Wednesday, February 14, 2007

what they did not tell you

After my photoshop fun of yesterday, I am staying on the topic of The "W" - because, well, marketing pisses me off. I am countering that with a little anti-marketing.

Today I had occassion to be driving along East Hastings, when I was re-directed by the po-lice due to a large crowd blocking the street at Main and Hastings (just after I passed a group of about 8 desperados openly shooting something into their veins in front of a boarded-up store). The crowd was holding an annual vigil for the 60-odd women missing from the area. We know what happened to quite a few of them.

The "W" sits at 100 West Hastings - a scant 3 blocks from the Carnegie Community Centre, a scant block from Victory Square, and a meagre two blocks from the colourfully named Blood Alley (just at the end of Trounce Alley).

I wonder if they mentioned the community centre, local parks (Oppenheimer Park is nice on a summer evening), the library at Carnegie, and the cheap eats available there, in the promotional literature for The "W". Intellectuals who will be inhabiting those expensive intellectual properties for the bold were surely mindful of those near-by amenities when considering their purchases.

I found an interesting article relating a reporter's visit to the Carnegie Community Centre in The Republic of East Vancouver. It is an interesting introduction to some of the colourful characters buyers at The "W" will know as neighbours.

How much did those places sell for again?

A visit to the Carnegie Community Centre makes you think about what we mean when we say “community.” It’s Friday, January 19th and I’m coming up the steps of Carnegie with 2005 mayoral candidate Peter Haskell. The crowd of people outside the 104-year-old building tries to sell us everything from syringes to Tylenol-Threes. Haskell is one of many who are forbidden to use the facilities at Carnegie, but as we enter, nobody seems to notice him. As soon as we enter, staff throws somebody out for being intoxicated.

He yells “Get your hands off me!” as he struggles to keep from losing his morsels of food.

I meet another man who has been kicked off the property. Ricky, a big first-nations man, speaks with a somber tone and chooses his words very carefully. “They kicked me out of Carnegie,” he says, “They say it was because I smelled.” “I’m a warrior,” says Ricky, “and I’m not going to let them tear down my community.”

The demographics...are overwhelmingly Southeast Asian; at least fifty percent. It’s at least 30% visible first-nations, and 15% Hispanic. (rich foreigners?)

There is a small branch of the Vancouver Public Library in the building and it is perpetually busy. All the washrooms have those white lights that are supposed to make it hard for intravenous drug users to be able to see a vein to shoot up, but there are needle drop box receptacles on the walls. The washrooms are scary enough, but the lights give them an extra spooky appearance. (Great for the kiddies at Hallowe'en)

It brings me back to the point about what we mean when we say “community.”

Carnegie has recently had a lot of changes...such actions such as groups of seniors picketing Tourism Information Offices and saying “welcome to Vancouver” and handing tourists information about the gentrification that’s been going on here. But critics of the Carnegie are quick to point out that Carnegie management make upwards of $50 000 per year, while volunteers work hours for enough meal tickets to be able to buy something to eat in the cafeteria. link

The homeless you have with you always . . .

Some of the locals -

Abigail is one of the homeless denizens of Vancouver's
notorious Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. Photo courtesy of Union Gospel

A drug deal in Vancouver's downtown eastside: home to the highest
population of intravenous drug users in Canada, and one of the "worst HIV
epidemics in the developed world." photo: City of Vancouver


Sensible said...

"...The crowd was holding an annual vigil for the 60-odd women missing from the area. We know what happened to quite a few of them..."

Yes, we know what happened to them - they were killed by someone from the suburbs, not by someone from the downtown eastside. The serial killer was from Coquitlam, the wonderful suburbs.

mk-kids said...

I owned a loft at Cordova & Carrall for about 5 years, I lived in it for about 10 months total. I bought it because I work in mental health, many of my clients live in the DTES, I understand the issues & have compassion for the people living there. I figured I would be fine living there but no. It was horribly depressing to be surrounded by that desperation & negativity day in & out. Sirens & the rattle of shopping carts & crazy screaming was constant. In the summer you could not sleep with your windows open. Vomit on the floor of the local convenience store & needles & condoms on the sidewalk, people asking for spare change for a meal and when I would point them to the Dugout a half block a way they would curse me a blue streak. That was always a nice way to start my day.

You can't underestimate the effect that that sort of energy has on people and will have on you. It is a serious quality of life issue. You can't pretend it isn't happening because its in your face 24-7.

You couldn't pay me to live there again and having heard for almost 10 years that the area is being cleaned up & seeing all the great plans like the Carrall greenway that haven't happened I'd be very skeptical to think the area will change significantly once the W is complete.

Warren said...

Hey, Blood Alley is cool, but otherwise your post is bang on. Anybody who bought into the marketing bullshit and bought at the W deserves everything they're getting.

Anonymous said...

I used to work on the dt eastside (2002-2005) During my tenure the area got progressively worse. At first i felt sorry, but after seeing it so much i became oblivious to it. If i didn't i'd probably get depressed by it all. I saw muggings, beatings, countless vehicle break-ins, shooting up, people having psychotic episodes, even one girl so badly cut on her leg, pools of blood on the pavement as she walked, not just drops, POOLS! It's like a bad horror/zombie movie down there. Since departing from my job there i have not been back once. I don't know what can be done down there.

patiently waiting said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
patiently waiting said...

All this happens in supposed "good times". I wonder what these streets and alleys will look like during a recession. A recession just in time for the Olympics maybe.

My heart goes out to Abigail, the homeless girl in the picture. I don't know how she survives on those mean streets. May she find a way out of there.

bc_cele said...

I wonder what the guinea pigs - oops - proud new owners of 'W' condos are going to think when they finally realize what who their neighbours are? If they aren't on crack now, then they soon will be.

Warren said...

My personal history: I bought a condo in Yaletown in 1999. A friend of mine was so impressed he started looking around downtown, and saw Gastown as an opportunity to get into the market at a reasonable price, with the expectation that the area would improve dramatically over the next 5 or so years. We both looked around down there and I was getting envious that I didn't get into a loft building in the area, as they have some great ones down there.

Flash forward to 2007: Thank god neither of us bought in that area. Despite the hype, there has been ZERO progress.

the pope said...

Despite the hype, there has been ZERO progress.

Its just my opinion, but I think it has actually gotten worse down there in the last ten years. Maybe its just me getting older, but I used to feel ok about walking down east hastings street, but not anymore. I have a friend who lives in gastown and his car has been broken into (in the secure underground parkade of his building) a total of 16 times in the last year (!).

mk-kids said...

Completely off topic... has the world been graced with baby solipsist yet?

Grover Borequist said...

I worked in the DTES from 2002-2006 and during that time I cannot say that much changed. Apart from a brief period when the new VPD Chief Graham was newly sworn in and posted a patrol car at the steps of the Carnegie, the open air drug and stolen goods markets have remained. That got tired, the car was dispatched somewhere else and the scum came back.

The problem with the DTES has as much to do with Vancouver's blase attitude towards organised crime as the lack of funding the Vancouver Police have experienced for the last couple years. With respect to organised crime, few if any residents of Vancouver give much thought towards participating in the drug trade what with the liberal attitude towards marijuana use that pervades our culture. The unintended effects of this participation includes creating income for Hell's Angels which then in turn funds the infrastructure required to maintain a human trafficking or weapons smuggling operation, as well as the movement of hard drugs in the city which then dribble onto the streets.

Rod Chapman said...

I agree with Borequist that legalizing / taxing 'soft' drugs like marijuana would remove a lot of the profit flow from organized crime, just as ending the prohibition on alchohol cut into crime profits, but I don't think thats going to happen anytime soon.

solipsist said...

Completely off topic... has the world been graced with baby solipsist yet?

No. Babby is 10 days overdue. Thanks for asking.

I've been unable to get on the machine lately. Pardon the silence...

Grover Borequist said...

Rod, that's not what I'm saying at all. What I will say is that I wished pot heads would exercise a little thought in where they exist in the economic chain whenever they buy marijuana. As it stands, the police don't care if you grow a couple plants in your backyard for personal consumption. If you're going to get stoned, why don't you start there?

W- Buyer said...

I am one of the people that bought in at Woodwards. I know where I bought and have no regerets. Wait till you see the area is 7-10 years, some of you might regret not having bought in.

TQN said...

I cannot help it so I post the above. Victory is about to be made for the W!!!
"$649000 WOODWARDS DISTRICT W-43: N-NE Facing unit (Downtown Vancouver)"

solipsist said...

I am one of the people that bought in at Woodwards

I sincerely wish you good luck with that. Please note that I am not meaning to ridicule any who bought to live there. My ridicule is for the marketing. I'm pretty sure that a lot of people bought sight unseen, and ignorant of the reality of the DTES.

I hope that you are happy there, and I hope that there will be some modicum of happiness for all of the poor buggers that are there now. It's just not my cup of tea. Mind you, city living in general isn't really my preference either...

patiently waiting said...

"Wait till you see the area is 7-10 years, some of you might regret not having bought in."

So how is this going to happen? Where are the street people going to go? Please explain further.

W-Buyer said...

I don't beleive there were many people that bought sight unseen. This is a major purchase, is there anyone here that would drop 300-800K without looking at what you're buying? The people that have that type of money didn't get it by being stupid. I think most of us are aware there will be difficulties and some of us will not be able to ride them out. But others will. Where will the homeless go? Whereever they can. They are only there because of the services available to them. Once the services begin being spread across the region the people will speard out too. Yesterdays budget won't hurt either.

northvan said...

Third world in Vancouver.

After what I read and have seen of downtown, I am now convinced the government is corrupt.

patiently waiting said...

Countless Vancouverites have been blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on highly questionable real estate. Thing is, for many its not their own money. Its borrowed. We may not have the extent of mortgage craziness down in the USA but I've seen way too many people borrow way more than they should. This will end badly.

I don't doubt that junkies are all over Vancouver already. Some middle class Vancouverites keep them in their basements. I pretty much guarantee that other areas will resist the "services" being moved there. Vancouverites know what that means and live in fear of more crackheads living on their block. Many neighbourhoods teeter between edgy and slum.

Things not going to get better on the Downtown Eastside. The only thing that would "work" is a good old-fashioned slum clearance. That isn't going to happen. Instead developers are putting pressure the DTES. I predict that by the time the Olympics are here, the DTES will actually be significantly worse. Tourists will be afraid to leave their hotels.