My son plays ice hockey, so there are many hours which to write or to talk to other parents at the ice rink. Greg, the father of one my son’s teammates, asked me, “What’s with all the rift raft in Chinatown?” He commented that he eats in Chinatown but does not feel it is very safe to bring the rest of the family. Greg may not have known it, but he had just thrown a devastating check on me.
After 20 years working on public safety improvements regarding drug dealing, prostitution and car prowls, it’s not hard to feel somewhat demoralized. I know Chinatown International has its share of the criminal elements on the streets, but I feel it is a safe place for me and my kids. Greg’s sentiment is prevalent among people in the region and remains as a primary challenge to the economic development of the neighborhood. So what do we do to make the neighborhood a place where people don’t think twice about visiting?
Urban neighborhoods have urban problems. If you don’t want urban problems, then you should live in the suburbs or in a rural area. But don’t fool yourself to believe that urban problems don’t reach out there. Given urban problems, we need to have urban solutions.
Let’s start with the Seattle Police Department (SPD). I won’t waste my time demanding more cops on the streets. As a Seattle taxpayer, I know I can’t afford to place a police officer on every corner 24/7. However, SPD can have a great impact by returning to having dedicated walking beat officers assigned to the International District. This would be a change from their bicycle patrols. I challenge our new Police Chief to work with the Mayor and City Council to find the will to provide what the neighborhood has been advocating for years.
After the police, urban solutions rely on residents and other stakeholders. One urban strategy is simple. Take back the streets. We take back the streets by having more business owners, employees, residents, shoppers and visitors walking on the streets and sidewalks. Current neighborhood efforts to take back the streets includes more programming in Hing Hay Park, block watch patrols, attracting/retaining vibrant businesses and developing/marketing more events and activities. We can displace the criminal element/behavior by replacing it with ourselves.
There’s a good chance you’re reading this column because you picked up a copy of the International Examiner while you attended the Chinatown International District Street Festival. It is the major event that attracts thousands to visit the neighborhood. To the thousands of visitors to the Street Festival and to those who remain reluctant to visit, here are a few reasons for you to return to the International District.
JamFest is an event that includes bands playing at different venues, visual arts and Salsa dancing. Along with Kobo and Momo, there are reasons to go out and shop. The last JamFest for this summer will be Thursday, August 5, 2010. Don’t let this be the last, so come and support this new series.
Movie nights in Hing Hay Park are coming to Saturday evenings in August. This is a treat to residents but also to other visitors looking to sit outside and enjoy a movie.
Chinatown Seafair Parade is July 25 and is an old favorite.
Theatre Off Jackson (TOJ) offers a variety of live shows at an affordable price. Early this year, I saw the Cody Rivers Show and never laughed so hard. TOJ gives you reasons to visit year-round, but especially during the fall and winter months.
The Wing Luke Museum is a special place with special people behind the scenes. It’s hard for Seattle Public School kids not to have visited the Wing at least once for school. The Wing tells a variety of stories which can resonate with us all.
International District is one-of-a-kind neighborhood because it has a live theatre venue, a world class cultural museum, great Asian ethnic cuisine, unique shopping and genuine cultural experiences. There are many more reasons for you to return to the neighborhood, than not to. Chinatown International District is a safe neighborhood, but sometimes has a very visible urban crime element. With each of your return visits, we are taking back the streets and sidewalks.