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Friday, October 4, 2013

"Spotlight on Railroad Island"

A Response to Violence

Submitted by Councilmember Amy Brendmoen, Ward 5

In my first year in office, I have focused a great deal of energy on the neighborhood known as Railroad Island—a small community immediately to the north and east of downtown Saint Paul that is geographically encircled by a ring of railroad tracks and the lovely Swede Hollow Park. I believe this area holds incredible potential to become one of the most sought-after neighborhoods in the city. Railroad Island boasts proximity to Lowertown, great schools, urban refuge such as Swede Hollow Park and Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, anchor retail institutions such as Morelli’s, Yarusso’s and La Palma, major employers on the Phalen corridor, all of these assets sweetened by solid housing stock of beautiful, Victorian homes.

Unfortunately, this vision of prosperity is contrasted by high levels of poverty, crime and disrepair in the area. The seriousness of these problems was underscored recently when a Metro State student who lived in the area suffered a random, brutal attack by gang members. The Community has called for immediate actions to better address the complex issues that lead to crime and despair. The City of Saint Paul, in partnership with the community, area organizations and Ramsey County, is working to ensure a bright future for railroad Island and its residents.

Last month the Saint Paul Police conducted a “Blue Wave” of increased law enforcement presence and enforcement in the area, much of which remains in place today. This month I am working with the Department of Safety and Inspections and Payne Phalen District Council to conduct comprehensive sweep to rid the area of trash and debris. The City’s Planning and Economic Development Department has chosen Railroad Island as a target cluster area for redevelopment of additional homes and vacant lots to create quality housing options. The East Side Neighborhood Development Company will be conducting an aggressive project in the area to hold landlords accountable for providing safe and attractive places to live.

Residents and neighborhood leaders continue to engage in conversations about what must be done to address the challenges that exist in Railroad Island. Mayor Coleman, my City Council colleagues and I will be listening closely and considering additional opportunities to do better by our city’s youth and neighborhoods challenged by poverty and crime.

I remain committed to shining the spotlight on Railroad Island and surrounding neighborhoods. I urge concerned neighbors to continue the conversation, invest their own time and talents to improve their neighborhoods and share their ideas with me. We need more people working toward the vision of peace and prosperity in Railroad Island and with significant effort and commitment, that vision will become a reality.

The Railroad Island Task Force meets on the fourth Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Eastern District Police Station. All are welcome.

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