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A fruit orchard may grow...in Brooklyn

by: RITA A. LEONARD - Brooklyn Garden Coordinator Lee Kamrass describes her proposal to convert the TriMet-owned €sˇÃ„úPershing Street Triangle€sˇÃ„Ã1 into a community orchard.The November General Meeting of the Brooklyn Action Corps addressed several neighborhood concerns: The possibility of a new community fruit orchard; proposed coal transport via Union Pacific Railroad; car theft and bike safety; Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail construction; and community input for development of TriMet property.

Brooklyn Community Garden Coordinator Lee Kamrass presented her vision to convert the 14,000-square-foot TriMet triangle bounded by S.E. 16th and 17th Avenues, and Pershing Street, into a second Brooklyn neighborhood community garden.

“As a community garden, the site could be highlighted by orchard trees and some narrow raised garden beds that would accommodate mobility-challenged gardeners, who at present do not have access to our garden up on the hill,” she explained, adding, “It would be wonderful to develop a ‘Brooklyn Community Rail Garden’ to offer opportunities to more residents from our waiting list, offer ADA-compliant beds for mobility-challenged gardeners, and fruit trees for a community orchard.”

The original, recently-opened Brooklyn Community Garden site, located on property owned by the Oregon Dept. of Transportation next to McLoughlin Boulevard, does not permit orchard trees. Such a Rail Garden and orchard could also make a great educational opportunity for students, and gardeners would help maintain the site, Kamrass observed. This option received a lot of support from the audience. Bill Crawford, Vice-Chair of the Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Association, discussed similar issues addressed by their community relating to development of the S.E. Gideon Street triangle, just North of Powell Boulevard. He suggested that that site could be used as an “incubator business site” to encourage growth of small businesses, or as a low-density transition area between the two neighborhoods. He referred those interested to research from the successful DeKalb “cargotecture” community in Brooklyn, NY.

This Pershing Street Triangle is one of four land parcels on which TriMet has been seeking community input for development. Wendy Miller, TriMet Advisory Committee representative brought to the BAC meeting a neighborhood map showing those four land parcels: These include the Pershing Street Triangle, the former Advantis Credit Union site, the Boise-to-Mall Street strip, and the Holgate Plaza area. TriMet, she said, was open to ideas for commercial or residential development, or re-vegetating with various landscape elements.

Jennifer Koozer and Wendy Miller from TriMet’s Inner Southeast MAX light rail project reported on current construction for the line. Koozer revealed that TriMet is working on establishing “quiet zones” at three Brooklyn rail crossings in response to neighborhood complaints. She described continuing construction impacts along S.E. 17th Avenue near Center Street related to utility work and sewer construction, observing that 17th Avenue would be narrowed to one lane, controlled by flaggers, until close to the Christmas holiday.

Crime was another subject of interest at the Brooklyn meeting. Community Police Officer Eric Webber, a resident of Sellwood, announced the capture of a prolific local car thief on November 27 by U.S. Marshalls. The man specialized in stealing Honda vehicles – at least 50 of them – and using them in burglaries on both sides of the river. Webber also voiced concerns for neighborhood bike safety, urging riders to consider reflective gear on the sides of their rides, as well as at front and back, to increase their visibility at intersections.

The meeting then turned to the possibility of coal being shipped through the neighborhood by Union Pacific Railroad, which drew speakers both for and against the issue. Jeff Cole and Howard Shapiro from the Sierra Club brought a display map and PowerPoint presentation detailing what they consider adverse impacts to the environment, tourism, businesses, traffic, and health. Coal mined in Montana and destined for China might possibly be shipped through Portland, they said, although most regional dialogue has centered on shipping points on the Columbia River.

Responding to Inner Southeast concerns about any such rail shipment through the area, Brock Nelson, UPRR's Director of Public Affairs, explained the railroad’s perspective on the possibility, and assured neighbors of the safety and fuel efficiency of the proposal. Nelson said that open coal cars would be treated with surfactant to minimize dispersion of coal dust.

The lively community meeting continued well past its scheduled end at 9 pm, demonstrating how a group of people sharing ideas could accomplish much in directing the future of their neighborhood.

To provide input on Brooklyn's S.E. 17th Avenue development in the areas outlined by TriMet, go online to take a survey at: www.surveymonkey.com/s/CMBXHH9