Keeping the faith in Northeast Baltimore

CITY DIARY

September 25, 2002|By Daniel Buccino

NOW THAT the campaign commercials are over, we ask, "Believe in what?"

Despite the best efforts of advertisers, last summer reminded us that Baltimore remains a dangerous and difficult city.

Children are shot by scofflaw criminals. Two "tired" older men felt the need to take the law into their own hands in armed responses to teen troublemakers.

City living requires belief. For all we hear about a hot housing market, we know others who leave because of crime, grime and schools. To live in any city we must all believe in basic codes of civility to transcend shortsighted self-interest.

Trash-dumping in the parks and alleys, littering, letting one's home and property run down, bacterial runoff in our local streams, "rough riders" whose noisy motorbikes terrorize city recreational facilities, road rage and double parking - all are instances of incivility at best and criminality at worst that make daily city life a hard bargain indeed.

A recent spate of armed robberies in Northeast Baltimore has caused concern and limited our use of Herring Run Park, where most of those attacks occurred. The capture and home detention of two teen suspects pending trial provides little consolation as we hear, "They're only kids," "It's their first offense" and "It was only a BB gun." Chances are they'll get off easy and return to our midst.

Believe in what? That our kids can play safely in city parks? A recent drive-by shooting was minimized as being a road rage incident that could happen anywhere, despite the arrest of a suspect who has had more than 14 prior arrests and has beaten a murder rap.

Believe in what? The criminal justice system?

These are the types of serious crimes and dismissive responses that prompt many to keep their children inside on hot summer days and cause others to reconsider life in the city.

Believe in what exactly?

Well, for one, Northeast Baltimore (NoEBo, to adopt the hipster's acronym) itself is still worth believing in.

It's a shame the hills of NoEBo have been eliminated from this October's marathon route. In an effort to make the marathon faster and flatter, the resilient neighborhoods of NoEBo will remain concealed. With astronomical housing prices around the Harbor's Gold Coast and in the Big Four neighborhoods in North Baltimore - Roland Park, Guilford, Homeland and Mount Washington - NoEBo, once considered a "second tier" real estate market, has become the first stop for value. There's no longer concern over property values because people want to sell. Rather, it's because they want to stay.

The available housing stock in NoEBo is exceedingly well-maintained, diverse and interesting. My marathon training miles have flown by in appreciation of all that is best about NoEBo's neighborhoods such as Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Lauraville, Mayfield, Hamilton and Waltherson.

There is abundant greenery in NoEBo. Large yards and mature plantings create a shady suburban hamlet in the heart of town.

NoEBo reflects the true diversity of Baltimore. Unlike some neighborhoods, NoEBo represents the patchwork quilt of races, ages, ethnicities and orientations that Baltimore, indeed the entire United States, has become. Sundays have exposed the range of religions represented in the area in the disparate musical selections wafting from the open windows of our houses of worship.

Despite the occasional criminality and incivility, locals seem to know something special is in the air, too. I have seen a newfound Northeast civic pride, and rest easily knowing "Charm City" isn't dead yet. We are all working to reclaim our public spaces from the thugs and others who don't seem to care about themselves or their neighbors.

There have been more runners on the road recently, and we pant knowingly to each other: "See ya in October." Even the homeless folks emerging from various overnight bivouacs nod approvingly:

"Doin' the marathon? All right!" Normally truculent teens grunt knowingly. Homeowners gardening stand and wave. Cars, which ordinarily ignore most traffic controls, pause to let the runners pass. Even the angriest dogs in the world seem to fall silent.

NoEBo represents the proud, hard-working traditions of Baltimore, strengths on which any marathoner, or any resident, would want to capitalize. NoEBo is built for comfort, not for speed. Like the distance runner, NoEBo endures, as we all must to believe in Baltimore.Today's writer

Daniel Buccino, a Baltimore psychotherapist, is on the clinical faculties of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School for Social Work. He has lived longer and run farther in NoEBo than anywhere else.

City Diary provides a forum for examining issues and events in Baltimore's neighborhoods and welcomes contributions from readers.

Today's writer

Daniel Buccino, a Baltimore psychotherapist, is on the clinical faculties of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School for Social Work. He has lived longer and run further in NoEBo than anywhere else.

City Diary provides a forum for examining issues and events in Baltimore's neighborhoods and welcomes contributions from readers.

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