Truce Called In Farley Square (Bannon Park) Battle
“That little grass may not mean a lot to somebody, but for some kids, that little field is all they have. I will fight for these kids to keep this little piece of grass.” Maxine Malone is determined to save as much of the green space near Bannon Park as possible. But she insists that community members must step up to do their part.
The Portsmouth Metropolitan Housing Authority’s plan to use part of the park area as a parking lot has drawn outrage and claims of racial discrimination from residents who say their kids have precious little green space as it is.
PMHA said it plans to move the rental office to the community building to meet handicap accessibility guidelines and that part of that green space is needed to six parking spots. PMHA said those parking spaces are mandated by law for the building to be handicap accessible.
Failure to Communicate
After a huge community outcry over the loss of park space, PMHA leaders met with Maxine Malone, Scioto County NAACP Director Andre Sappington, and other community leaders.
Sappington says the meeting was a good one. “We had a really productive meeting with PMHA. There was a miscommunication on my part and people in the community. They are willing to work on other viable solutions to find alternative parking. I want to clarify that. We’re all out here working to make sure our kids have a safe space.”
Change of Plans
PMHA’s Chairman of the board Emily Cobb agrees there was a failure to communicate. “There’s been a real breakdown in communication. I think we’ve resolved that today. There was some thought that this was all racially motivated. I don’t know where that came from. The housing authority is at fault, too. We should have been much more in communication with the people of Farley Square.” She said PMHA is more than willing to alter the plans. “I will tell you nothing is going to happen that is detrimental to the children of this community. There’s going to be another way of doing what we want to do and it’s going to make everybody happy. That’s the way it’s going to be.”
Residents stressed that the green space is important for sports and other activities like revival meetings.
Anthony Kerns said, “I was born and raised here in Farley Square. I’ve traveled around the world and I’ve never had a place better than home. This park is vital to our youth and our community. This park helped build me and make me a better person.”
Maxine Malone said residents must take responsibility for the area. She pointed out that PMHA personnel and other volunteers frequently pick up needles, cans, and other refuse from the area. “Sometimes they’re out here picking up cans and needles. needles that some of you all are doing. Let’s keep it real. Accountability goes both ways. I’ve got to do something about this park. I’ve got to get mean. I’ve been too soft. You can do the same thing that I’m doing. You can’t fight. You have to think. We went to the table with a plan. I put my actions on the table. I expect you to do your part.”
Malone said the issue wasn’t about race, but about community. “PMHA has been good to me and you. “It’s not a black and white thing. Let’s work together people.”