Activists want to improve city life, set up group organization meeting

February 17, 1994|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Sun Staff Writer

Building on the premise that Baltimore is sinking fast, a group of activists has formed an organization to improve city life by bringing communities and individuals together.

The group has scheduled an organizational meeting tonight to form Citizens United for the Revitalization of Baltimore (CURB) to organize residents to fight crime, attract businesses and develop communities.

"People all over the city in the past few years have felt isolated by a fear of crime. There's a feeling you can't leave your house late at night and you have to look over your shoulder," said Townes Coates, a city resident.

"There is economic isolation. All these things add up to a feeling that the Baltimore renaissance is not just slowing down, but grinding to a halt," Mr. Coates said.

He said he felt a sense of excitement when he moved to the city 10 years ago.

Now, he said, the city has lost its luster, despite the 1992 opening of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the scheduled 1995 opening of the Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration.

Tonight's meeting is scheduled for 7 o'clock at the headquarters of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, 1501 W. Mount Royal Ave.

The effort to form a citywide organization began in December, when Terry Wasmer, a Long & Foster real estate agent, wrote an opinion piece in the Baltimore Business Journal and the Baltimore Gay Paper reminiscing about the city's progress in the 1970s and 1980s.

Mr. Wasmer wrote with affection about the improvement of the Charles Street corridor and the construction of new buildings.

He has been out of town for the past few weeks because of a family emergency and was not available to comment, Mr. Coates said.

Mr. Wasmer's article criticized the leadership of the city government and called for citizens "to develop leadership in the vacuum our elected officials have left us." Organizers say other citywide community organizations have not been effective in bringing neighborhoods and people together to improve the city.

But Hathaway Ferebee, executive director of Citizens Planning and Housing Associates, said her organization already is involved in many of the activities that the new group hopes to coordinate.

"We see ourselves as a forum to bring citizens and neighborhood groups together," Ms. Ferebee said. "I think we do that pretty effectively. This is a big city, and there are a number of issues."

She said she plans to attend the CURB meeting to learn more about that organization's goals. She said she disagrees with Mr. Wasmer's characterizations of the city's leadership and with the concerns about Section 8 housing.

"I don't know what the motivation is," Ms. Ferebee said. "To characterize a certain type of housing to be detrimental to a neighborhood, I don't think that's a healthy outlook."

In his article, Mr. Wasmer reported that Daniel P. Henson III, the city housing commissioner, plans to expand Section 8 housing subsidies in Upper Charles Village. Some readers who live in that community were alarmed about the prospect that more low-income residents might be moving into the area.

Mr. Henson, however, said the city has no plans to expand Section 8 housing in Charles Village.

The housing commissioner said the only discussion he has had with residents of Charles Village concerning low-income housing was his response to a request by someone to buy a public housing building in the community.

He said he turned down that request because the federal government would have required him to replace the public housing units.

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