After five months of planning, on February 23, 2019, fourteen Best Start Metro LA members and Los Angeles Walks co-hosted a neighborhood block party to bring community members together, reclaim public space for people, and gain support for safer streets.
Community members took over Gramercy Place between Adams Blvd. and W. 25th St. for four hours, creating a comfortable, safe space for all ages and abilities to enjoy a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Over 150 neighbors, children, and seniors from Independent Square attended, including local community organizations. Children enjoyed a variety of activities, from creating their own street safety sign to playing soccer. Laughter spread across the block as children hopscotched and created their own chalk art thanks to Libertas College Preparatory.
Adults gathered resources from community-based organizations, like T.R.U.S.T South LA, Anthem Blue Cross, LIFT, Women’s Center, Para los Niños, and Best Start. Seniors enjoyed playing Pedestrian Bingo led by LA Walks and danced to El Diablito’s DJ mix.
WHY GRAMERCY PLACE?
“I proposed to have the block party in my area to call the City’s attention [to the need for] a ramp so people in wheelchairs/walkers and with disabilities can have access to the bus stop,” said Karina Noriega, a resident of Independent Square and a Best Start Metro LA member. Without hesitation, Karina’s fellow Best Start Metro LA members agreed to the idea.
At the block party Best Start Metro LA members led participants on a short walk to assess sidewalks and curb ramps for accessibility in the surrounding neighborhood. Here’s what one participant had to say:
“ It was a complicated walk. There was no curve ramps and drivers were speeding. Sidewalks were not stable and need to be fixed”.
-Annie Mejia-Torres, Block Party Participant, shown in the far left in the image above
WHY A BLOCK PARTY IF WE WANT SYSTEMS + POLICY CHANGE?
The collaboration between Los Angeles Walks and Best Start Metro LA members has resulted in increased awareness of built environment concerns and sense of collective power among BSC members.
Through the planning process, BSC Metro LA members learned to research and assess the built environment in an unfamiliar neighborhood, supporting one of their colleagues’ efforts to improve the accessibility for people of all physical abilities on St. Andrews Place and Adams Blvd. By organizing and executing a block party, members learned about the City's special event permitting system barriers and Council District's limitations. More importantly, members increased their sense of leadership, shared their expertise and skills with one another, and were reminded that they could accomplish goals by working together.
“When there is unity we demonstrate our community power”.
-Jose Camacho, Best Start Metro LA member and Block Party Organizer, shown in the center
A collective sense of hope and increased sense of leadership are the building blocks that lead to systems change. With an understanding of City processes and how to demonstrate and apply their collective power, community members are poised to create tangible change.
Community members submitted a Service Request through the Sidewalk Repair Program regarding the uneven/raised sidewalk along the north side of Adams Blvd. between St. Andrews Place and Western Ave. They also submitted a request regarding the need for a ramp at the street crosswalk on the south side of Adams Blvd. and St. Andrews Place.
Importantly, BSC Metro LA members are building relationships with Council President Wesson's Office and ADA Compliance Officer in order to follow the progress of each of their requests. Members are asking who else they should communicate with to make the ramp construction a priority, and how to fund this important work.
Videography produced by: Genie Deez
Photo Credits: Red Heart Media, Cristina Valadez, and Emilia Crotty