Friday, April 16, 2010
Riberia Street Blues
Photo credit: Marie Bermudez-Phillip
Photo credit: Marie Bermudez-Phillip
Last night, Lincolnville residents and businesses heard a briefing from the City of St. Augustine and its consulting engineer about Riberia Street.
Riberia Street is a fetid symptom of racism in St. Augustine. Riberia Street is subject to massive flooding, lacks sidewalks and safety features, and damagers cars on its washboard roads. Residents should sak City officials to pay their car repair bills, or sue the City.
Rampant environmental racism by the City of St. Augustine has turned once-beautiful Lincolnville into the Pollution Peninsula.
Illegal dumping of solid waste and sewage by the City of St. Augustine have damaged the environment, including the salt marsh ecology.
City garbage trucks and a sewage treatment plant mar the confluence of two rivers – imagine if Thomas Jefferson’s favorite spot on this planet in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia (confluence of two rivers) were trashed with trash and a sewage treatment plant, instead of being part of a national park!
So the City of St. Augustine, under the gun from our Environmental Jusitce complaint to EPA, is actually stating it will complete the project in 18-24 months, in one or two phases (not five).
There will be sidewalks along the west side of Riberia Street.
There will be no bicycle path. Why?
There will be no widening of the road at any point. Why?
No commitment to put the public interest first.
City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS – thecorpulent right-wing Republican ideologue who bosses and bullies all of the employees in our bloated City government –– instructed the engineer to make his plans without taking a single clod of earth from anyone.
No eminent domain.
No negotiations with property owners.
No bike path.
Nothing to enhance the value of Lincolnville and make it more livable and more open to new businesses.
There were some 41 African-American businesses in Lincolnville in 1964. None survive due to racism, boycotts and bigots, who enacted a zoning law in the 1970s that requires businesses to provide parking. Lincolnville was once a walkable neighborhood, but that has changed with the crazy drivers of city trucks, who insist on speeding down narrow streets, endangering pedestrians on streets that lack sidewalks.
The goal of the Riberia Street project is to pave and provide proper drainage for the first time in the history of Riberia Street. Riberia is a corruption of the Spanish word “Ribera,” which means shoreline. The street closely sorresponds to the historic shoreline along the San Sebastian River. Old maps show that fill and marshland have been added by man and nature since the 1800s. Due to a long history of environmental racism in St. Augustine, Riberia Street was never properly paved or planned.
The goal is apparently not to make the road safer, which would involve a combination of traff9c-calming devices, bicycle paths and road-widening.
Developer ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD owns seven or eight big ‘ole lots on the west side of Riberia Street. Was he asked to give up a few feet of property to make the road safer? Nope.
The cabined parameters that St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS & Co. provided were that no homeowner or business owner (and no tree-killing, wetland-destroying speculator) be asked to do anything to make the road safer.
JFK said, “Ask not what your country will do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS does not believe in asking greedy capitalist scum like ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD to sacrifice anything.
Meanwhile, City garbage trucks continue speeding down Riberia Street (where one nearly killed me two years ago the very first time I entered my office on Riberia Street in 2008. Of course, our it is trite but true that City employees are empowered to exceed the speed limit by City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS, who says that city vehicles can exceed speed limits.
WILLIAM B. HARRISS doesn’t know any more about running a government than a hog. See, e.g., United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), holding that not even the President is above the law.
WILLIAM B. HARRISS is the reason why Riberia Street requires pontoon boats to navigate in rains and ruins cars from washboard roads that have never been properly paved. WILLIAM B. HARRISS is the reason why our City of St. Augustine dumped 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste in our Old City Reservoir, an open sore going straight down into the aquifer and groundwater. WILLIAM B. HARRISS is the reason why our City of St. Augustine has turned the San Sebastian and Matanzas Rivers into sewers, polluting them from leaking and broken pipes. WILLIAM B. HARRISS is the reason why artists and entertainers along St. George Street are harassed and hundreds of people have been illegally arrested.
Riberia Street needs bike paths and parks. The City’s refusal to consider eminent domain (or even friendly negotiations with landowners) led to its treating the current contours of Riberia Street as if they should be thattaway in perpetuity.
The City says it is planning to build all of Riberia Street over an 18-24 month period, but no funds are in place and there are vague plans to sell bonds. By redlining Lincolnville out of the CRA, HARRISS and cronies made it difficult to get funds for any project in Lincolnville. These rabid racist reactionary Republicans have no shame.
The City of St. Augustine must stop discriminating against African-American communities (Lincolnville and West Augustine). If not, the City will hear the sound of God’s own thunder, as the Environmental Justice complaint we filed with EPA January 19, 2009 may result in cutoff of all federal funds to the City and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP, a/k/a “Don’t Expect Protection,” as my late friend David Thundershield Queen put it best).
Riberia Street is the poorest excuse for a "street" in the entire Southern United States.
Our City of St. Augustine, Florida exemplilfies environmental racism.
Lincolnville, otherwise known as "the Pollution Peninsula" hasn't had a proper playground in 20 years.
Lincolnville has been victimized by solid waste and sewage dumping.
Lincolnville has the worst streets in the City, the worst of which is Riberia.
Riberia Street has never been right.
Riberia Street never will be right without massive citizen protest.