Old Northside, Caravelle Commons and political issues

I’m irritated right now at one of my neighbors. We live in Old Northside in Indianapolis, which is an historic neighborhood, but one with really large houses, and one that has been almost completely renovated in the 1970s and 1980s. According to a professional, it’s wise to use heavy equipment during such projects. I think he has a good point because it improves the overall efficiency. So the first wave of renovators – the hippies and liberals and gays – has come and moved on to more moderate sized homes and new renovation opportunities, and the next wave that have moved in are the wealthy right-wingers. It’s quite different than Herron-Morton Place, the neighborhood I first bought into, just north of here – where the houses were somewhat smaller, “single-family no-servant”-sized, and most people were liberals, and many were gay. I wouldn’t have thought that crossing 16th Street could make such a difference politically. And socially; some of the folks in my neighborhood are pretty big assholes and their opinions about neighborhood issues are pretty extreme. I’ll go into that a bit more later, but let me get to the specific issue at hand…

Here’s the particular issue that irritated me – one of the neighbors inquired whether there were other people receiving the New York Times, and if so, whether they were having problems with their delivery. Another neighbor replied “Typical of the Times, and much like their reporting — unreliable!” Not helpful information in any way, just any way to get a political jab in, because smearing the Times is terribly important to the tea baggers. Anything to get a political jab in. Makes me want to subscribe to the Times, out of spite. I know I shouldn’t get apoplectic about that, but come on. What the hell is the point of that?

So the other neighborhood issues: there are two major ones that have really highlighted the conservative crazy of my neighbors and made me reconsider why we’re living here. One of them is property taxes, which played out prior to 2008, and the other is more recent – a housing complex nearby. I’ll go into that first.

We have a set of apartments near our neighborhood on the north side of 16th Street, not within the neighborhood boundaries, but across the street. They are a low-income 64 unit housing project called Caravelle Commons. The apartments are not in great shape, and they’ve been mis-managed over the years so the residents have a lot to complain about. From what I understand there are problems with crime in the complex, although it hasn’t directly affected me any, so I’m not aware of specifics. Certainly our neighborhood has suffered petty crime like theft and vandalism, but there’s no real way of telling if that is coming from this apartment complex or elsewhere. We do know that there was one person shot at the nearby Kroger grocery store parking lot, and when they chased the shooter he ended up in Caravelle Commons, where they subsequently found the gun responsible for some other drug-related murders of two women and their small children. So yes – problems. Directly affecting me? Who can say. Not to any great extent, so far.

Anyways – due to the government stimulus money being handed out, the Indianapolis Housing Agency has decided to demolish and rebuild the current set of apartment buildings. What will go up is a set of 4-story buildings in a different configuration that what are there now, with greater residential capacity – 155 units, an increase of 90. So there will be less available parking, and more warm bodies in the space. There is some plan for tiered income ranges that will spread out the lower income to higher, and on the lowest level will be 65 units – basically what’s there now. The new 90 apartments are intended to be filled with people fitting the two higher tiers of income.

As soon as plans for this redevelopment were announced in March, the neighborhood got involved. To be fair to the ONS, there were some definite problems with how IHA went about doing redoing this project – they created plans and crammed them through and got initial approvals before anyone in the neighborhood knew what was going on or had a chance to ask questions or express opinions. They claimed they had support from surrounding neighborhoods before anyone from Old Northside had even heard of the project. They based their plans on increased density and parking on models from more dense cities like Chicago and New York that are not appropriate for Indianapolis. For Indianapolis, infilling vacant buildings and lots to increase density should come before making specific areas more dense.

So the neighborhood had some legitimate concerns about how the project came about, but unfortunately, those legitimate issues got drowned out initially by one loud neighbor. Specifically, one very loud voice on the neighborhood mailing list given in this site with the opinion that the whole housing complex needed to be moved “someplace further east” or “infilling the empty apartments along Meridian Street” or various other places away from our neighborhood. His opinions were loud and long and directed with animosity at everyone – the neighborhood association, the land use committee, individual neighbors, elected officials, local media. If you didn’t agree with his specific opinion, then you were an ass and an enemy. I dubbed him “Our Racist Neighbor” and that’s how I’ll refer to him here. Here are a few samples of his work posted to our neighborhood email list (April 7, 2010):

I believe that the surrounding neighborhood need to do every thing possible to see that this is not built on the current site and is built in a neighborhood more suitable to those it would house. I have been told by the city police every time we have a major crime wave in our area it is often associated with those who live at the complex and those who are visiting there. Now they want to triple the size. This smack of political gain for certain city council persons. Fair and decent housing is what the city needs but this area has changed and this is no longer the proper place for this development. The land is very valuable and could be sold and the profit could be used to build a better place and a more fitting development for those who need it. There are many sites in our area that would welcome this development that would be much more fitting. This should strongly be apposed.

Notes on that – this is a federally-funded project. The city-county council had nothing to do with it as far as I know, and had nothing to gain from it, either, other than potentially better housing situations for some citizens who aren’t well off. They didn’t have a hand in the plans at all.

More (Apr 8, 2010):

I have seen many email on how to fix the problem. IF we protest the building and sotp the project this would fix all issues. As I stated yesterday this project would be more suited now east of the monon trail and many undeveloped land areas and would be welcomed there.

And again – you can see as time goes by, he becomes increasingly unable to spell and use correct grammar (April 21, 2010):

I think every one who lives in our area should think long and hard about what this will mean. This will be a five story building {Ed Note: the units are 4 story, not 5} with line of site into many of your homes. You only need to look at Washington St. and the low income project to see what will happen to our neighborhood. We also need to see what this is going to do the price of our home and how they will drop as well as future investment in the area and what kind of developments will follow. The city has had a trend of following what has already been built. The City has already told me on occasion. I am not going to deny a petition to build a type of building when there is already one like it in the area. So if we get one five story low income project we will get another. Many in this neighborhood have worked long and hard to improve it. Many took the chance and started long before I resorted my home. Let not take a step back now so that other can hang on to there voting base and spot on the city council. People deserve a decent place to live and should but the site chosen is no longer the right place. Especially with Kroger and other retail development who would like to purchase the land. This could be sold at great profit to the city. Taking the day off could mean the difference of the loss of several hundred thousand dollars in value of your home and that of your neighbors. I think the 1:00 time is very convenient for the city to say see no one apposes it. If we need an example the federal government is asking for hundreds of thousand of dollars back from a project on the west side in which people with a criminal history were allowed to live there. The staff was found to be dealing drugs in the complex. We heed to take the time to propely oppose this building.

Here’s one to the neighborhood Land Use Committee (April 23, 2010) on what he thought their recommendations should be for the new project:

I think the position should be to push the city to sell the property at a profit and move the project east of college. This would solve all issues and be a valuble asset to that area that needs it and allowing prime space for reatail and other needed developement along 16th st Including a new Kroger. Rather than trying to fix it let give them a better alternative.

And these aren’t even the most volatile ones. But combing through his emails makes me want to vomit, so this is the selection you’re getting for now.

Now the notion of moving Caravelle Commons somewhere “more appropriate” may immediately strike you as problematic (and by problematic, I mean racist and classist and against the law) and well it should. It certainly struck our elected officials and media that way. And anyone with common sense in neighborhood realized that as well. But that didn’t stop Our Racist Neighbor one bit from repeating his plan over and over again, and even threatening legal action.

Our elected officials didn’t want to have anything to do with the idea of moving the housing complex, to their credit, and they certainly didn’t want to be on record as considering that as a possibility even to reject it. Unfortunately Our Racist Neighbor was so loud that when other people started to express concerns about the density of the complex and potential parking issues, they were immediately associated with Our Racist Neighbor in the minds of elected officials and media, and no one gave them the time of day. So they people with concerns about parking and the density of the complex had a pretty big mountain to climb to try to get their concerns heard.

I admit I associated all of the Caravelle Commons Objectors together for a long while, until I really took a look at the increase in density, and considered what I had read about urban planning and density issues. I know there’s a zeitgeist within urban planning circles to say that greater density helps a city become more vibrant, but I’m not sure that has really been proven, and I certainly don’t think it’s ideal from Indianapolis. Certainly we have a sprawl problem, and a lack of public transport problem that is intense bordering on the criminal in nature, but Chicago and New York are just way too dense.

Seriously – look at the people moving out and where they’re going. People live in tiny apartments in the city long enough not make enough cash to move to the suburbs and commute a few days a week and telecommute most of the week. So as far as density goes – they may have a point. But I don’t know that my fellow neighbors really have read as much about urban planning as I have and know all that. They also kept talking about the income levels of the people who will be residing there, which really makes me wonder how much their concerns were more based in racism and classism (we don’t want poor black people near us) than any real understanding of how changing the density of the neighborhood and surrounds will affect us.

I think the other Objectors probably have a real concern about parking, too. Indy public transportation is really abysmal. So planning for only one car per apartment unit is really a terrible idea. These residents will have no way to get around town, and they’ll definitely have more than one car – you have to in Indianapolis if you have more than one adult in your household. It’s not ideal, but it’s the case, and should be considered in housing planning.

After listening to what they were saying, I could see that maybe, probably, there were problems with this new housing development that could affect us. I don’t think carting the whole project over to the east side and dropping it there would be anything but racist, but there might be some concerns that revisions in the plan could address.

I had heard that our elected officials were all gung-ho in favor of the idea, so I wrote an email to various of them, and got a direct and specific response from Mary Ann Sullivan, who gave me a call to talk about it. I think she was legitimately surprised to hear from me. She does, I think, have a vague idea who I am from the internet and Facebook, and she knows I’m pretty far left on the political spectrum, so I don’t think she expected to hear me speak out against the new housing plans. During my almost 2 hour discussion with her about the project, I realized how badly Our Racist Neighbor had poisoned the well, because it was pretty obvious that all of the Caravelle Commons Objectors had all be lumped together in her mind and in the minds of everyone associated with developing and building the new housing project. They were all racists, and that was that.

I made a case about the density and the parking, and she seemed to think that those weren’t really huge concerns – citing urban planning studies and “folks who know about these things.” I told her what I knew about urban planning, and I tried to give her a better sense of what people in our neighborhood were thinking – including separating Our Racist Neighbor from some of the other folks who had no objection to the location of the project, just the size of the plans. I don’t know if my voicing my concerns helped. Maybe.

The folks who were making the case about parking and density and public safety issues did eventually get a chance to sit down and talk through those concerns with IHA just before the plans went through and everything was approved for groundbreaking. IHA made some changes to their plans for parking and enforcing how parking will work, and they tried to work on public safety issues with crime watch patrols. So some things changed as they are going forward.

The whole thing has left me very cynical about our neighborhood, though. Not the location or design, which is amazing; or the houses, which are stunning to look at. But very much about the people. Our Racist Neighbor has poisoned more than one well.

And after all this, I don’t think there’s time to jump back in the time machine to address 2007-2008 property tax issues and the ouster of former Mayor Bart Peterson, issues that also leave me cold with my neighbors, so I guess I better stop here.

June 2012 Update: While under construction, one of the new buildings being built on the former site of Caravelle Commons, now called Park 16 Apartments, burned to the ground in a 3-alarm blaze that also burned down surrounding church buildings and threatened houses across the street.

Continue ReadingOld Northside, Caravelle Commons and political issues

Asshole parked in my parking space

Asshole parked in my parking space

I swear, one of these days

Update: This was an over-reaction on my part, and I’m sorry about it. These are new folks who live across the street from us. The condos they moved into are supposed to park in off-street parking behind their building and not on the street, and especially not in front of our house. From what our neighbors say, that information is supposed to be given to new residents, but I don’t know if these folks have that information.

Further Update: No, they knew they shouldn’t be parking there. And they’ve been told repeatedly that they’re not supposed to do so. And they continue. So the law will soon be involved, since they’re violating a city ordinance to park here.

Sec. 621-117. Parking for longer than six hours restricted.

It shall be unlawful for the owner, driver or operator of any vehicle to park such vehicle, or to permit the vehicle to be parked or to stand, for a longer period than six (6) hours upon any street, alley, highway or other public place in the city, other than with the written consent of the owner or tenant of the property abutting the street, alley or place where the vehicle is parked; provided, however, this section shall not be deemed to permit the parking or standing of any vehicle in contravention of any other provision of this chapter or Code prohibiting, restricting or regulating the parking or standing of vehicles.

(Code 1975, § 29-263)

Also — let me make it clear, since I got a comment — putting this photo up is NOT a violation of these people’s privacy. You have no expectation of privacy if you park on a public street, whether or not you’re doing something wrong. Photography is not a crime, nor is publishing photographs taken in public spaces. They only place you have an expectation of privacy is in your own home or dwelling place, or places where you have a reasonable expectation of privacy such as a hotel room, gym locker room or store dressing room. It is perfectly legal for me to both take and publish this photography and I don’t have to obscure identifying information, like the license plate.

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Major A. Riddle and Old Lady Riddle’s House

NOTE & UPDATE: There’s a comment here on this post from DACI (see comments down at the bottom of the page) that corrects much of the information in this post. There was a kernel of truth and much speculation in the story I recount here from my older neighbor regarding Major Riddle, and because of this, it’s important to take my anecdotes with a grain of salt and then read the comment by DACI for a more complete truth. I very much appreciate the updated information from her, because it gives a much clearer picture of Major Riddle and his life.

A while back, I was looking up the history of our house in the Old Northside Historic Plan, and I noted that the third owner of our house was Charles L. Riddle, who owned a lighting store in town in the 1920’s. I found a picture of the store in the Indiana Historic Archives, and posted it to my blog. We found out a bit more about the Riddle family today.

We were out working in the yard this afternoon, and stopped to have a chat with our neighbor Mr. K——, who’s an older fellow (graduated from Arsenal Tech in 1949) who once lived in the house next door. His son K—– owns the house now, and we’ve chatted with him many times, but we hadn’t ever talked to his dad.

He filled us in on what it was like to live there as a kid, and who owned what houses, and what some of the houses that burned down used to look like, and generally gossiping and telling us about some of the scandals in the neighborhood, which is HUGELY entertaining coming from a 77 year-old man.

He was telling us that when he was a kid, (in the late 1930s and early 1940s) the house was owned by “Old Lady Riddle” – her name was Susan, Charles’ wife. Charels died in 1925, apparently, and she owned the house after. Her son was a Major Arteburn Riddle, who grew up in our house and started a trucking company during the Depression here in Indiana. He was a generation older than Mr. K——–.

He told us that Riddle got rich during the Depression because he would sell rigs to his truck drivers and finance their purchase, then when they were 3/4 paid for, he would lay them off and foreclose on the loans by taking the rigs, so he had a reputation as a shady guy. (See DACI comment for more on this.)

Then he said that Major Riddle (all this time, we’re thinking “Major” as a military rank, but that was his actual first name) took all his “trucking” money and went to Vegas and bought into the Dunes Hotel, and after that he was really rich.

When he got to that part, I remembered that K—– had mentioned this story awhile back, too, but at the time I was more interested in Kurt Vonnegut, who lived for a while with his grandparents on 13th street, right around the corner from us, so I forgot about the Dunes Hotel story. Our neighborhood had some relatively famous residents in Indianapolis history.

Anyways, Major Riddle was married, but he came back to visit his mom one day with another woman — in a big convertible Cadillac with fins and a set of longhorns on the front. I wish I could describe word-for-word what Mr. K——- said, because it was classic — he said he couldn’t remember the woman’s name, but she was famous: “that woman. You know, that woman they were all shooting each other up for out there in Vegas.” She got out of the car, and took her fur coat out (in was in a garment bag?) and they walked up on to the porch, and Old Lady Riddle opened the door, and said:

“You can come in, but that whore has to stay on the porch.”

Which everyone around heard, because they were all out gawking at the car. And then he talked a bit more about the fancy Caddy, and mentioned that Riddle bought a 1960 Cadillac for Old Lady Riddle “before that, all her cars were Packards.” And because it was too big to fit in the garage, “they tore down the garage and built that one” – pointing at our rather spacious one car garage. He remembered them building it.

And then he went on to talk about Major’s sister, (? don’t know who this was; turns out Major didn’t have a sister) and how she made picnics every week on our front porch and invite all the neighbor kids from all around to eat, and Old Lady Riddle would have fits, because she didn’t want them all at her house.

And from there he talked about the neighborhood changing in the 1950s from an all-white neighborhood to a mostly black one, and how the neighborhood got poorer and many of the lovely homes burned down.

So after we came in I sat down and started searching for Major Riddle and the Dunes Hotel, and found quite a lot.

It becomes apparent that Riddle’s trucking company here in Indiana had some pretty serious mob connections, and that he was involved with the Teamsters in Chicago and Vegas, too. And he was a major figure in early Vegas history, buying into the Dunes in 1956, bringing the very first topless Burlesque show to Vegas, and raking in loads of cash and making Vegas a hot spot for high rollers and wealthy gamblers. Major Arteburn Riddle was a pretty famous guy, and he may have slept in the Murphy bed in our house. (It was installed in 1924. Don’t worry, we bought a new mattress for it.)

Riddle also appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in 1962 to hawk his book, “The Weekend Gambler’s Handbook” to promote the Dunes.

There’s an entire thread on rec.gambling.poker about “The Takeoff of Major Riddle” which was apparently some huge poker scam involving fleecing Major Riddle at the Aladdin Room at the Dunes. This is why it’s better to gamble on trusted online gaming sites like parhaat pelisivut.

I haven’t figured out who the floozy on our front porch was yet, but I’m hoping to track her down.

And it occurred to us to wonder what might be under the garage floor, and under that weird spot of different-colored concrete in the basement. 🙂

In all, it’s made for a very entertaining afternoon of googling, and we have a theme for our next party, too. And my next pet will be named “Major Arteburn Riddle” after our esteemed mobster pal and former resident.

After learning all this, though, we realized we know most of the people who’ve owned/dwelled here: Joseph Caylor, Dennis Jenkins, Charles Riddle/Susan Riddle/Major A. Riddle, the Zimmermans, James Q. Mease, Dylan Wissing and Johnny Socko Band, Julie Wohead and friends, and the Mineart-Koutek family. Our house has a pretty colorful history.

2009/11/21 UPDATE: we picked up the book Bugsy’s Baby: The Secret Life of Mob Queen Virginia Hill
and discovered that the “woman they were shooting each other up over in Vegas” – Virginia Hill – was indeed having an affair with Major Riddle, however, she probably wasn’t the floozy made to stay on the porch. (see comments from Riddle family members below.)
Continue ReadingMajor A. Riddle and Old Lady Riddle’s House

Our Wedding Locations

You may or may not know this already, but Stephanie and I are getting married on May 31, 2008. Last week we visited our planned locations to take photos and reserve them.
We’re getting married in Great Oak Commons Park in our neighborhood, Old Northside, about a block away from our house. It’s a pretty little park owned by our neighborhood association on 14th Street and Park.
Great Oak Commons Fountain
See more pictures of Great Oak Commons Park.
Our reception will be at the Propylaeum, a mansion in our neighborhood, located on Delaware:

The Propylaeum Club was built in 1890 by John W. Schmidt, a brewer from Germany, located just down the street from the Morris-Butler home and the President Benjamin Harrison’s home, it was just as grand. The members of the Propylaeum club, which is composed of women with the purpose to “inspire a love of literature, music, science, and the fine arts….to furnish Indianapolis with a woman’s social and cultural center”, decided to house their society there in 1922.

The Propylaeum
See more pictures of The Propylaeum

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Old Northside Neighborhood Photos

Ovid Butler House
Flickr Photoset of Old Northside Neighborhood
Stephanie and I took the dog for a long walk around our gorgeous neighborhood this weekend, and I snapped a bunch for photos (148, to be exact) for my growing collection of pictures of our neighborhood.
We are very lucky to live in one of the most scenic neighborhoods in the city, in a modest house in the middle of some very grand mansions. I’ve been snapping pictures of the neighborhood since we moved in last year; the historic victorian architecture is amazing. Old Northside was one of the prominent neighborhoods in the late 1800s – the state’s prominent businessmen and politicians lived here. It was also the original home of Butler University, and the house in the photo above is the home of Ovid Butler, the founder of the university.

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I voted

First time I’ve voted in the new neighborhood – at the Old Centrum church on 12th and Central. It’s a bit easier to get into and park than the firestation I used to vote at.

Jon Elrod was there, as well as one of Mahern’s nephews, handing out campaign literature. I forgot to wear my Democrats baseball cap today.

Oh, and I should report that I had not trouble voting even though I didn’t update my address on my driver’s license. The poll workers did note that it didn’t matter that my address was different — all that was needed was my picture and name.

Looks like others around the country are not having such luck, however, as compiled by Shakespeare’s Sister…

I voted
I voted
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We’re Hiding in the House With the Lights Off

Because we ran out of candy about 10 minutes ago. Holy crap! We gave away not only all of our candy, but the candy our neighbor brought over because he had to leave. We had about 150 kids or so. And we can still hear them out there walking up and down the street. Next year — way more candy.

We didn’t expect to get many kids; we asked the neighbors and they said there are only ever a few. If this is a few, I’m worried what they think a lot would be.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Mystery House

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The Harrison Art Gallery

The Harrison Center For The Arts
1505 North Delaware
Indianapolis, IN 46202
An art gallery in our neighborhood – just bookmarking for future reference.
The Harrison Gallery boasts a fast-paced gallery schedule featuring monthly shows. Focusing primarily on Indianapolis artists, the gallery provides an entertaining atmosphere that is welcoming to the seasoned gallery hopper and the novice alike.
Gallery hours: Mon-Fri, 9am – 5pm, Sat, 12 – 4pm

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