and what makes Buford Highway so incredibly unique is at risk to dissapear.
There is an Affordable Housing Task-Force that has been created to address the big elephant in the room and there is also a new Buford Highway Master Plan that is calling for its first meeting on Oct. 12th. We will keep up these developments and report back soon.
A few days ago, there was a community conversation at Cross Keys High School to discuss some of the issues above. After a few questions, the moderator asked: How do you see Buford Highway in 10 years? Yes, many of the panelists had optimistic comments…. All the panelists with the exception of the 2 young ladies, former CK students and former area neighbors. They said that inspite of all the talk, they felt BuHi was going to be lost to other interests and that their neighborhoods were going to dissapear.
“You know the lady from the store, the driver, the carpenter, the painter and you know that one day, they may simply dissapear because their homes will be longer there, no longer affordable. It pains me and brings me great sadness to see my home dissapear”
You can read more on what is going at Buford Highway this if you click on the links below:
BUFORD HIGHWAY DEVELOPMENT: http://atlanta.curbed.com/2016/5/2/11554218/buford-highway-development
BUFORD HIGHWAY APARTMENTS TO BE TORN DOWN FOR HOUSES: http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2016/09/30/buford-highway-apartments-torn-houses/?utm_source=Reporter+Newspapers+Mailing+List&utm_campaign=1139219353-PUB-FRI-MC-09-30-16&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_dbd6e0112e-1139219353-407319373&ct=t%28Template_for_Friday_messages%29
PULTE HOMES REQUESTING ACCESS THROUGH BRIARWOOD PARK: http://brookhavenpost.co/2016/10/05/pulte-homes-access-briarwood-park-woudl/
BELTINE CREATOR PITCHES WAYS TO SAVE BUFORD HIGHWAY http://www.reporternewspapers.net/2016/04/28/bus-crawl-beltline-creator-pitches-ways-save-buford-highway/