This week, the city of Cincinnati announced that they would formally apologize for destroying an entire neighborhood in the 1950s. At the time, Cincinnati claimed it was an “urban renewal” project. In reality, the city was evicting 25,000 poor, non-white people so that a new business district and a new interstate road could be created. In private, the city called it a “slum clearance”.
Not to worry, though, as the 1950s city government promised to “build new quality housing for displaced residents”. That never happened.
Then this week, the city did apologize. But the Cincinnati Enquirer found someone who had family that was evicted in the 1950s incident. While the man accepted the city’s apology, he wondered whether there will be any actual changes moving forward. Which is a great question.
During the apology news conference, the mayor stated that “an apology is not enough” while a city councilman promised that the city “will not run from any difficult decisions”. Then the next day, the city council approved a budget that included zero new initiatives or investments for the area. So, a lot of talk and nothing of substance.
Are we sure the city has learned anything? As a history professor told the Enquirer, didn’t FC Cincinnati do this a few years ago? The team agreed to “invest” in the neighborhood yet pushed out a number of residents and businesses for their new stadium. This is after the team spent months spouting to the media about how they would not kick anyone out of their house.
“No housing will be taken. No residents will be displaced” were the exact words that FC President and General Manager Jeff Berding told a school board meeting.
Did FC Cincinnati act in the way that they promised? Of course not. Houses were taken and residents were displaced. A successful business and restaurant, Just Cookin was “torn down to make room for the new FC Cincinnati Stadium”. A 99-year-old woman had lived in her place for many years and didn’t want to leave. FC Cincinnati tried forcing her to move.
“Mary Paige said she doesn’t want to leave. She said she can’t walk and is confined to her bed. Her building will overlook the new stadium. “Soccer is putting us out … I don’t want to move. I like it here. People come visit me”. The ‘soccer’ she is referring to is FC Cincinnati, the city’s newly crowned Major League Soccer team” – Cincinnati Enquirer, 04/09/19
What about the three little girls on Central Avenue who held up signs begging not to be kicked out of their house?
“Three little girls … who live in the Central Avenue building, held a sign as large as they were that read: ‘Don’t steal our home! It’s not right for him to take our homes and kick us out’ one of them said. When asked what she would tell (FC Cincinnati), her answer: ‘I would say, You should go‘”– Cincinnati Enquirer, 04/09/19
They were kicked out and forced to move.
A full year had not even passed since FC Cincinnati’s housing promise, when the Cincinnati Enquirer found out that at least 20 people were, in fact, being displaced by the new stadium. Many more would follow, and the above two examples are ones of many that I could write about.
The kicking out of the 99-year-old woman caused so much local anger that FC Cincinnati decided to keep her building in their plans, rather than destroy it. Meaning, she can stay. But FC Cincinnati doesn’t do good things like that without something in return.
“(FC Cincinnati) recently asked council to expand the site north to include buildings at 421 Wade Street, 423 Wade Street and the Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall that sits next to those properties on John Street after the team bought those properties and another at 1559 Central Avenue. As a result of the sale, building residents have or will have to move out” – Cincinnati Enquirer, 04/22/19
So, they allow one person to stay but now want more buildings from a different part of the area? What about that promise of not kicking people out? “Unfortunately, it’s another promise broken” said city councilman Chris Seelback told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
A study commissioned as part of the community benefits agreement for the stadium found that almost HALF of residents in the West End were “vulnerable to displacement”. Too bad this was released after FC Cincinnati had already removed countless people.
Furthermore, I want to note that I do get how FC Cincinnati did pay for some people to move. When people would complain to the local media, FC Cincinnati would give them a check, which could vary from a few thousand to up to $20,000. That sounds like a lot of money because it is a lot of money. But if you haven’t moved a business before, you will know that it can be insanely expensive. The same goes with moving a family.
Besides, most of the families living in these low-rent buildings were never going to find another place that had the same price of rent. Therefore, giving them money, while nice, wouldn’t help them in the future after a few high rent checks have passed.