Compassion for all members of our community and a low tolerance for open criminal activity are not contradictory.
— McCormick Pier Condominium Association
The condominium association that closed a public path along the Willamette river last week has issued a statement calling on “transportation advocates” and other interested parties to come together in order to address the “crisis” of citywide homelessness.
The McCormick Pier Condominium Association re-opened public access to the path on Friday after the City of Portland made their presence felt at a large homeless camp adjacent to their property.
Here’s the statement they just released:
Safety, Accessibility, and Community for All in the North Waterfront Park Neighborhood
McCormick Pier Condominium and Business Community Call for Community Safety Plan and Dialogue
Local residents, businesses, bicyclists, pedestrians, and visitors to the neighborhood at the north end of Waterfront Park downtown and the greenway to the north have all seen a dramatic increase in illegal drug use, car break-ins, theft, assaults, and other dangerous activity in and around their neighborhood over the past several months—dangerous and illegal activity that coincides with the announcement from the City that they are re- evaluating their policies for dealing with the homelessness issue citywide. While most of this activity stems from the tent camps underneath the west side of the Steel Bridge, homelessness itself is not the problem—and we are equally concerned that this crisis also affects the innocent local homeless population. The real issue is that while the community waits for new policy directives, the City has backed off from active policing in and around homeless tent camps, allowing criminal and dangerous activity to flourish.
As neighborhood members who have been dedicated to building a strong, vibrant community for decades, we are asking all the stakeholders in our community—from homeless and transportation advocates and business associations to the Mayor’s office, the Parks Department, and City Commissioners—to come together to address this crisis. We cannot wait and allow the situation to worsen due to inattention and inaction.
We are encouraged that Mayor Hales has indicated that he will propose changes to the City’s homelessness policies at a February 8 City Council work session and that his office has announced that they will install a new pilot Day Storage Project in Waterfront Park by the end of the month. We applaud the City’s effort to balance the concerns on all sides. However, these measures by themselves will do little to address the immediate crisis of lack of security for all people in the neighborhood and the safety concerns of those facing illegal and often violent activity in the park, on the greenway north of the park, and around McCormick Pier.
We have attempted to bring our concerns to the City, as requested, only to be told that peppering their offices with numerous complaints is counterproductive. We have reached out to the Portland Police, only to be told that there is little they can do until someone is caught in the midst of a violent felony.
Just a few days ago, five stolen rifles were found by police inside a nearby tent—and one of the two people arrested has been a familiar presence in the McCormick Pier area. We have been gathering stories from our neighbors: the local convenience store owner where shoplifting has become routine; the security guard who was assaulted while on the job; the resident who confronted a thief stealing a package off a neighbor’s porch and was assaulted for his trouble; and the numerous people who have found hypodermic needles on a regular basis on the greenway and in our neighborhood.
We have reached out within the appropriate channels to bring official attention and resources to help our community, with little to show for it except a request to be patient and to alert the City to any serious violent felonies. Believing this approach to be inadequate to safeguard the broad community of greenway users and understanding the temporary inconvenience this would cause for some, we reluctantly took the decisive step of closing the greenway, due to the impossibility of meeting our obligation to provide safe, sound access given the lack of police response and enforcement of obvious safety norms.
The closure of the greenway brought a much-needed spotlight of public attention to the issue, followed by official responses. Friday morning, we re-opened the greenway. Now, while we await new measures from the Mayor’s office to help the homeless population of north Waterfront Park, in the short term, we look to the City to improve the public safety of all with more active and frequent patrolling of Waterfront Park, the greenway, and the McCormick Pier neighborhood and to police the illegal drug usage, the theft and shoplifting, the assaults and break-ins, so that we can continue to provide safe access to the greenway. Longer term, we want to participate in a dialogue with all the neighborhood stakeholders: the commuter and recreational users of the greenway, the residents and local businesses of McCormick Pier, the homeless and their advocates, and City officials, to agree on a common way forward for the community.
Compassion for all members of our community and a low tolerance for open criminal activity are not contradictory. We love our city and we love our neighborhood. McCormick Pier was one of the first developments along the Willamette north of Old Town, with the apartments built in the early 1980s by Bill Naito. Three decades later, we remain committed to providing good housing and good jobs for our community. We are confronting this dangerous situation for the benefit of all members of our community, and we can’t do it alone. While we continue to maintain the greenway and to provide some security, we look to the City to partner with all of us in the neighborhood community to deal with this crisis and improve public safety. The time has come.
McCormick Pier Condominium Association
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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