Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Something There Is That Doesn't Love A Wall"

And the Wall Came Tumbling Down

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” Robert Frost wrote in one of his unforgettable poems. Because the walls stand in the way of their roots growing in that direction, roots are among the things that don’t love walls.

Sometime  early in the morning a few days ago, the wall at the northwest corner of Washington and 4th Street collapsed, sending bricks and large cinder blocks on the sidewalk. Because the roots had finally had enough of the tall brick wall, the wall had to make way for the roots that had undermined it. The wall is part of the property at 633 4th Street, which is currently owned by Dr. Alain Asher, the heart surgeon who recently moved to Arizona. The previous owners of the property and the lovely, landmark house on it, had neglected the tree.

If the wall had collapsed during the day, a pedestrian or the elderly man in a motorized wheelchair who passes there almost daily could have been injured. More menacingly, if the towering dying tree shown in the photo above fell  in the direction of Washington Ave.which with its roots exposed on its eastern side is the direction it likely would fall—it will probably hit the utility pole, and the tree and pole could fall on one of the many passing vehicles with such force that anyone in the vehicle could either be killed or seriously injured. Every hour that the tree remains in its current precarious position poses a serious public danger. Until that ancient, dying tree is removed, Washington Street should be cordoned off in that block and traffic detoured.

The situation at the northwest corner of Washington and 4th Street reminds me of the situation that existed in the southwest corner of Tracy Park when the city allowed Kiwanians to build a playground  in the southeast corner of the park, near trees that were in danger of falling on the playground because  some of their roots would be cut during the construction.    In spite of warnings from concerned citizens, the playground was built and within a couple of years a tall tree fell directly on the slide that children often used during the day and on a bench that parents sometimes sat in to keep an eye on their kids. Fortunately, the tree on the southeast  corner fell late at night and no one was injured.

The incompetent Jim Kalb was the mayor back when the Kiwanis playground was built, and he is mayor again. The more things change, the more morons end up being mayor of Portsmouth. But we now have a city manager, whom some people believe is not a moron, so maybe something will be done promptly to end the hazardous situation at the northwest corner of Washington and 4th. I will forward this post to his office.

Kiwanis Playground and Fallen Tree

The Cover-up: An Update on 633 4th Street

Since I last wrote on the fallen wall at 633 4th Street (see article above), there have been developments. Dr. Alain Asher, who now lives and practices medicine in the Southwest, tried for several years to sell the house. That attempt failed and to make matters worse the wall fell under pressure from tree roots  in late October of last year,  making a sale all the more difficult. In addition to the falling wall, the exhorbitent price he paid the Clayton Johnsons $440.500 for the property, which was almost twice what the Auditor's Office valued the property at, which was $244.150. So Asher paid almost $200,000 more than  the Auditor's valuation. If the property had been on the Hill, that would have been one thing, but 633 4th is in the heart of the Boneyfiddle district where the value of property, already low because of chronic poor Portsmouth housing market,  is falling further because of the presence of the Counseling Center, which has been attracting drug addicts from the tri-state area for decades. The reported crime rate in Boneyfiddle is high; the unreported rate is appreciably higher because residents often do not report petty crimes because it is a waste of time.

One of the new developments at 633 4th is that Asher  has reportedly leased the property to a doctor at the Southern Ohio Medical Center. Coinciding with the leasing of the house, the fallen wall is being rebuilt, but nothing is apparently being done about the tree whose exposed roots bulldozed the previous wall. One of the purposes of the new wall is to cover up the old problem of the huge trees at the northeast corner of the property. Asher is not prepared, perhaps is not financially able, to pay for the huge costs that would be associated with removing those trees, and in particular the tree whose roots are exposed. But by allowing him to cover up what is a hazardous situation with a new wall,
the city bears some of the moral and financial responsibility for any injuries or deaths that might result should that tree, sooner or later,  fall. The fact that we now have a city manager makes very little difference. He is surrounded by and collaborates with the same kind of crooked city officials who previously got away with cover-ups in the past. Jim Kalb is still the incompetent crook he had always been and he will soon be joined on the city council by Jo Ann Aeh  who deserves the title Coordinator of Corruption for the role she played in the past as the city clerk.

Relevant Posts: "Kiwanis Playground: Deathtrap for Tots?" Click here
                             "The Hole Truth": click here