Brooklyn Park residents sweep through the streets

August 23, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

The trash, the discarded bits of paper, the cigarette butts, the old car parts tossed into the streets, old furniture piled up in alleys and on front lawns -- it all has got to go, residents in Brooklyn Heights said.

More than a dozen of them, armed with brooms, garbage bags and latex gloves, walked through their neighborhood streets yesterday, intent on showing that some residents still care.

"We're tired of these slumlords living high on the hog in their big mansions and renting out to dope heads and prostitutes," said Morris Wilhide, 72, vice president of the Brooklyn Heights Improvement Association. "They don't give a damn about the houses as long as the checks keep coming in."

The landlords "ought to be arrested for what they're doing to this neighborhood," said Clara Rosipko, who has lived in the area since the late 1950s. "The only time you see them is when they collect their big fat rent."

The neighborhood started going downhill several years ago, longtime residents say, as one by one old homeowners moved out and investors bought the properties, turning them into rental units.

"You have a core group of people who take pride in their neighborhood," said Lt. Thomas A. Suit, who heads the county Police Department's Northern District. "Then you have people who may only live here a month or so who are destroying things for everyone else."

Some of the derelict rowhouses are split into three or four apartments, many with month-to-month leases, said Lieutenant Suit, who came out yesterday to help with the cleanup.

Police acknowledge residents' complaints that prostitutes live in some of the rowhouses and that the neighborhood is plagued by drug dealing.

Police bike patrols and neighbors have spotted teen-agers sniffing glue and gold paint behind the Brooklyn Park Elementary School. Some residents said they have also seen prostitutes having sex with clients behind the school.

Brooklyn Park has had a long-standing problem with prostitution, residents say, and several weeks ago "No Hooker Zone" and "No Whore Zone" signs began appearing on telephone poles along Ritchie Highway.

Jane Speake, who has lived in Brooklyn Heights for 15 years, remembers a co-worker once coming to the area and saying: " 'That looks like a slum area.' I said wait a minute. This isn't how it's supposed to be. I don't live in a slum area."

Fliers depicting Mickey and Minnie Mouse with a broom and garbage bag in hand were distributed throughout the neighborhood last week. The hand-drawn notices read: "Do U Care? -- You don't have to be rich to be clean."

About 60 people were expected to help out, Mr. Wilhide said, but fewer than 20 participated. Those who did said they hope their example will make an impression on their neighbors.

"Some people don't think of it," said Amelia Collins as she picked up cigarette butts, paper and other trash. "You have to show them."

Volunteers filled six dump trucks Friday with debris from alleys, including old furniture and mattresses. "You wouldn't want a dog to sleep on them filthy as they are when they throw them out there," said Mr. Wilhide.

Some neighbors have even found bags of dirty diapers tossed onto their lawns, said Mr. Wilhide, who bought a house in Brooklyn Heights in 1954 with his wife, Mildred, now 74.

Many of the senior citizens who make up a large portion of the neighborhood's residents say that when they moved in, Brooklyn Heights was a friendly place where people cared.

"It was all homeowners, young homebuyers," said Charles Johnson, 71. "The trouble now is we're getting a lot of renters," said Mr. Johnson, reclining in a green and white lawn chair with his walking cane resting on his thigh.

"People don't give a damn," said Charles Elliott, 81, president of the Brooklyn Heights Improvement Association. "They'll throw trash anywhere."

Despite the current problems, Ms. Collins, who bought a house that needed repairs for $55,000 three years ago, thinks things will improve. "I counted on that when I bought my house here, to rTC make it worth more," she said. "Neighborhoods go through cycles." Besides, said Ms. Collins, a secretary who works for the county government, "Where else can you find something in Anne Arundel County for less than $100,000?"

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