The State of Hessler – 3

Bureaucrats searching for the heart of Hessler Road?

Chris Ronayne UCI president, Daniel Sirk architect, Julie Trott commission moderator, Donald Petit commission secretary and Councilman Blaine Griffin
Screen capture from the April 22nd, 2021 Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting.

By Lee Batdorff

Breaking News: Don Petit, city planner and secretary of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission on the afternoon of May 10, 2021 notified all involved parties that the final meeting and a vote on the Hessler proposal will be postponed from Thursday, May 13 to Thursday, May 27.

No reason for the postponement was given. Considering that this project was disapproved by the Euclid Corridor design review committee of the Cleveland Planning Commission on May 6th, it may be possible that the developers need the time to make revisions to respond to objections made to the plan on May 6th.


A CLASH OF CONCEPTS of what constitutes a healthy residential neighborhood, a historic district, and the role University Circle Incorporated plays for “our” residential communities, occurred at the April 22, 2021 City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting. (YouTube recording of this meeting here.)

The commission received 60 email letters against the project and two for it. “It almost seems like there is a conflict of interest here (for UCI),” said Michelle Anderson, an agent for Progressive Urban Real Estate in Ohio City and a three year volunteer for the twice monthly Landmarks Commission meetings.

“It appears to me that before proceeding, this needed to be sold to the people in the neighborhood,” Ms. Andersen said. “What happened between the neighborhood and UCI during this project?”

“Lack of community engagement” in development process said Landmarks commissioner

“You’re selling it to us, but you haven’t sold it to the neighborhood. There has been a lack of community engagement process and that’s why we ended up here,” said Andersen. “This has been mis-handled with the community and now we don’t have a choice. Our hands are tied.” Ms. Anderson was one of two members of the nine commissioner, mostly volunteer board, who expressed support for the interest of the Hessler homeowners. 

Julie Trott, meeting moderator said she was, “torn” between the proposal and its impact on the historic district and the protesting residents.

Michelle Anderson, an agent for Progressive Urban Real Estate in the Ohio City neighborhood, and voting member of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, spoke about her concerns on how this proposal came about.

Anderson was more strident: “It wasn’t until February that the community learned of this proposal. Real estate deals take more than two months.”

“(This town) has a collective inferiority complex. We think something must be tweaked to alleviate the inferiority complex,” said Anderson.

“I see a street that is impassioned and shows a great deal of affection and love of the street. Something about this street is almost ennobling. People who lived there 20 years ago speak up for it.

“These people are very committed to this place. It is refreshing. I don’t see that very often in the City of Cleveland. I don’t quite understand the role of UCI?”

Does University Circle Incorporated wear several hats well?

Chris Ronayne, president of UCI responded: “UCI is a community services corporation that is one part community development corporation, one part improvement district and one part chamber (of commerce) for institutions…We respect our homeowners on the street.

“We agreed to a price reduction to accommodate the (number of) unit reduction,” Ronayne said of the project. “The dollars that go out of our pocket for that purpose go out of our youth education program. It’s heavy on our hearts. “The concession of (11 suites removed from the original 23 apartment plan) is the value of 30 student summer scholarships. This is my zero-sum game.”

UCI president Chris Ronayne attends to a ceremonial duty with Sheila Crawford at the British Cultural Garden on April 12, 2016. (Photo: Clevelandpeople.com)

Anderson said, “Sell it and get the maximum number of dollars, I understand that…at the same time I would think you are answering to the people on Hessler Road. It appears to me that before proceeding, this needs to be sold as incorporating a larger vision of the neighborhood. This is a unique group of people here.”

A community is more than development—what is a community however?

Anderson continued, “It’s not just development that makes a community. I don’t have a choice here. Everything is so focused on getting things built while we don’t listen to or respect other aspects of making a community.”

Mr. Ronayne countered that creating community is what UCI is doing. “We continue to reiterate input from the community. (We’re) building a complete community that accommodates the residents, rental opportunities and for sale opportunities.”

“Someone said to me recently you need more housing for ‘real’ residents. That put some of us off, when I shared it with staff members.

“This development meets the needs of students who cannot carry their furniture from their homes across the seas…students are real residents who want to walk to school.

“We try and find ways to respect all voices and move on a project…the alternative to (the proposed apartment building) is an empty garage, a dumpster, and a gravel lot.”

Later in the meeting Mark Fremont an architect with rental property on Hessler Rd. pointed out, “other suites on the street can be furnished and for a lot less than what they are going to charge at this place.”

Hessler leader: UCI is amidst ‘willful deceit’
Laura Cyrocki with her instrument on the cover of the band 'The Waxwings'.
Laura Cyrocki with her instrument on the cover of an album by the band ‘The Waxwings’.

Hessler Rd. an owner-occupier Laura Cyrocki said after the meeting, “When renovation at the Ford Drive buildings are referred to as ‘restoration’ and/or ‘rehabilitation,’ UCI is again using willful deceit to garner support for the development to those who would support the restoration and rehabilitation of old buildings. (This is) covering up the real motive to renovate old buildings for the purpose of increasing occupancy and rents is not something done in community spirit.”

Gentrification in action. Moving truck behind 1975 Ford Drive for departing tenants.
Gentrification in action. Moving truck behind 1975 Ford Drive for leaving tenants.
The proposal does not encourage long term residency

Before speaking on his own behalf, Mr. Fremont, an architect who owns a 15-suite apartment building on Hessler read the comments of attorney Frank Ford, one of the founders of the University Circle Tenants Union in the 1970s and of the Hessler Housing Co-op in the 1980s.

Mr. Ford: “Microunits are not designed to encourage long term residency. (This type of development) turns the street into a dormitory community (where renters live in the neighborhood for two years or less).

“The neighborhood, (to be healthy), needs residents who count their tenure in years, not months. It is the longterm residents who organized refuse removal during a sanitation strike and organize the block watch campaign.

“A dorm hotel is not consistent with the historic status of the street,” said Ford.

Frank Ford was a founding member of both the University Circle Tenants Union and the Hessler Housing Co-op in the 1970s. He is quoted here speaking for himself. (Photo: Land Conservancy of the Western Reserve)
Frank Ford, an attorney, was a founding member of both the University Circle Tenants Union and the Hessler Housing Co-op in the 1970s.

Fremont said he rents to mostly graduate and post-doctorate students. “I have a building down the street with 15 units. Would the city like me to turn this into 30 units?”

The Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum garage:
A place cherished by the neighborhood or a mechanism to force a no?

“Obviously there is a bit of a campaign going on to defer, delay, to potentially use the garage as the mechanism to force a no (on the Landmarks Commission to this proposal),” said Chris Ronayne.

While the developers secured nine parking spaces in the UCI Ford Road parking garage at the going monthly rate, (currently $130 a month (the rooms will go for about $900 each)), to serve the 1975 and 1981 Ford Road buildings, there was concern by some commissioners that some tenants will, “take their chances parking on the street.”

“We could have gotten twice the number of letters of support, (from students living on Hessler). We didn’t do it,” said Ronayne.

After the meeting Charles Hoven, a Hessler owner-occupier said, “Students are concerned that the higher rents planned for the three buildings will result other landlords on Hessler raising rents as well. They are also concerned that the new suites will make parking (on Hessler Rd.) even worse than it is now.”

On March 19 the Case Western Reserve University student newspaper The Observer published an editorial about gentrification of the area that the Hessler micro-suite proposal would help bring about. Read it here.

This innocuous century-old two bay garage that is part of the Hessler Historic District serves 363 days a year as incidental storage for University Circle Inc. and two days a year as the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo: Lee Batdorff
This innocuous century-old two bay garage that is part of the Hessler Historic District serves 363 days a year as incidental storage for University Circle Inc. and two days a year as the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum.
Ronayne: ‘weaponization’ of word ‘community’ “hurts our hearts”

Ronayne was the most forceful speaker at the April 22, 2021 Landmarks Commission ‘Zoom’ meeting.

“We think you as a commission collegially talking with the architect and the planners (working this out) without a ballot box that gets stuffed with letters,” Ronayne stated. “We didn’t go out and get the alternative.”

Ronayne reiterated later in the meeting, “Because we didn’t go out to get the alternative, we didn’t think it respectful to the neighbors (to do this) …This project respects what the neighborhood is evolving into and (it) continues to evolve.

“If hurts our hearts to see the signs that say, ‘my community is not your commodity.’ The reason it hurts our (Ronayne and UCI staff) heart(s) is because it’s weaponized the word ‘community.’ (Without this project), we’ve taken the opportunity of being part of that community away from global visitors.”

Hessler leader: UCI weaponized development

Mr. Hoven, when asked to respond to Ronayne’s comment after the meeting, said:

“Chris Ronayne has totally disrespected the community on Hessler Road throughout this whole process, only notifying the community of University Circle’s plans after plans for the proposed development were well underway and the transfer of the property to the developers was imminent.”

Charles Hoven is editor of the Plain Press as well as a Hessler Housing Co-op member.
Charles Hoven is editor of the Plain Press as well as a Hessler Housing Co-op owner.
Councilman Blaine Griffin gives early support for development, saying he ‘fell short’ for the Hessler homeowners

While Councilman Griffin’s comments showed that he wrestled with this development, he surprised the Hessler neighbors by coming out for the proposed development at this meeting and not waiting until the coming final Landmarks Commission meeting to make this announcement. He said he was being fair because the developers did everything he asked for. Then he said “I fell short because the neighbors are not happy.

“I wish they could buy the property but that did not happen…Hessler is a magical place—I understand the mystique around Hessler. My job is to provide fairness…The neighbors are very frustrated and disappointed.

“I want this to be a litmus test. Are we not going to remove any structures in historic neighborhoods? …this seems to come up in these historical districts. “We need to have a discussion as a city. Are we not touching or allowing any development?”

Councilman Blaine Griffin, 6th Ward of Cleveland in 2021.
Councilman Blaine Griffin, 6th Ward of Cleveland in 2021.
Councilman Griffin’s quest for ‘clarity’ on developing within historic districts

Griffin said, “There needs to be some clarity. I’m going to challenge the city planning group, (the Cleveland Planning Commission), and others to really give some kind of guidance because this kind of tension always comes up in these historical districts …then you have landowner rights and you have to listen to the voice of the residents.

“I support it. This probably was the most difficult development decision I’ve made because these folks really love this street. They really sacrifice to live there.

“At some point in time the city really needs to find ways to fortify the residents to get the kind support they need. So that residents making long-term sacrifices are supported.”

Griffin reiterated his speaking up for the Hessler homeowners.  “The residents that make long term sacrifices, like the Hessler Housing Co-op, their president and vice president and the rest of their members really, really, know that their voice maters in this process.”

Moving truck waiting in Hessler Road to pull into to the gravel back yard of 1975 Ford Drive and move tenants out a gentrified apartment. Trucks like these try to leave Hessler by driving forward only to find an illegally parked car making it impossible to leave except to drive in reverse all the way to Ford Drive.
Moving truck waiting in Hessler Road to pull into to the gravel back yard of 1975 Ford Drive and move tenants out of a gentrified apartment. Trucks like these try to leave Hessler by driving forward only to find an illegally parked car on Hessler Court and the corner with Hessler Rd., making it impossible to leave except to drive in reverse all the way to Ford Drive.
Councilman Griffin’s Hessler proposed sinkhole repair—will a total upgrade to modern drainage standards be pursued?

As for repairing sinkholes in the Hessler Road brick pavement, Griffin said “I identified some of my council discretionary dollars and cobbled them (together) from every corner (of city hall) that I could get at.” An April 7th memo from City Council President Kevin Kelley shows that the city allocated $108,000 for what could be called “an emergency repair” given the long term condition of Hessler Road being in a hydrogeologically challenged area. So far a schedule for the repair has yet to be set. (A previous version of this story erroneously said this figure was unconfirmed.)

In the view of Hessler homeowners, a full upgrade of Hessler Road to modern drainage standards, sometimes called “green drainage standards” would be equivalent to instituting the UCI initiated ‘Hessler Streetscape Plan’ in 2014.

The Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson administration did not approved this proposal after the Cleveland Planning Commission spent effort designing the project. According to Elise Yablonsky, UCI planning director, “The Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects also raised concerns about the installation of green infrastructure within the public right-of-way.”

Hessler activists don’t buy this and say that Mayor Frank Jackson declined funding the city’s $600,000 match to this innovative project—because Jackson instead turned his focus on the then upcoming Republican National Convention of 2016.

Then there is a school of thought that the real reason Jackson didn’t go for this was because he didn’t want every neighborhood to want $600,000 plus for projects such as this.

A broken curb on Hessler Road greets visitors from around the world. Will Councilman Griffin’s and the City of Cleveland’s infrastructure repair of Hessler Road deal with this as well as the street’s notorious sinkholes?
A broken curb on Hessler Road greets visitors from around the world. Will Councilman Griffin’s and the City of Cleveland’s proposed infrastructure repair of Hessler Road deal with this as well as the street’s notorious sinkholes? Will a long term plan for ‘green’ storm water control of Hessler Rd., (as promoted by UCI in 2014), be pursued?
Hessler’s ‘green’ dream that was instilled by UCI

Now that the Hessler homeowners have been provided, (by UCI), a vision of improved storm water drainage of a rebuilt and well-maintained world class historic district, with modern “green” drainage techniques—and now the urge to institute this vision is great.

Making Hessler Road into a well-maintained historic district to show off, including properly rebuilt curbs and a full ‘green’ drainage revamp—is likely to cost in the million dollar plus range given the amount of the proposed budget for the 2014 Hessler Streetscape Plan. This was lead by UCI, involving the Hessler Neighborhood Association, and the City of Cleveland, working together in an attempt to request a grant from the Northeastern Ohio Regional Sewer District to produce the Hessler Streetscape Plan.

Hessler is ‘something special to protect’

Ben Faller, attorney for the Hessler Neighborhood Association said, “We as a city have something special that needs to be protected. As the first historic district in Cleveland, it is unique. It is because of the work of Hessler residents (in the 1970s and 80s), that we have a Landmarks Commission.

“This district is fully intact. None of the buildings have been demolished,” he said. “In fact this is a backyard (of 1975 Ford Dr.).”

“The garage, (the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum during Hessler Street Fairs), served as part of the gateway to Hessler Street Fair, (coming in from Ford Dr.). (This) has been a series of missed opportunities that has brought us to this point.”

Attorney Ben Faller representing the Hessler Neighborhood Association
Attorney Ben Faller representing the Hessler Neighborhood Association
A ‘viable’ 1979 anti-gentrification plan for Hessler ignored by UCI

“The overall concept is not acceptable,” said attorney Faller. “Part of the history is that there is the 1979 plan, praised by the likes of the late Norman Krumholtz, (Cleveland’s planning director for decades and leader of the equity planning movement). A viable model of engagement (between UCI, the City and Hessler Neighborhood Association), is in the 1979 Hessler Road Area plan.”

City of Cleveland Planning director Norman Krunholtz, a leading proponent of 'equity planning' and Mayor Carl Stokes in the late 1960s. Equity Planning: Equity planning is a framework in which urban planners working within government use their research, analytical, and organizing skills to influence opinion, mobilize underrepresented constituencies, and advance and perhaps implement policies and programs that redistribute public and private resources to the poor and working class. This approach diverges from the downtown-oriented land-use planning tradition of most U.S. cities. Mr. Krumholtz had much praise for the activists on Hessler and wanted their approaches to be emulated through out other downtrodden city neighborhoods.
City of Cleveland Planning director Norman Krumholtz, a leading proponent of ‘equity planning’ with Mayor Carl Stokes in the late 1960s. Equity Planning: Equity planning is a framework in which urban planners working within government use their research, analytical, and organizing skills to influence opinion, mobilize underrepresented constituencies, and advance and perhaps implement policies and programs that redistribute public and private resources to the poor and working class. This approach diverges from the downtown-oriented land-use planning tradition of most U.S. cities. Mr. Krumholtz had much praise for the activists on Hessler and wanted their approaches to be emulated through out other city neighborhoods.

“This building sets a dangerous precedent,” said attorney Faller. It would send the message that no historic district in the city is safe, (from historic buildings being demolished). If there is any place for the Landmarks Commission to take a stand it is here. Taken together these issues can’t addressed in a design review.

“Since you are reviewing the concept only at this stage, the Hessler residents invite you to visit the district, (and see it for yourself).”

Hessler leader says, “we don’t know about it,” to Ronayne’s statement that HNA “spokesperson” was approached about joining the UCI board

Ronayne said: “We have a long standing engagement with the president of the Hessler Neighborhood Association., (Pat Holland)…I talked with one of their spokespersons about the Hessler  Neighborhood Association talking with our board about joining (the UCI board) as a non-profit organization.”

To this, Hoven, a Hessler leader, responded, “If he talked with anyone of us, we don’t know about it.”

Then, once again, at the 5:05:00 time stamp, Ronayne brought up again that “these people come to America and won’t have to furnish their suites,” in the $1,600 a month micro unit suites proposed for the site of the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum.

Don Petit, Landmarks Commission city staffer, “historic districts can’t be frozen in time,” and recalls being kept on his toes by Pitter Pratt and Pat Holland

Don Petit, city planner and non-voting secretary of the Landmarks Commission stated that while “Hessler Road is a special place we do not treat our historic districts if they’re frozen in time. We determine if a proposal is appropriate. We don’t expect historic districts to be museum pieces. We look at projects on their merits…we haven’t weight in on the demolition of the garage.”

Mr. Petit recalled working with the late Pitter (Donna) Pratt and her surviving husband Pat Holland, (who still represents the HNA to UCI and is on the Cleveland Planning Commission’s Euclid Corridor design review committee).

“They were our main contact point between the commission and the neighborhood. They kept us on our toes…our historic districts have to grow…We have to resolve if the garage is important enough to save…I love the Hessler Street Fair, though I don’t think that the garage rises to the level of being an impediment of this project.”

Saving the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum garage – they want to do it

Daniel Sirk, architect of the proposed micro-unit apartment building made a proposal on how to save the garage as a temporary structure just for the fair, in the yard along Hessler Rd. on the north side of 1975 Ford Rd.

Daniel Sirk, architect for the project, proposed a way to save a down sized garage for the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum.
Daniel Sirk, architect for the project, proposed a way to save a down sized garage for the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum.

Mr. Sirk’s informal proposal was to replace this side yard which now has well maintained bushes and grass with a 10 by 20 foot cement slab where a smaller structure, made from the garage could be temporarily erected for future street fairs. This is along with Rick Maron, the project developer repeatedly proposing turning this side yard, into “a gateway to the street fair.” At a previous Euclid Corridor design review meeting both Chris Ronayne and city planner Karl Brunjes mentioned moving the garage to the open lot behind the three two family homes next to the proposed building. Rick Maron wasn’t for that.

Mr. Hoven, one of the Hessler leaders said that putting the garage where fair goers couldn’t see it wouldn’t be workable. A case could also be made that if the project is built, any future street fair would be hobbled because the gravel back yard of 1975 Ford Road provides an essential place at the fair, a place to sit down and dine within view of the fair.

This well maintained yard with trim bushes spans about 15 feet from the side of 1975 Ford Drive to the sidewalk running along Hessler Road. If the architect’s informal proposal to have a 10 by 20 foot cement slab in place of the grass and bushes shown here, utilized just once a year for an encampment of a reduced sized museum–would it be progress?

Developer Maron pushed the commission members for assurances

Maron, the developer said, “it makes no sense to continue making changes to the plan if (the Landmarks Commission) won’t approve it. He offered to stop working on this proposal then asked, “Give us feedback (about the possibility of approval).”

Rick Maron, developer of the Hessler project
Rick Maron, developer of the Hessler project along with Russell Berusch.

“It really isn’t a social thing. Are we going to have a vote of everyone in Cleveland,” Maron continued. “Can there be a project or not? Should we go through all the architectural review for nothing?” Three members said that they’d vote for it.

Commission secretary Petit said “Good things have come because of all the neighborhood opposition. It was scaled back and redesigned. And now the councilman is moving ahead on addressing the infrastructure issue on the street.”

The final meeting and vote on this project will take place at Landmarks Commission on May 27, (postponed from May 13), at nine a.m. and is available through this link here.

Freddy Collier, the City of Cleveland Planning director is the only city employee with a vote on the Cleveland Landmarks Commission. The remain eight members are volunteers from the community.
Freddy Collier, the City of Cleveland Planning director is the only city employee with a vote on the Cleveland Landmarks Commission. The remaining eight members are volunteers from the community.

In a surprise, on May 6th 2021, the Cleveland Planning Commission’s Euclid Corridor design review committee voted to “disapprove” this project which the Landmarks Commission is to take “under advisement” at their Thursday, May 27, 2021 meeting , (postponed from May 13), when making their decision concerning this proposal.

To help the Hessler neighbors make their case against this development click on the link here.

For ongoing discussion of the proposal click on this link here.

For more about the history and construction of wood block Hessler Court click on this link here.

END

The State of Hessler – 2

While Hessler Coalition balks at any new building, talk of moving the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum

By Lee Batdorff

Hessler Coalition members jointly sent a letter to the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission firmly opposed to any development in the backyard of 1975 Ford Drive. “We want the garage to stay where it is and the backyard to be used as a backyard for 1975 Ford as it was intended,” said Charles Hoven, a Hessler home owner. “We envision a yard with some picnic tables for the students and also trees and flowers.”


As the April 15th City of Cleveland Planning Commission’s Euclid Corridor Design Review  meeting began, Ward 6 councilman Blaine Griffin said he was pleased with the downsized version of the development and was happy to approve it.

The disposition of the garage that harbors the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum was put into play by Karl Brunjes,  secretary of the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission, after a 7 to 2 vote by the Euclid Corridor Design Review committee on April 15 gave conceptual approval to the proposed Hessler Road micro-unit apartment project— a 12 unit version down from 23.

The two bay Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum shown in near dusk light, with an apparently forlorn garage to its immediate left as seen here. Both Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc. and Karl Brunjes, secretary of the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission have illuded to or openly suggested moving this historic building to a largely empty ‘landlock’ parcel behind the three two family homes owned by Alpha Apartments, (to the left here), onto a property owned by the owners of Uptown II, Ari and Jori Maron, sons of Rick Maron, one of the developers of the Hessler apartment building proposal. Rick Maron volunteered the idea of working with Alpha Apartments to remove their forlorn garage and replace it with a two way “highway” to the landlocked parcel to provide access to the landlocked parcel for potential future Hessler Street Fair activities.
The two bay Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum shown in near dusk light, with an apparently forlorn garage to its immediate left as seen here. Both Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Inc. and Karl Brunjes, secretary of the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission have illuded to or openly suggested moving this historic building to a largely empty ‘landlock’ parcel behind the three two family homes owned by Alpha Apartments, (to the left here), onto a property owned by the owners of Uptown II, Ari and Jori Maron, sons of Rick Maron, one of the developers of the Hessler apartment building proposal. Rick Maron volunteered the idea of working with Alpha Apartments to remove their forlorn garage and replace it with a two way “highway” to the landlocked parcel to provide access to the landlocked parcel for potential future Hessler Street Fair activities.

“There has been a lot of talk about the garage,” said Mr. Brunjes of the landmarks commission. “While approval of this project would include demolition of the garage some people say move it. Rotate it behind the houses where the (larger) parking lot was originally proposed (by developers Rick Maron and Russell Berusch). (There it can be used as) the street fair’s home.”

Mr. Brunjes was not alone in bringing up the situation confronting the garage—a structure designated as historic in a City of Cleveland Historic District.

Earlier in the meeting  Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Incorporated, introduced the subject of the garage. “I’m hopeful the Hessler Street Fair comes back some day,” he  said. “We’ll do everything we can to support the community to take the garage and do something with it before it is ‘demo-ed’. I’m all for it. My guess there might be some places in proximity (to place it).

“It’s if there is a will, there is a way, (type of thing),” added Ronayne. “Taking it off site…we (UCI) are all for it,” said Ronayne. “We are not standing in the way (of such a move of the garage that is the HHoF&M).”

The only possible place in proximity that Mr. Ronayne might have referred to is a land locked parcel owned by Ari and Jori Maron, sons of Rick Maron. They own the adjoining Uptown II parking garage and building as well as this “landlocked’ property.

Satellite images of the “landlocked parcel” from left: before Uptown II and after Uptown II after which trees have been removed. In the right image, just below the two family home at lower left is two car garage which if removed would make it possible to create a “highway” (as described by developer Rick Maron), with (presumably pedestrian as well as vehicular) passage back to both parking for his proposed 12 suite parking building, and a place to “put up tents for the fair.” Both Chris Ronayne president of University Circle Inc., and Karl Brunjes secretary of the City of Cleveland Landmark Commission, either alluded to or spoke directly of moving the Hessler Hall of Fame & Museum garage to some place on the ‘landlocked’ parcel owned by the sons of Rick Maron, who has included part of this landlocked property is in his plan for a 12 micro-suite building on Hessler Road for parking five automobiles this property owned by his sons Ari and Jori Maron.
Satellite images of the “landlocked parcel” from left: before Uptown II and after Uptown II after which trees have been removed. In the right image, just below the two family home at lower left is two car garage which if removed would make it possible to create a “highway” (as described by developer Rick Maron), with (presumably pedestrian as well as vehicular) passage back to both parking for his proposed 12 suite parking building, and a place to “put up tents for the fair.” Both Chris Ronayne president of University Circle Inc., and Karl Brunjes secretary of the City of Cleveland Landmark Commission, either alluded to or spoke directly of moving the Hessler Hall of Fame & Museum garage to some place on the ‘landlocked’ parcel owned by the sons of Rick Maron, who has included part of this landlocked property is in his plan for a 12 micro-suite building on Hessler Road for parking five automobiles this property owned by his sons Ari and Jori Maron.
Proposal site as provided by developer: The yard depicted by green lines on two sides of 1975 Ford Drive as well as the 15 by 60 foot area between 1975 and 1981 Ford Drive were volunteered by Rick Maron to be a “gateway to the Hessler Street Fair.” On the far right of this image there is shown a five-sided garage touching the two family house it serves; and parking for five automobiles on the “landlocked parcel’ which is behind this two family home and taking a small portion of property owned by the owner.
Proposal site as provided by developer: The yard depicted by green lines on two sides of 1975 Ford Drive as well as the 15 by 60 foot area between 1975 and 1981 Ford Drive were volunteered by Rick Maron to be a “gateway to the Hessler Street Fair.” On the far right of this image there is shown a five-sided garage touching the two family house it serves; and parking for five automobiles on the “landlocked parcel’ which is behind this two family home and taking a small portion of property owned by the owner.

After Mr. Brunjes spoke, Rich Maron said, “Nobody has approached us on this. This is the first I heard of this. This would be putting it on someone else’s property that I have nothing to do with.”

While most of the parking lot in the originally proposed plan has been removed, Maron’s project still requires five parking spaces on the landlocked parcel owned by his sons. He has something to do with this parcel.

“I’ve not heard anything about this,” Mr. Maron repeated. “That’s kind of out of the blue.”

Before Brunjes spoke, Maron actually proposed the landlock parcel to be of use to the community. He volunteered an idea of working with the owner of the two family home (Alpha Apartments) directly next to the proposed apartment building, to remove their garage to make a “two lane highway” back to the landlocked parcel where street fair activities could occur.

Two members of the Euclid Corridor Design Review committee voted against approval. “This will be the only rear entry building on Hessler,” said Pat Holland. “I find it troubling that the entrance can’t be seen from the street. Even with more lights and security cameras.”

“We plan on that being a more active area than it is now,” said Maron. Earlier in the meeting architect Daniel Sirk said that most people enter 1975 and 1980 through their back doors.

Maron also volunteered the small yards around 1975 Ford Dr., and the 15 by 60 foot yard between the apartment windows of 1975 and 1981 Ford as “a gateway” to the Hessler Street Fair. We’ll be more than happy to work with the neighborhood on this.” This is the second time Maron offered the idea.

A close observer of things Hessler these days wonders if this is actually a plan to replace the historically accurate grass and trees with rounded gravel, as Russell Berusch has done at 11319-11327 Hessler Rd.

The Hessler community is more than longtime residents and homeowners living on Hessler now. There is a diaspora of lovers of Hessler—as a result of staging half a century of street fairs.

An outreach to this group encouraging the writing of email letters to all five members of the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission.

These are: Karl Brunjes and Donald Petit, Cleveland Landmark Commission; Cleveland Planning Director Fred Collier; Cleveland Chief Planner Kim Scott; Ward 6 Councilman Blaine Griffin.

It will be interesting to witness how the Cleveland Landmarks Commission will react to calls to not approve this development until Russell Berusch has made amends. He renovated a five-row-house building at 11319-11327 Hessler Road while paying not enough attention to maintaining historic authenticity in the front yard and sidewalk of this historic property. (More about this here.)

Apparently he did not apply for a ‘certificate of appropriateness’ with the City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission on the rowhouse building. Since Mr. Berusch is one of the developers of this apartment building proposal, in the view of many, at the least, he first needs to take care and meet Historic District law in his 11319-11327 building before building anew on Hessler.

Set your reminder for the 9 a.m. April 22, 2021 City of Cleveland Landmarks Commission YouTube live stream here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB8ql0Jrhm_pYIR1OLY68bw

END

The State of Hessler 1

Developers offer smaller proposal to neighbors’ rejection

Photo: Lee Batdorff

BREAKING NEWS: Councilman Blaine Griffin to formally announce funds to repair Hessler Road

This was told recently by councilman Griffin to Hessler neighbors. “We are going to be making repairs soon to this historical brick street.

By Lee Batdorff — Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Hessler’s balance threatened; 1979 anti-gentrification strategic plan ignored; A gentrified tenant’s revenge?; Cleveland Planning Commission sets next stage; 2014 Hessler green infrastructure project dropped by Mayor Jackson administration; Hessler’s water problem; Renovation doesn’t meet historic standards; Of rooming houses and ‘party animals’; What Cleveland homeowners don’t get; Illegal parking destroys curb; Hessler Court wood blocks deteriorating; The heroine of Hessler; Councilman and neighbors wish for more home owners

THINGS BECAME HEATED ON A COLD PORCH* at 1975 Ford Drive in University Circle, Cleveland Ohio during a 5 p.m. Thursday March 18th meeting lead by Hessler Road owner-occupiers Laura Cyrocki and Charles Hoven with Rick Maron and Russell Berusch, developers of the Hessler Ford proposal, including University Circle Incorporated planning director Elise Yablowsky, plus the architects for the project, Daniel Sirk and his wife Ewa, and arriving late, Ward 6 councilman Blaine Giffin. (*36 F degrees with wind and rain.)

March 18th 2021 meeting on front porch of 1975 Ford Drive. From right: Hessler owner-occupiers Charles Hoven and Laura Cyrocki; architects Daniel and Ewa Sirk; and developers Rick Maron and Russell Berusch. Photo: Lee Batdorff
March 18th 2021 meeting on front porch of 1975 Ford Drive. From right: Hessler owner-occupiers Charles Hoven and Laura Cyrocki; architects Daniel and Ewa Sirk; and developers Rick Maron and Russell Berusch. The shoe and yellow leg of a rain suite belongs to Eric Ambro.

This was the first in-person meeting of all parties since the Ford Hessler proposal was put forth during a February 10th Zoom meeting held by University Circle Incorporated. Link to YouTube of Feb. 10 Zoom meeting.

Hessler neighborhood activists: Laura Cyrocki, Pat Holland, Charles Hoven Photo credits: Laura Cyrocki, Photo: Waxwings folk quartet album cover; Pat Holland, Photo: Linked In; Charles Hoven, Photo: The Plain Press
Hessler neighborhood activists: Laura Cyrocki, Pat Holland, Charles Hoven

This proposal for an apartment building in the gravel back yard of 1975 Ford Drive where UCI let tenants park their autos has been for decades opened up for the annual Hessler Street Fair. Due to rising costs the fair went into hiatus after the 2019 festival for the second time in its half-century existence.

In response to several requests to change this proposal that were put forth by some Hessler property owners at a Zoom meeting sponsored by the Hessler owner-occupiers—on March 15—developer Mr. Maron said, “I’ll have the architects work over-time to produce a new proposal to answer your concerns by this Thursday.” Link to YouTube of Hessler March 15 Zoom meeting.

The developers of the Hessler Ford project: Rick Maron and Russell Berusch; Photo: Crain’s Cleveland Business Russell Berusch, Photo: Berusch Development Partners
The developers of the Hessler Ford project: Rick Maron and Russell Berusch

Three days later, on Thursday March 18th, on the porch of 1975 Ford Dr., each architect held a printed 8-1/2” by 11” sheet showing the redesign for the group to see.

The March 18 meeting was held on the porch of 1975 Ford Dr. To its right is 1981 Ford Dr. These buildings will start renovations in May 2021. Photo provided by developer.
The March 18 meeting was held on the porch of 1975 Ford Dr. To its right is 1981 Ford Dr. These buildings may start renovation in May 2021.
Ground zero in the confrontation: The back yard of the 1975 Ford Drive parcel, as seen from Hessler Road. This gravel parking lot is actually the backyard of 1975 Ford Drive by Cuyahoga County property records. The two-bay garage to the left has been opened up by the former property owner, University Circle Incorporated, for the annual Hessler Street Fair—now on hiatus—as the pop-up Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo provided by developer.
Ground zero in the confrontation: The back yard of the 1975 Ford Drive parcel, as seen from Hessler Road. This area is actually the backyard of 1975 Ford Drive by Cuyahoga County property records. The two-bay garage to the left has been opened up by the former property owner, University Circle Incorporated, for the annual Hessler Street Fair—now on hiatus—as the pop-up Hessler Road Hall of Fame and Museum.
The developers’ Option 2 renderings; view from above and front view. Images provided by developer, photos by Lee Batdorff.
The developers’ Option 2 renderings; view from above and front view. These images were held up by the architects.
The architect’s rendering of the building as originally proposed at the top does not accurately depict the Uptown II building in the background. Top image: developers Maron and Berusch; Bottom photo: Laura Cyrocki
The architect’s rendering at the top shows the building as originally proposed. It does not accurately depict the Uptown II building in the background. More about miss representation in this image may be found here.
“The introduction of more density brought in by adding bedrooms, and an ugly contemporary micro-unit, Maron proudly calls “mikros” will only increase that destructive traffic,”said Laura Cyrocki, a member of the Hessler Housing Co-op, making her a “owner-occupier,”  a home owner, instead of an owner-landlord.
Maron and Berush's most recent design for their Hessler Rd. micro-suite building. Note that the background shows the same distorted and tiny image of the Uptown II building this it obviously is not.
Maron and Berusch’s most recent design for their Hessler Rd. micro-suite building. Note that the background shows the same distorted and tiny image of the Uptown II building that it obviously is not.

Hessler’s fine balance threatened

“For years, long term home owners, tenants and students have coexisted in a fine balance to create a community that stays lovely and hosts the best annual party ever, the Hessler Street Fair,” said Ms. Cyrocki. 

“It’s truly a fine balance, which little by little, with the presence of encroaching development, has shifted toward a harsher, louder, dirtier and less peaceful place. It’s the very loss of this balance which violates Hessler’s Landmark status.”

Proposal reduced to one-half the scale of original version

This revision is to build 12 micro-suite apartments, (each 465 square foot apartments said to be renting for approximately $1600 a month), and down from the 23 suites originally proposed; this plan has three floors instead of four; and it has all brick facade on the front; plus an additional eight foot margin on the northeast side of the building, added in response to a request from Alpha Apartment Management, the owner-landlord of the duplex home next door. This is planned to be an additional driveway to Hessler Rd., that was not in the original proposal.

Most Hessler home owners however did not make any requests for moderating the design at the March 15th Zoom meeting. They don’t want this building at all.

Hessler neighbors invite concerned citizens to become involved at www.hesslerstreet.wordpress.com. Photo: Lee Batdorff
Hessler neighbors invite concerned citizens to become involved at www.hesslerstreet.wordpress.com.

“After trees were removed behind Hessler properties by Uptown II, and the project was completed, basements of houses flooded with two feet of water,” said Patrick Holland. Mr. Holland, who owns a row house, and has long represented the Hessler Neighborhood Association to UCI and is a member of  the Cleveland Planning Commission’s Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee.

“We still want it as a yard,” said Charles Hoven, an owner-occupier, at the porch meeting, and several other Hessler neighbors were outspoken against the new plan.

Eric Ambro, who has lived on Hessler for over 50 years, summed up the situation: “You’ve responded with substantial changes to your plan, that is clear. The case is that quite a few people on Hessler want nothing here.”

Hessler neighbors and University Circle Incorporated produced a ‘anti gentrification plan’ plan for Hessler in 1979

“You’re supposed to come to us first when making a plan for Hessler,” said Hoven to Yabowsky at the March  18th meeting. “We have a plan that predates yours.”

He was referring to a 1979 report made by the then Hessler Road Association, University Circle Inc., Cleveland Planning Commission and the Cleveland Landmarks Commission.

On page eight of the Hessler Road Area Planning Committee Final Report of December 19, 1979 states this recommendation:

“Any new construction, sale program, or development should be part of an overall University Circle housing strategy that has as its goal an economically integrated community. That strategy should  include…Priority to existing residents for the opportunity to purchase their unit, if it becomes available, by individual  purchase, condominium or cooperative, specifically Hessler Road.”

(More on this report will be in a later installment of this series: The State of Hessler.)

On March 3rd this year UCI sold 1975 and 1981 Ford Drive to Russell Berusch. The 1979 report, worked out by UCI and the neighbors and CWRU and the city, apparently holds no currency with UCI today. Tenants were not notified of the Hessler Ford proposal before it was worked up and the UCI properties were sold less than a month later, without giving the tenants any “priority.”

At the March 11th Zoom meeting held by the Hessler owner-occupiers, Mr. Ronayne was asked about the 1979 report. He said, “There have been a lot of planning proposals made since then.”

Through the UCI planning department, Chris Ronayne was requested to clarify this statement. No response was received.

Chris Ronayne, University Circle Incorporated, photo provided by Cleveland State University Alumni Association.
Chris Ronayne, president of University Circle Incorporated

UCI President Chris Ronayne was about 11 years old living in Chicago Ill. in 1979 when this long range planning document was produced.

Later Hoven said, “The only plan since 1979 where Hessler residents were included that I know of was the 2014 Hessler Green Infrastructure proposal (that was) signed by city planning director Freddie Collier, (and) UCI chief executive officer Chris Roynane—with a much different plan for the backyard of 1975 Ford Drive.”

BACK ON THE COLD PORCH, the developers were taken aback by the outburst of owner-occupiers to the reduced scale plan.

Mr. Berusch said: “This response is undignified…Didn’t we make all the changes as requested?…You’re not going to change the game now!”

An encounter with a soon to be vacating tenant

At some point during the meeting a man opened the front door of 1975 Ford, looked out at the 20 some people on his porch, and disrupted the gathering, asking, “Can I help you?”

This tenant apparently was not given prior notice that a crowd of people would be on his front porch at the invitation of this new landlord, Russell Berusch.

 I watched Berusch immediately brake from the meeting and go into the lobby with the tenant for a short time. The meeting continued.

Berusch had purchased the property from UCI just days before and with that purchase it was confirmed to all the long time tenants of 1975 and 1981 Ford Drive that they must vacate their apartments by May 1st allowing for renovation and higher rents.

Along with apparently not being given prior notice from the landlord inviting a crowd to his front porch—this tenant is being “gentrified” out of his rental home.

Cleveland Planning Commission sets next stage

Eventually the rain and wind letup and the meeting moved down the porch stairs and visited the back of  the proposed building site, close to the Uptown II parking garage.

The revised version of this proposal—offered that day—avoids a problem brought up by Kim Scott, the CPC chief city planner who administrated the March 4th Zoom meeting concerning this proposal. Link to YouTube of March 4th Zoom meeting.

Kim Scott, Chief Planner of the City of Cleveland Photo: City of Cleveland
Kim Scott, Chief Planner of the City of Cleveland

She’d determined through a search of city records that the Uptown II developers had not fulfilled a pledge written in 2012 to provide a landscape plan document to the CPC for this property. “Don’t come back without addressing this issue,” she said at the  March 4th Euclid Corridor Design Review Committee Zoom meeting.

The Hessler micro-apartment building proposal is scheduled to return to a CPC Zoom meeting with Ms. Scott at eight a.m. Thursday April 15th, 2021.
Link to Cleveland Planning Commission meeting schedules and agendas. Look closely for “YouTube Live Stream” link near center bottom if you want to watch live. A recording of the meeting is available after the meeting.

This map shows the plan submitted by the developers Rick Maron and Russell Berusch at the February 10th University Circle Incorporated Zoom meeting. A new plan for a smaller building and parking lot was unveiled by the developers on March 18th. The parking shown on the lower right side of this image is not in the March 18th version. Image provided by developer.
This map shows the plan submitted by developers Rick Maron and Russell Berusch at the February 10th University Circle Incorporated Zoom meeting. A new plan for a smaller building and parking lot was unveiled by the developers on March 18th. The parking shown in gray in the center of this image is not in the March 18th version, while a small part of the landlocked parcel will be used for five parking spaces.

This downsizing of the micro-unit building may allow for a crucial change in the eyes of the CPC. Maron’s first plan utilized a “landlocked” parcel, owned by his sons, (Ari and Jori Maron), owners of Uptown II, for parking.

Rick Maron, who has retired from MRN Ltd, (owned by his sons), offered an initial plan calling for 21 parking slots, and a prospective line of an additional six rental electric vehicles parked end-to-end like quarter shopping carts at Aldi’s, across this “landlocked” parcel.

The new reduced plan meets current parking requirements with 11 parking spaces, a bicycle parking rack, and no line of rental electric cars. Because the new plan incorporates only a small portion of this landlocked parcel, (to park five autos), Maron and Berusch may be off the hook for Uptown IIs error in not supplying a written landscaping plan for this property to the City back in 2014.

In 2014 the Uptown II project took down a small woods of trees behind three two family homes at 11302, 11306 and 11316 Hessler Rd. The Cleveland Planning Commission said it was promised a landscaping plan for this now bare landlocked parcel by Uptown II owners. The original Maron-Berusch Hessler Ford proposal located a parking lot in the open area. The new proposal leaves this landlocked parcel bare. Photos provided by Charles Hoven.
In 2014 the Uptown II project took down a small woods of trees behind three two family homes at 11302, 11306 and 11316 Hessler Rd. The Cleveland Planning Commission said it was promised a landscaping plan for this now bare landlocked parcel by Uptown II owners. The original Maron-Berusch Hessler Ford proposal located a parking lot in the open area. The new proposal leaves this landlocked parcel bare.

Maron’s sons apparently are responsible to address this lapse of honoring an agreement with the City of Cleveland concerning a landscape plan. Will a landscaping plan come from Ari and Jori Maron meet Scott’s request? At this writing an answer awaits with the April 15th CPC Zoom meeting.
Link to Cleveland Planning Commission schedule and agendas.

(More on this landlocked property is in a later installment of this series: The State of Hessler.)

The 2014 Hessler Green Infrastructure Project involving UCI and the sewer district was not funded by the City of Cleveland

Organized by UCI planning director Elise Yablonsky, the Cleveland Planning Commission, Hessler Neighborhood Association, and UCI partnered to host a design charrette workshop in 2014 to plan for improvements to the Hessler streetscape and make a grant application to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Green Infrastructure Grants program.

Elise Yabonsky, University Circle Incorporated planning director, organized the Hessler Neighborhood Streetscape proposal in 2014. Photo provided by Proskauer.
Elise Yabonsky, University Circle Incorporated planning director, organized the Hessler Neighborhood Streetscape proposal in 2014.

The project was an innovative “green” approach to rebuild the brick paver Hessler Road “better” with new “green” water drainage techniques. The total estimated cost was almost $2 million and the City of Cleveland balked at providing its funding share of about $600,000.

According to Yablonsky, “The Mayor’s Office of Capital Projects also raised concerns about the installation of green infrastructure within the public right-of-way.”

That’s a cop-out to some Hessler home owners. They say the project didn’t receive the City of Cleveland’s backing was because Mayor Frank Jackson turned the City’s attention to the then upcoming 2016 Republican National Convention.

University Circle Incorporated organized a grant proposal for the Hessler Neighborhood Streetscape which would have improved drainage in 2014. The Cleveland Planning Commission worked up designs or the project and which was to go to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District if approved. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration backed out. Many Hessler neighbors think it is because he turned his attention to the Republican National Convention in 2016. Image provided by the City of Cleveland.
University Circle Incorporated organized a grant proposal for the Hessler Neighborhood Streetscape plan which would have improved problematic water drainage in 2014. The Cleveland Planning Commission worked up designs for the project which, if approved by Mayor Jackson’s administration, was to go to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. Jackson’s administration backed out. Many Hessler neighbors think it is because he turned his attention to the Republican National Convention coming up in 2016.

This proposal involved a reconditioning of the gravel backyard of the 1975 Ford Drive parcel, along Hessler Rd. This is an area used during Hessler Street Fairs.

This ecologically advance “streetscape” proposal was to “incorporate educational programming” showing off permeable pavers to replace the gravel and exhibited to the annual street fair crowds—it would have been a demonstration of the good that permeable pavers and proper underground water channeling can do for a water challenged place such as Hessler Road—in this back half of 1975 Ford Drive parcel.

Two porches on Hessler Road with "No new development on Hessler".

The troubled hydrology of Hessler Road

The the group then moved through the gravel lot onto Hessler Road. Maron was first to drop away, and by the time we finished traversing the site of the proposed building, Berusch was gone too.

At this point the party consisted of Councilman Blaine Griffin, several Hessler owner-occupiers, a renter, UCI planner Yablonsky, two representatives of Alpha Apartments, and the architects.

It rained all day before Councilman Griffin surveyed the hill-and-vale puddles of brown water pooled between rolling brick pavers.  He declared them “sinkholes.”

He said, “the City doesn’t have a brick streets program,” and “I’m researching where funds to repair this can be found.”

Councilman Griffin, in the distance, leading the group on a tour of the sinkholes of hydro-logically challenged Hessler Road. Photo: Lee Batdorff
Councilman Griffin, his head seen in the distance, leading the group on a tour of the sinkholes of water challenged Hessler Road.

The revenge of a gentrified tenant?

This group had walked down the street almost to Hessler Ct. when a University Circle Police Department officer walked up and asked why we were there. Apparently an individual living at 1975 Ford Drive called the UCPD about the crowd on their porch and wandering the neighborhood.

A second officer joined the group. I told the officers, “There is someone here from UCI,” and lead them to UCI planner Yablowsky. She provided an explanation and they left.

Cyrocki is looking for good long term residents like the one who called the police on the front porch crowd. “The displacement of good tenants as a result of rent hikes on Ford Drive,” she said, “(has been instituted by University Circle Incorporate), our local Community Service Organization (which) was a good landlord but sold out on their Ford Drive tenants and the Hessler Community, in classic UCI fashion. Same as it ever was!”

New renovation is non-appropriate for Historic District standards

While Berusch wasn’t there, the talk turned to his renovation of the row houses at 11319-11327 Hessler Rd. The five row houses were converted into 30 rooms and rented individually, with five sets of shared kitchens and bathrooms.

“Russell Berusch essentially runs his building as an unsupervised undergraduate dorm,” said owner-occupier Hoven.

While the quality of the renovation of the inside has received much praise, the renters are mostly undergraduate students and noise complaints draw visits by the UCPD at the behest of complaining home owners.

Often there is a car parked illegally at the corner, on Hessler Court at Hessler Road, forcing sanitation and moving trucks to drive over the curb on the opposite side of Hessler Court, and damaging it into rubble.

More annoying for some owner-occupiers is Berusch’s apparent lack of attentiveness to Hessler Road’s status as the first Historic District in the City of Cleveland, a status which legally dictates that properties are maintained in a condition similar to the original.

Hoven said, “Considering what’s been done, Berusch couldn’t have filed a Certificate of Appropriateness with the Cleveland Landmarks Commission before pulling a building permit.”

In front of Russell Berusch’s rooming house, exploring the historically non-appropriate gravel yards and paved sidewalk are Counciman Blaine Griffin and Janice Cogger, a Hessler owner-occupier. Photo: Lee Batdorff
In front of Russell Berusch’s rooming house, exploring the historically non-appropriate gravel yards and paved sidewalk without trees are Janice Cogger, a Hessler home owner, and Councilman Blaine Griffin.

Among the non-appropriate aspects of this renovation is the more-or-less well-paved cement sidewalk installed by Berusch along Hessler Rd., (and having removed the original non-slip stone sidewalk slabs).

The little front yards are now filled with rounded gravel, offering party standees easy treading. Before the renovation the yards were grass with small trees in the middle of each yard between five walks to row house front porches. These are now made of well-laid historically appropriate small slabs of non-slip slate.

When asked earlier, Berusch said he didn’t apply for historic district tax incentive for these five row houses turned into rooming houses.

“If this pattern continues with rehabbed buildings (on Hessler  Road) and the (construction of a) proposed new building in the backyard of 1975 Ford, the character and feel of Hessler Road will be altered significantly,” Hoven said.

Of rooming houses and ‘party animals’

Russell Berusch renovated this building with five row houses turned into a rooming house with 30 rooms. Photo: Lee Batdorff
Russell Berusch renovated this building with five row houses turned into a rooming house with 30 tenants.
“Civilians” is what developer Rick Maron calls the long term owner-occupiers and tenants of Hessler. If this is a war, let’s discuss the combatant that the civilians are suffering under. ‘Short term’ is defined here by the two-year period that undergraduate Case Western Reserve University students are likely to live “off campus” on Hessler Rd. Let’s call some among this group— who like to “party”— the “party warriors”. Then scatter among the rooms of the party warriors are a few undergraduate, graduate, and post-doc students who are the “scholars.” The lines are drawn. There is a natural alliance between the scholars and the civilians against the party warriors. UCPD call reports portray relationship between rooming houses and noise complaints An examination of the UCPD call records of 2020 for noise disruption portrays an uneven landscape along Hessler Road. While most Hessler Rd. addresses do not show up for noise complaints in UCPD records, nine addresses have this distinction. Top level noise complaints (Red): Four noise complaint addresses: two addresses for noise complaints are 11327 Hessler Rd. (owned by Berusch), and 11420 Hessler Rd. (owned by Alpha Apartments)—as you can see these addresses are marked with a red square. Each have four noise complaints. Second level noise complaints (Orange): Two noise complaint addresses: These are 11319 Hessler Rd. (owned by Berusch) and 11333 Hessler Rd (the “Swiss Chalet”, owned by Alpha Apartments). Third level noise complaints (Yellow): 1 or 2 noise complaints. No noise complaints (Green): This is where the “civilians” and the “scholars” live. What owner-occupiers want and get in suburbia—though not Cleveland The city council and mayor of University Heights, Ohio, (home of John Carroll University), instituted an ordinance years ago that set levels of civil sanction on a landlord for a “noisy” property he owned This is determined by the number of noise calls to an address made to the police a one year. Link to story about this ordinance. In University Heights, the first call is only recorded in police records; the second call compels the police to send a notice to the landlord declaring the property a nuisance; the third noise incident in one calendar year and the landlord is fined $250. Fourth and consecutive infractions bring a $500 fine each upon the landlord. Given this University Heights ordinance, (not practiced by the Cleveland Police Department and UCPC), it would mean that landlord Berusch, (owner of 11319-11327 Hessler Rd.), would be fined a total of $750, for one Red level (4) infraction at 11327 Hessler and one Orange level of infraction (3) at 11319 Hessler. The remaining three of the addresses in this complex are one Yellow, (1 or 2 annual noise complaints), and two Green designations, all three of these would not be subjugated to a fine. Across Hessler Rd., on the southeast side of the dead end of Hessler Rd.—one address stand out for noise. The apartment building at 11420, managed by Alpha Apartments, (it is unknown if these are rented by the room). It has incurred four calls for noise in 2020, giving it a Red rank for noise. The “Swiss Chalet”, also owned by Alpha Apts at the corner of Hessler Rd. and Ct.—is rented out by the room according to a $500 a month for room sign leaning against the building. This level of noise infraction, (3) Orange—occurring here would—in University Heights, be only a $250 fine. Added to the $500 fine for Alpha Apartments at 11420 Hessler, infractions would total $750, just as Berusch would be fined for 11319 and 11327 Hessler Rd. If this University Heights ordinance was enacted in Cleveland the total take in fines by the City of Cleveland would be $1,500 in fines. As it is the potential income from these fines have been lost from these landlords. Worse yet there is no legal sanction that might stop the noisy parties. UCPD chief Jim Repicky laughed about University Heights instituting such fines. The idea of providing any focus on the civil right not to be disturbed in the face of the broad spectrum of urban crime that the UCPD has to tackle was foreign to him. Actually, the UCPD are already doing crucial work documenting the disruptive noise of the party warriors. It only takes the City of Cleveland government welcoming the need of “civilians” and “scholars” not to be disrupted often by noise--and work with them. And if long term residents in Cleveland can call law enforcement knowing that repeated infractions of noise will be appropriately dealt with by law enforcement, (fining landlords for repeated infractions)—that might stop the noise disruptions. Photos: Lee Batdorff

Link to UCPD calls to Hessler in 2018-2021.

Link to UCPD noise calls to Hessler Road in 2020.

“Civilians” is what developer Rick Maron calls the long term owner-occupiers and tenants of Hessler. Civilians often suffer in war, so let’s discuss those inflicting the noise on the civilians.

‘Short term’ is defined here by the two-year period that undergraduate Case Western Reserve University students who live “off campus” (outside the university dormitories) live on Hessler Rd. Let’s call those of this group who like to party hardy on Hessler—the “party animals”.

Scattered among the rooms of the party animals are the rooms and apartments of undergraduate, graduate, and post-doc students who are labeled here as “scholars.” The lines are drawn. There is a natural alliance between the scholars and the civilians against the party animals.

“Berusch has proven to be a bad manager and his tenants live…wreaking havoc with excessively loud and obnoxious partying,” said Laura Cyrocki. 

The city council and mayor of University Heights Ohio, (home of John Carroll University), instituted an ordinance years ago that set levels of civil sanction on a landlord for a “noisy” property. This is determined by the number of noise calls about an address made to the police over a one year. Link to story about this ordinance.

In University Heights: The first call to the police is only recorded in police records; The second call compels the police to send a written notice to the landlord declaring the property a nuisance; The third noise incident in one calendar year and the landlord is fined $250. A forth and consecutive infractions bring a $500 fine each upon a landlord.

What home owners get in suburbia—and not in Cleveland

If this ordinance were in the City of Cleveland statutes, it would mean that landlord Berusch, (owner of 11319-11327 Hessler Rd.), would be fined of $750 for one Red level (4) infraction at 11327 Hessler and fined $250 for one Orange level (3) of infraction at 11319 Hessler. He would be looking at $1,000 in fines.

The remaining three of the addresses in his row houses are one Yellow, (1 or 2 annual noise complaints), and two Green designations, (no noise complaints)–these would not be subjugated to a fine.

Across Hessler Rd., on the southeast side of the dead end of Hessler Rd.—one address stands out for noise. The six suite apartment building at 11420 Hessler, managed by Alpha Apartments, (it is unknown if these are rented by the room). It has incurred four calls for noise in 2020, giving it a (4) Red rank for noise.

The “Swiss Chalet”, also owned by Alpha Apartments at the corner of Hessler Rd. and Ct.—and is rented out by the room according to a $500 a month for room sign leaning against this building. This level of noise infraction, (3) Orange—if it occurred in University Heights, would bring a $250 fine. Added to the $750 fine for Alpha Apartments at 11420 Hessler, Alpha Apts fines would total $1,000, just as Berusch would be fined for 11319 and 11327 Hessler Rd.

If this University Heights ordinance was enacted in Cleveland the total take in fines by the City of Cleveland would be $2,000. As it is, this potential income has been lost to the city. Worse yet, there is no legal sanction on the landlords that might curtail this noise.

UCPD chief Jim Repicky seemed amused about University Heights instituting such fines. The civil right of citizens not to be disturbed by noise—in the face of the broad spectrum of urban crime that the UCPD and the Cleveland Police Department encounter—seemed trivial to him. “If it was all students on Hessler we’d get fewer noise complaints.”

Actually, the UCPD is already doing crucial work documenting the disruptive noise of the party animals. It only takes the City of Cleveland council and the mayor to institute such a law as has been done in University Heights, and the “civilians” and “scholars” may not be disrupted so often by noise. And Hessler would become more appealing to civilians and scholars which are so necessary in this world.

Hessler’s ‘Swiss Challet” at the corner of Hessler Rd. and Ct., (owned by Alpha Apartments), had three noise complaints responded to by the University Circle Police Department in 2020. This address qualifies for an Orange, (3 noise calls), designation. In University Heights, (home of John Carroll University), garnering a $250 fine from the city on Alpha Apartments. Photo: Lee Batdorff
Hessler’s ‘Swiss Challet” at the corner of Hessler Rd. and Ct., (owned by Alpha Apartments), had three noise complaints responded to by the University Circle Police Department in 2020. This address qualifies for an Orange, (3 noise calls), designation. In University Heights, (home of John Carroll University), garnering a $250 fine from the city on Alpha Apartments. (Note: the rounded gravel in the “yard” of this house has been here for decades because the gravel area was often filled with standees at the annual Hessler Street Fair. Berusch’s row house yards were grass and trees until he changed it a couple years ago.)
This six suite brick building on the ‘dead end” of Hessler Rd. has chalked up a Red, (4 noise calls), designation with four UCPD calls for noise in 2020. In University Heights, (home of John Carroll University), this level of infraction would a garner first a $250 fine then a $500 fine of Alpha Apartments by the city for a total of $750 in fines on this one building. Photo: Lee Batdorff
This six suite brick building on the ‘dead end’ of Hessler Rd. has chalked up a Red, (4 noise calls), designation in less than a year during 2020. In University Heights, (home of John Carroll University), this level of infraction would first garner a $250 fine, then a $500 fine of Alpha Apartments by the city for a total of $750 in fines on this one building. Alpha Apts owns both 11333 and 11420 Hessler Road, and in total for the year 2020, would incur $1,000 in fines of Alpha Apts.

Parking scofflaws force trucks to damage curb

A DIRECT CONNECTION: Flaunting parking laws to the destruction of a curb on Hessler Court—by sanitation trucks maneuvering around illegally parked cars. Is a tow-away zone in order? Photos: Lee Batdorff
Car parked illegally on Hessler Court with parking ticket and rubble that used to be a curb.

A DIRECT CONNECTION: Flaunting parking laws leads to the destruction of a curb on Hessler Court—this is by sanitation and other big trucks maneuvering around illegally parked cars. Is a tow-away zone in order here?

Historic wood block Hessler Court deteriorating

Along with these lapses in maintaining historic district standards is the deteriorated condition of the tender wood blocks of Hessler Court, (which runs between Hessler Road and Bellflower Road). According to the National Registry of Places, this is a special place.

Damaged Hessler Court as seen from Hessler Road. Photo: Lee Batdorff
Damaged Hessler Court as seen from Hessler Road.

Apparently the wood blocks were damaged by construction trucks that pulled in and out of the drive behind Berusch’s row houses, and in and out of the drive across the Court as they all turn onto Hessler Court. The damage continues all along the parking lane of Hessler Ct. where drivers turn their tires to parallel park. And there are individual wood blocks damaged here and there among solid blocks.

The “Hessler Court Wood Block Pavement” was put on the National Registry of Places on March  3rd 1975 while Cleveland’s Landmarks Commission designated the Hessler Rd. and Court a Historic District on November 1st 1975. Both were the first of their kind in Cleveland.

It is interesting to note that in the 2014 Hessler Green Infrastructure Project proposal, on page 4, Section 2- Project Summary, paragraph 3, it states: “Hessler Court, the city’s only wood-paved street, is currently in good condition.”

The last time Hessler Court was rebuilt with wood blocks is likely over 50 years ago. In the seven years between 2014 and 2021, what happened that so many wood blocks have now deteriorated?

The answer may lay in the diligent care taken for many years of Hessler Court by owner-occupier and Hessler landlord, the late Pitter (Donna) Pratt.

How long will a deteriorating wood block Hessler Court last? Photos: Lee Batdorff
Heaven and Hell on Hessler Court. Left: Healthy wood blocks; Right: unhealthy wood blocks.

Not only did she keep good care of her two buildings on Hessler Rd. she was the guardian of Hessler Court during winters. When a plow-and-salt truck rumbled down Hessler Road she ran out and stopped the driver and implored that he not salt Hessler Court.

Unfortunately, Ms. Pratt passed away in 2019, (and she was incapacitated for a few years before).  No one has since taken up imploring plow-and-salt truck drivers to save Hessler Court from salt.

Pittter (Donna) Pratt, heroine of Hessler The late Pitter Pratt lead a good life on Hessler Road. She was an owner-occupier living in a Hessler Road rowhouse and landlord of about a dozen apartments in two brick three-story apartment buildings along the dead end of Hessler Road where the main stage of the annual Hessler Street Fair sets up. In the course of her business Pitter was a leading proponent of urbanist’s Jane Jacob’s theory of “eyes on the street.” Pitter danced on the street during the annual fair, maintain her business books in her office in one of the suites near where she danced—and lived in a rowhouse with her husband Patrick Holland, just a few doors away from her office and the street she danced on. Her vigilance concerning the condition of the Hessler neighborhood must be noted: PITTER’S FIRST FEAT OF PRESERVATION: Once, a University Circle Inc. crew came by to demolish and remove a two-bay garage in the backyard of the 1975 Ford Drive parcel. This garage is the pop-up home for two days during the annual Hessler Street Fair—The Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum. While this gravel-covered back yard appears prosaic—the garage is found on a map from the 1920s, portraying this parcel has historic. Pitter, who lived four doors away, ran out and accosted the demolition crew—bringing in the University Circle Police—demanding the demolition be stopped on the grounds that this innocuous-looking two-bay garage is an historic structure—requiring special attention before anything happens to it. And it worked! UCI acquiesced and not only did they not destroy the old garage, they repaired it! For decades it served as incidental storage for UCI maintenance and for two days annually as the pop up Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum during the Hessler Street Fair. (The Hessler Street Fair has been on hiatus since the 2019 fair.) PITTER’S SECOND FEAT of neighborhood preservation involved her listening for the city snow plow salt spreader truck rumbling down Hessler Rd. past her home. At this sound she’d run into the street and accosted the plow/salt truck driver imploring him to not salt wood block Hessler Court. PITTER’S THIRD FEAT of neighborhood preservation involved her chasing two young men, apparently from a nearby fraternity, and retrieving a Hessler Street Fair banner that they had removed from a utility pole. PITTER’S TOP FEAT OF NEIGHBORHOO PRESERVATION: She maintained her apartments in top shape. To support my freelance journalism career I was an independent house cleaner. The late Cindy MacKay, (a member of the Hessler Housing Co-op), who cleaned homes to support her folk musician career—hired me on to help spiff and polish apartment suites for incoming graduate students and post docs—to the standards of Pitter. Photos: Plain Dealer obituary and Hessler Street Fair
The late Pitter (Donna) Pratt

Pitter Pratt, heroine of Hessler

The late Pitter Pratt lead a good life on Hessler Road. She was an owner-occupier living in a Hessler Road rowhouse and landlord of about a dozen apartments in two brick three-story apartment  buildings along the dead end of Hessler Road next to where the main stage of the annual Hessler Street Fair sets up.

In the course of her business Pitter was a leading proponent of urbanest Jane Jacob’s theory of “eyes on the street.”

Pitter danced on the street during the annual fair, maintain her office in one of the suites near where she danced—and lived in a rowhouse with her husband Patrick Holland, a few doors away. Her vigilance concerning the condition of the Hessler neighborhood must be noted:

PITTER’S FIRST FEAT OF PRESERVATION:
Once, a University Circle Inc. crew came by to demolish and remove a two-bay garage in the backyard of the 1975 Ford Drive parcel. This garage is the pop-up home for two days during the annual Hessler Street Fair—The Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum. While this gravel-covered back yard appears prosaic—the garage is found on a map from the 1920s, portraying this garage has historic.

Pitter, who lived four doors away, ran out and accosted the demolition crew who came to take down the garage—bringing in the University Circle Police—demanding the demolition be stopped on the grounds that this innocuous-looking, two-bay garage, is an historic structure—requiring special attention.

And it worked! UCI acquiesced and not only did they not destroy the old garage, they repaired it! For decades it served as incidental storage for UCI maintenance and for two days annually as the pop up Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum during the Hessler Street Fair. (The Hessler Street Fair has been on hiatus since the 2019 fair.)

PITTER’S SECOND FEAT of neighborhood preservation involved her listening for the city snow plow salt spreader truck rumbling down Hessler Rd. past her home. At this sound she’d run into the street and accosted the plow salt truck driver imploring him to not salt wood block Hessler Court.

PITTER’S THIRD FEAT of neighborhood preservation involved her chasing two young men, apparently from a nearby fraternity, and retrieving a Hessler Street Fair banner that they had removed from a utility pole.

PITTER’S TOP FEAT OF NEIGHBORHOOD PRESERVATION: She maintained her apartments in top shape. To support my freelance journalism career I was an independent house cleaner. The late Cindy MacKay, (a member of the Hessler Housing Co-op), who cleaned homes to support her folk musician career—hired me on to help spiff and polish apartments for incoming graduate students and post docs—to the standards of Pitter.

Eric Ambro and Spa John, curators of the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo: HHoF&M
Eric Ambro and Spa John Prusnek, curators of the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum.
This innocuous century-old two bay garage that is part of the Hessler Historic District serves 363 days a year as incidental storage for University Circle Inc. and two days a year as the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo: Lee Batdorff
This innocuous looking century-old two bay garage that is part of the Hessler Historic District serves 363 days a year as incidental storage for University Circle Inc. and two days a year as the Hessler Hall of Fame and Museum.

IT APPEARS THAT this “National Historical Place” of Hessler Court needs ongoing attention of care-giving owner-occupiers who run out and accost plow salt truck drivers. Hopefully Hessler Court will be rebuilt as a long lasting wood block road again and hopefully dedicated Hessler residents undertake the everlasting effort to maintain it.

“I feel strongly that anybody who weighs in on this project should be required to visit the site and see the historic district,” said Cyrocki who moved here from Jackson Michigan in the late 1990s. “It’s easy to make decisions from an office chair at a computer screen, but the real work is to see it in context.”

Councilman and neighbors wish for more home owner-occupiers in Cleveland

It may be that the most tender topic in Cleveland is owner-occupied homes. The residential boom in downtown Cleveland, University Circle and other city neighborhoods have few owner-occupiers. While a recent measure to mitigate this has been announced, whatever this remedy, it is not likely to adequately address the need.

The folks who stayed to the last of this meeting were three Hessler owner-occupiers, one renter, myself, and Councilman Griffin. Together, on the sidewalk outside two row house owned by the Hessler Housing Co-op, they lamented that Cleveland does not have more home owning, owner-occupiers.
(More about the Hessler Housing Co-op is in a later installment of this series: The State of Hessler.)

Cleveland Ward 6 councilman Blaine Griffi, Photo: City of Cleveland
Cleveland Ward 6 councilman Blaine Griffin

Councilman Griffin earlier told the group, “I am a councilman, not a czar.” With an apparent securing of funds to repair Hessler’s wayward brick road, Griffin appears to be a resourceful elected official, not a czar.

Photo: Lee Batdorff

To help the Hessler neighbors make their case against this development click on this link.

For ongoing discussion of the proposal click on this link here.

For more about the history and construction of wood block Hessler Court click on this link here.

END

Ford Hessler proposal artwork is confusing

To: UCI President Chris Ronayne and Ford Hessler developers
       Russell Berusch and Rick Maron

From: Lee Batdorff

A piece of art work portraying the proposed Hessler Ford development is problematic. While there is other art work of the proposal that is more accurate, this inaccurate version is likely being seen by more people than the accurate artwork.

Exhibit 1 — This is the problematic art. This art, provided by the development team, has an odd looking automobile, with rear end chopped off, sitting on the property in a way that other drawings of the proposal don’t propose. The far skyline of the Uptown building shown here is tiny compared to reality.  And this depiction also shows the rear of the two-story brick apartment building at 1981 Ford including its porches. And it too, is tiny.
Exhibit 2 — This photo, taken by a Hessler Rd. resident, shows the proposed  building site and depicts a more-or-less actual height of the Uptown building skyline, and the mostly accurate size depiction of the rear of the brick apartment building at 1981 Ford Rd.—against the mostly open parking lot there now. This is as seen from across Hessler Road.

Viewing this photo along with the developer provide art in the Exhibit 1 image, makes it apparent that Hessler Rd. will be losing at least two trees to this plan.
Exhibit 3 — This overhead view, provided by the development team, shows 1981 Ford how it actually is, from above. The back end of this two-story brick apartment building properly positioned, where it actually would be obscured by the proposed four-story building on Hessler Road—as seen from across Hessler Road.

Notice that shown in the developer’s artist’s rendition, a vehicle is proposed to sit next to this building, or is the proposal to have the car sit perpendicular to what is shown in this overhead view?  Or, will this auto drop off zone actually be positioned as the artist’s rendition shown in Exhibit 1?

This may seem like a small issue to the powers that be with the City of Cleveland, UCI and the developers. Providing the concerned public an errant depiction of the proposal, as this image has done, belittles this proposal and offends people who have to live with this building.

Thank you for allowing this comment to be made.

Lee Batdorff, while not a resident of the Hessler neighborhood, was involved with the Hessler Street Fair from 1999 through 2006, and Fair secretary for two years as well as a gardener in the old Hessler Community Garden at Harmony Park.

3061 E. Overlook Rd., Cleveland Heights, OH  44118
216-773-8422  –  Thoroughdays@gmail.com

When lawful protesters of the Federal government were each awarded thousands of dollars

This poster was posted at many college campuses during early spring 1971.
This poster was posted at many college campuses during early spring 1971.

By Lee Batdorff

In 1971 thousands of anti-war protestor against U.S. Federal government policies concerning the Vietnam War (being directed by then President Richard Nixon), were more measured than the Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.

The Trump supporters shut down the U.S. Congress and committed violence in the process by breaking windows, busting up news media camera equipment, lugging off lecterns and senatorial paperwork, etc..

Five people died as a result of this ‘protest’–including a police officer. Except for the four May 4th, 1970 killings at Kent State University in Ohio, dying at anti-war demonstrations was not the norm.

These Trump supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol building, overcoming many police officers in the process. This is something that has never happened at the U.S. Capitol before, except for when the British took it during the war of 1812. There certainly will be arrests of members of this group that stormed our nation’s Capitol building.

Arresting protestors in Washington DC is a time-honored tradition. However these Trump supporters are not likely to received a financial award from the U.S. Supreme Court as some law abiding Anti-Vietnam War protesters did for their protest 50 years ago.

From Friday night April 30th to Sunday morning May 2nd 1971, I was a 19-year-old college student among some 35,000 anti-war protesters at the Student and Youth for a Peoples Peace May Day Anti-Vietnam War protest.

After sleeping outside on the ground for two nights, like most protestors, two college pals and I departed the event on Sunday morning of May 2nd. We had only 48 hours over that weekend to contribute to the anti-war cause. Thousands of riot police showed up early Sunday morning encouraging us to leave. And we needed to be back in college classes on Monday May 3rd.

We returned to our dormitory at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio late Sunday and missed the real action.

After we had been back in classes for three days on May 5th, amidst the spraying of tear gas and many indiscriminate arrests, 12,614 protestors were put into the Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. This was, and still is, the largest mass arrest in U.S. history. Eventually charges against almost all protestors were dropped though 79 protestors were convicted of mostly minor criminal offenses.

Mostly the May Day 1971 protestors were peaceful though they blocked streets. A lucky 1,200 were entered into a court case against the Federal government brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

It must be noted that these protestors were unlike the Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 6, 2021. These anti-war protestors were peaceful.

The U.S. Supreme Court determined that many million dollars in damages was done to the civil liberties of these 1,200 protesters. Each of them received thousands of dollars in the award. This was the first, and so far to my knowledge, only such award ever issued by the U.S. government.

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1971_May_Day_protests

https://longreads.com/2017/01/20/in-1971-the-people-didnt-just-march-on-washington-they-shut-it-down/

https:/https://dcchs.org/the-mayday-protestors-1971-1981//longreads.com/2017/01/20/in-1971-the-people-didnt-just-march-on-washington-they-shut-it-down/

END

Remembering Cleveland’s New Year’s Appliance Toss

photos from appliancetoss.com

by Lee Batdorff

New Year’s Eve is time to stay under roof as well as off the road. These days we stay at home and open the bedroom window a bit and listen to the celebratory sound of firecrackers close by and of semi-automatic weapons’ fire in distant neighborhoods. Cleveland Heights is relatively quiet compared to the rapid fire pops coming from Cleveland and East Cleveland neighborhoods.

Kevin Scheuring* is owner of Spice Hound and manager of  the Coit Road Farmers Market in East Cleveland which is not far from his home in Cleveland’s South Collinwood. A few years ago he posted a short audio/video on Facebook of what sounded like a war breaking out immediately outside his home at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s. (*Mr. Scheuring has nothing to do with the Appliance Toss.)

I’ve taken to being under a roof for the hour around midnight on New Year’s for many  years now. This is since I read a newspaper story about the death of a young lady from Shaker Heights Ohio walking on the sidewalk with friends on NYE in New Orleans Louisiana. A bullet fell out of the sky and struck her dead.

New Year’s need not always be so cautious.

For over two decades, until the 2016-2017 New Years, was staged the surreptitious Appliance Toss on Cleveland’s east side. The Toss is very simple. A “target vehicle,” (an old car or van contributed by a party goer with a bull’s eye painted on top), is positioned on the ground below a second floor porch railing. The party guests bring their cast off appliances, small and large, to the second floor balcony and pitch them over the railing upon the target vehicle.

I’ve attended several Appliance Tosses, and always managed to stay under a solid roof during the hour around midnight NYE. The Toss has two phases. Before and during the tossing. There is a frenzied buildup before the clock strikes midnight.

Once all the elements are in place, (including during later years a ‘Toss Dome’ constructed of wood frame and plastic sheets high above the target vehicle and the party protecting them from the elements)—at about 10 p.m. guests start to arrive.

In the later years the hospitality of the host couple was remarkable! Guests brought plenty of inebriate and the hosts provided a big hunk of beef cooked on a spit and all the implements to eat it with, along with a pot luck pot-pourri of side dishes brought by guests.

During the last hour before the strike of the New Year, guests posed for photos with the target vehicle. Young ladies draped themselves over it as if for car commercials on TV.

A few minutes before the moment of the strike of the New Year, a recording of Richard Wagner’s ‘Flight of the Valkyries’ started playing. A line of eager guests stood on the outdoor stairway to the second floor balcony porch holding their used and soon to-be-discarded appliances. At the crescendo of the Flight of the Valkyries—at the stroke of midnight—came the first toss!

While I’ve witnessed a two-level kitchen stove range unit and a washing machine being dumped over a balcony rail, it is on video where I saw a large white 1950s round corner refrigerator being lugged up an outside apartment house stairway and tossed upon a target vehicle near Hessler Road. That was apparently sometime in the late 1990s.

This is the essence of the Toss: From the lightest to the heaviest, any energy consuming appliance is dropped upon an automobile, one of  millions of CO2 (global warming) spewing vehicles on this Earth.

The guy who bought my old yellow Honda Civic eventually contributed it to the Toss. Posthumously the old GM Geo owned by American Splendor author, late Harvey Pekar, was a target vehicle.

Two water heaters, simultaneously tossed over a porch handrail upon a target vehicle.

The bashing of the Toss continued well into the wee hours. “The young ones keep at it,” said a veteran Toss activist.

The Apppliance Toss was started in the Hessler Road neighborhood of Cleveland’s University Circle. Then as the toss crew grew older they  moved into further out Cleveland neighborhoods, then out into an eastern suburb—and the Toss moved too.

One year, (somewhat after dawn of January 1st  when the Toss organizers woke up), the target vehicle was discovered to still be drive-able. Instead of taking it to a nearby wrecking yard by tow truck as usual, it was instead driven, while inflicted with many infractions against what makes a vehicle allowable on the road.

Suburban police pull the rattle-trap over—it had no windshield and was piled high with broken appliances except for the driver’s seat. When the police realize what they had on that January  1st — they called in their comrades from other patrols. They gathered together in a group photo in front of the notorious wreck that until then, they had only heard about.

After the pic session was over, the Toss crew was allowed to take the target vehicle to a nearby wrecking yard—via tow truck. There was no criminal charge. One proviso however: “If you put this out on social media, things will not go well with you.”

http://www.appliancetoss.com/

Cleveland’s early 20th Century rush hour success

The Detroit Superior Bridge

Getting over the Cuyahoga River during rush hour was a challenge met early in the 20th Century. These two photographs illustrate a major improvement in efficiency in the history of Cleveland.

The first photograph, (June 1912), is of the old Superior Viaduct, (built in 1878), in operation showing a traffic back up that likely backed well into downtown Cleveland during rush hour, as a boat passed up or down the Cuyahoga River. The backup here resembles many regular backups on many modern limited access highways in America today. (Image provided by the Cleveland State University Library.)

The old Superior Viaduct, (built in 1878), in operation showing a traffic back up in June 1912, that likely backed well into downtown Cleveland during rush hour. This for a boat passing up or down the Cuyahoga River. The backup here resembles many regular backups on many modern limited access highways in America today. (Photo Cleveland State University Library)
The old Superior Viaduct, (built in 1878), in operation showing a traffic back up in June 1912, that likely backed well into downtown Cleveland during rush hour. This for a boat passing up or down the Cuyahoga River. The backup here resembles many regular backups on many modern limited access highways in America today. (Photo Cleveland State University Library)
To remedy this the Detroit Superior Bridge was built, a 3,112-foot-long (949 m), world-class artifact. (At the time of its completion, the bridge was the largest steel and concrete reinforced bridge in the world.) It opened to traffic in 1918. (Photo Louis Szakacs)
To remedy this the Detroit Superior Bridge was built, a 3,112-foot-long (949 m), world-class artifact. (At the time of its completion, the bridge was the largest steel and concrete reinforced bridge in the world.) It opened to traffic in 1918. (Photo Louis Szakacs)

When Bicycles Rule

City of Bikes
City of Bikes

BOOK  REVIEW:
A World of Bicyclists
In The City of Bikes, the Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist
by Pete Jordan
HarperCollins. pp 438, April 2013

Review by Lee Batdorff

What would it be like if bicycles were the main mode of transportation? It is the duty of all serious American bicyclists to find out! In The City of Bikes, the Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist by Pete Jordan, is a well-documented account of a place where the bicycle rules.

Mr. Jordon, an American, who also authored Dishwasher: One Man’s Quest to Wash Dishes in All Fifty States, embraces this newer memoir with deeply researched, entertaining stories documenting bicycling in Amsterdam from the 1890s till now.

Jordon, originally from San Francisco Calif., his wife Amy Joy and son Ferris (born in the Netherlands well into the book), are émigrés from the U.S. Their memoir fits right in with the tales of bicycling Dutch royalty, bicycle fishermen, bicycle anarchists, the legions of Amsterdam bicycle denizens over generations, and the many bicycle nemesis portrayed in this book.

This is truly a bicycle rider’s book, (it includes 388 footnotes on 43 pages), researched by a thoroughgoing bike nut. I didn’t know that a bicycle frame could be embraced in so many ways! Jordon describes a bakfiets bicycle, which provides a child’s seat facing forward in front of the peddler so toddler and parent can discuss what is being seen. This is instead of towing the child by trailer alone and in distant earshot, as mostly done in the U.S.

I noted only one stretch of this volume bogging down in minutia of primary research of counting thousands of bicyclists in various dispositions passing certain city locations.

Bicycling in Amsterdam hit a nadir from the 1960s until the early 1980s, while the automobile was in ascendancy in the Netherlands. To counter act this, in 1965, Provo, an anarchist group, introduced the at-first, ill-fated white bike sharing campaign. Remarkably the White Bike Movement of Amsterdam was deemed a success in media outlets around the world—presaging numerous imitations that eventually evolved into today’s bike-sharing systems in big cities, some that are successful.

Through the 1970s, seven mass anti-auto guerrilla-style demonstrations were staged in Amsterdam by thousands of bicyclists. These events have since been emulated in many other nations in Critical Mass bicycle rides. Eventually a majority of pro-bicycle members were voted onto Amsterdam city council. In 1978 the council adopted a “Traffic Circulation Plan” that gave the bicycle primacy.

I am cheered that since then the bicyclists of Amsterdam have had the political power to influence the design of much transportation infrastructure in that city and that the 100-year-old tradition of bicyclists riding on a path through the gorgeous Rijksmuseum, (the Museum of the Netherlands), continues after many attempts to stop it.

What is the essence of living in a world ruled by bicycles? To be safe and secure riding a bicycle in Amsterdam: wear no helmet and lock your bike with two locks.

Not all bicycle-ruled locales are alike. Jordon said that on a visit to Copenhagen Denmark, another world bicycle capital, he deemed the Danes uncomfortably naïve about bicycle security compared to the churn and chaos that the many stolen and wayward bicycles go through in Amsterdam.

I rode a rented bicycle during a visit in Amsterdam in 1973 and encountered bicycle infrastructure unknown in the U.S. in those days, and many other riders, even amidst the city’s bicycle nadir. Since I missed out on my first visit, now I want to return and ride through the Rijksmuseum.

END

City of Bikes
City of Bikes

Seeking Pedestrian Justice

Right of Way

Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America
Island Press, August 2020, 227 pages

By Angie Schmitt

Book Review by Lee Batdorff

Horror begins Angie Schmitt’s Right of Way.  Eleven pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles during a seven-day-period in Phoenix Arizona. Late Ignacio Duarte-Rodriguez, 77-years-old, was killed by a hit-and-run driver, one of three people dying in recent years trying to cross a particular stretch of a six lane road.

Horror grows: Rodriguez’s son, Felipe Duarte, pleaded with the city to have a designated crosswalk installed in the middle of a ten city-block-long stretch with no indicated crosswalk where his father was killed. Mr. Duarte had hope to stop the carnage here. The city had done nothing about this in over two years since.

In 2018, 6,283 pedestrians were killed across the U.S.—53 percent more that were killed in 2009, writes Schmitt, a journalist who until recently worked for Streetblog.

Pedestrian traffic deaths receive halting consideration from U.S. leaders. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic when, according to Schmitt: “…many right-wing figures, including President Trump, used traffic deaths—some 37,000 annually (U.S.)—to make the case that some amount of loss of life is an acceptable price to pay for a strong economy.”

And, unfortunately, the U.S. news media is often ignorant and negligence in reporting about pedestrian deaths.

As with Covid-19, pedestrian traffic deaths are disproportionately among “poor, black and brown, elderly, disabled, low-income…marginalized people with fewer political resources to demand reforms.”

As a bicyclist for many decades in the U.S., I too share Schmitt’s view that many automobile drivers here, “view pedestrians, (and bicyclists), as an annoyance or irritation, a potential obstacle on their journey.”

Schmitt competently sorts through this dilemma—though, lying in wait for anyone trying to solve this is: Flawed public policy; State constitutions not allowing gasoline tax money to be used for non-motor vehicle uses; Increasing volumes of big SUVs—ever more dangerous to pedestrians; Demographic change has put more pedestrians out into auto-oriented suburbia; and a host of other pedestrian-killing realities; nested with indifferent or hostile bureaucratic and political inclinations toward pedestrian safety that inflicts the U.S. today.

Schmitt’s initial suggestion of an overall solution, provided on page five, is: “Understanding the systemic causes is the first step to saving lives. Given the right level of public commitment and resources, pedestrian deaths are preventable.”

While a large and growing amount of America’s pedestrian carnage is in the south and south west, the horror occurs where ever thoughtless infrastructure has been installed—in many places in the U.S.

“Pedestrian deaths, in other words, are a design problem. Certain streets are designed to kill,” writes Schmitt.

Schmitt enumerates concentrated places of pedestrian death across the U.S. Accounts from bereaved family members—often who are now pedestrian safety activists—and words from municipal and academic authorities, all provide hope for change that Schmitt builds upon.

Potential solutions are never far away in this book. New York City authorities overhauled Queens Boulevard, (known by locals as the “Boulevard of Death”), in 2014, after 189 people, mostly pedestrians, were killed in the previous 24 years. The redesign, “was cheap,” $4 million. There were no traffic fatalities on that road for three years after the redesign.

Unfortunately, the forces against bettering the lot of pedestrians have much power. A city councilman-led campaign claiming that extreme slowing of traffic would be drivers’ plight if a pedestrian-accommodating proposal was instituted. This was broadcasted to his 19,000 member social media list in Phoenix Ariz. After which, almost to the last member, the appointed volunteers seated on the Phoenix Complete Streets Advisory Board resigned en masse. They said they were “maligned by developer lobbyists, disrespected by City staff…”

Schmitt provides repeated accounts of excruciating journeys to find solutions that finally pop up as an improvement. Her research is extensive—the components of this story are from many knowledgeable sources across the U.S. In a way, this book is a knock-off of Alexis de Tocqueville’s ‘Democracy in America’ the 1835 sociological-political-geography study by a French writer observing the new United States of America.

‘Justice for American Pedestrians’ could be the title of this book! Current errant norms across America today can be changed—which Schmitt shows through accounts of a variety of Americans taking hold of and bringing positive change.

And, there is hope for the U.S. news media—as Schmitt bobs the reader back to surface once again. The advocacy treatment of a an especially horrific pedestrian death in East Cleveland Ohio by Fox News 8 provides an outstanding example of how news media can shine.

It stirred Ohio Republican governor Mike DeWine to take a direct role. (He travelled over 200 miles round trip to visit the site of this traffic death, in a ‘ghetto’ suburb, and commiserated with the family who’s loved one was killed).

Pressured by the broader news media attention that followed, soon the Ohio Department of Transportation installed a crosswalk light, which ODOT had negligently removed without replacement some months before.

Schmitt repeatedly operates a narrative that first drops readers into horror, then uplifts readers into humanoid success at improving public health.

Schmitt’s ever wiggling back and forth from horror to solution from horror, reminds me of the minister of a church I attended in my early teens. 

In the early 1960s, with my late biological mother Virginia, attended the Sunday adult services at a protestant Christian denomination in Akron O.

Kindly, Mom allowed me to avoid ‘Sunday School,’ which I despised.  With her, I sat with the adults. The minister’s preaching style took the congregation down into Hell, then, at just the right moment, brought congregants back up into redemption. To get you out of Hell, you need to be saved. To become a member of the church it was required to be saved twice.

If you have a smidgen of feeling for humankind, Angie Schmitt, in Right of Way, is more or less, like this minister. She joggles the reader loose through a hell-to-redemption roller coaster. As for saving one’s soul a second time, working as an activist to change this, one way or another, may redeem you.

Lee Batdorff has been a pedestrian and bicycle advocate in Cleveland Ohio for many years.

END

The neighborhood ‘Black Voices for Trump’ campaign headquarters has opened and other May-Lee stories

 

Image 1 – Sidewalk level display windows facing northbound Lee Road traffic.

By Lee Batdorff

August 30, 2020 – Update – NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with New York Times columnist Charles Blow about efforts by President Trump’s campaign and the Republican Party to appeal to Black men.
https://www.npr.org/2020/08/30/907720074/the-gops-effort-to-win-over-black-voters

DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF AUGUST 2020, was when a neighborhood headquarters for the Donald Trump presidential campaign showed up. This according to Michael, a resident of the three-story May-Lee retail and apartment building on the southeast corner of Mayfield and Lee Roads, where this Trump first floor campaign HQ is located—in notoriously liberal Cleveland Heights.

At this prime corner location, first floor display windows are filled with black and white ‘Black Voices for Trump’ signs fronting two major streets, directly across Mayfield Rd. from the architectural award winning Rockefeller Building.

Gary Gross, an old friend, while waiting at the traffic signal in a line of automobiles headed north on Lee Road—snapped photos of these storefront windows and quickly posted them to his Facebook ‘wall.’

I soon found his FB post and immediately went there to see for myself.  While spending perhaps half-an-hour on that sidewalk, I watched the reaction to the signs from people driving north on Lee Rd. in close view of the line of black-and-white pro-Trump campaign signs.

I even tried to roust one weary black man sitting in a car at an open passenger window waiting for the light to change. I called out to him, “What do you think of these signs?” He ignored me. Gary’s reaction was atypical of the passersby headed north on Lee Road.

As time passed, I realized hardly anyone in cars headed north on Lee Rd. paid any attention to this close-by display of black-and-white pro-Trump campaign signs.

Perched directly above, in second floor residential windows of the May-Lee building facing Lee Rd. is a peaceful rebuttal in cardboard signs to the first floor multiple-show-window display that is directly below this apartment.

Image 2 – Protest signs facing Lee Road on upper floors of the May-Lee building, implicated the ‘Black Voices for Trump’ as a ‘sham.’

Michael, 31, whose last name shall remain anonymous here, is a white graduate student from Alabama, studying at nearby John Carroll University in the field of psychological counseling. He lives upstairs and was out pushing his baby daughter Charlotte in a pram when we met on the sidewalk in front of the signs.

He insisted that I also see, and photograph, the upper floors of the May-Lee building facing Mayfield Rd. with more peaceful apartment window  protest signs against the ‘Black Voices for Trump,’ campaign signs on display in the storefront windows directly below their suites.

Image 3 - Protest signs facing Mayfield Road on upper floors of the May-Lee building.
Image 3 – Protest signs facing Mayfield Road on upper floors of the May-Lee building.
Image 4 - Display windows facing Mayfield Rd. sidewalk and eastbound traffic.
Image 4 – Display windows facing Mayfield Rd. sidewalk and eastbound traffic directly below the protest signs.

Between these two long store front displays is the corner entrance, (1601 Lee Rd.), to the large store floor space used by the Black Voices for Trump popup headquarters. (Located here for decades, until a few years ago, was a family-owned antique furniture store.)

Image 5 – Corner door to the large retail floor space that is the campaign office.
Image 5 – Corner door to the large retail floor space that is the campaign office.
Image 6 – Floral display in storefront window facing Mayfield Road.

This is a view of the inner workings of this ‘Black Voices for Trump’ campaign headquarters at the southeast corner of the intersection of Mayfield and Lee Roads taken through a Mayfield facing window.

Image 7 – View of office through Mayfield side display window.
Image 7 – View of office through Mayfield side show window.

Michael, who often takes his pram-borne daughter on these sidewalks, was happy to answer my questions.

How many people has he seen through the street front windows of this ‘Black Voices for Trump’ HQ retail space in the two weeks of its existence that he witnessed? Michael said twice there were small groups of mixed race visitors, and once, the TV monitor was playing showing only four white people on the TV screen to an empty office.

Two young black women walked up to cross Mayfield Rd. and stopped to admire the baby Charlotte. I asked one of them if she would visit this office. “I would not visit that office,” she said matter-of-factly.

According to a measurement made through Google Maps, the May-Lee intersection is about 400 feet west of the entrance to the old temple building that is now the location of the New Spirit Revival Center. It is led by pastors Drs. Darrell and Belinda Scott.

Darrell Scott was one of the very few black people who spoke to the crowd at Trump’s Republican National Convention held in Cleveland Ohio in August 2016.

I haven’t pursued who is paying for this prime corner retail space and I won’t being visiting there either.

***

TWO MORE STORIES about the commercial, apartment and institutional district around the Mayfield-Lee intersection:

Summer 1968
The Rockefeller Building

Image 8 – The Rockefeller Building on the northeast corner of the Mayfield-Lee intersection – 1970s or 1980s.

My first job, at $0.90 an hour, was as a 16-year-old soda jerk, making carbonated concoctions, and sandwiches at the lunch counter of the old Streight Pharmacy, a ma and pa operation in the Rockefeller Building on the northeast corner of the Mayfield-Lee intersection. (The space is now a Starbucks store, the last I looked.)

This was during the summer of 1968 with civil disruption over civil rights and the Vietnam War erupting in Cleveland and across the nation.

An older man, a regular customer who always ordered half black coffee and half hot water, along with sandwich and pie—he and I got to talking. The subject turned to the bedlam of the police riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago that had just happened. He said, “You know some of those kids kicked the cops in the nuts!”

In 1977 or 1978
The old temple building

Image 9 – Temple on the Heights – south side of Mayfield Rd., 400 feet west of the Mayfield-Lee intersection – 1920s.

In my mid-20s, it was my chosen lot to publish an “underground newspaper” during ’77-’80. It had two names, starting with the ‘Coventry Shopping News’ followed by what it grew into, the ‘Cleveland Express.’ The paper’s office in the early days was in my apartment a few city blocks away in Coventry Village.

When I needed ‘camera work’ I’d bicycled over to a ma and pa print shop, (Creative Copy Associates), entered through the corner door of the single floor commercial building on the southwest corner of the Mayfield-Lee intersection across Lee Rd. from the May-Lee building.

(In those days, a couple doors to the west of CCA’s entrance, was the door to the legendary Mayfield Music, owned and operated by Barrington R. “Barry” Weinberg.)

One day I pulled up in front of CCA on the Mayfield Rd. sidewalk intending to lock my bike—when I saw to the east a big crowd of people flowing out onto the sidewalk along the south side of Mayfield Rd.

I rode to the fringe of the crowd in front of what I knew as The Temple on the Heights—B’nai Jeshurun Congregation, (now located in Pepper Pike Ohio).

People kept coming out. The streaming crowd parted under the synagogue’s five high archways and flowed together down the wide stone steps to the sidewalk. I was told it was the funeral for a rabbi.

***
More about life in the old days of the CSN and the CE can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1025875911143663/?ref=bookmarks

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