Comment of the Day Runner-Up: Splendors of the East

COMMENT OF THE DAY RUNNER-UP: SPLENDORS OF THE EAST “. . . So much of our City and our history lies EAST of downtown but all too often, white people (largely) ignore that entire side of town. I’d argue that the ship channel and the refineries that line it are the backbone of the City. That U of H and TSU shouldn’t be ignored. That there’s hidden treasure to be found in the 3rd and 5th Wards. That Riverside Terrace is amazing. That Hobby Airport is way better than IAH unless you are flying overseas on a carrier not named United. That Clear Lake-NASA-Kemah are better than Greater Katy. That the San Jacinto Monument matters. That unless you’ve visited the original Ninfa’s, eaten at Kanomwan, chugged beer at Moon Tower Inn, or stood in line for fried chicken at 3 a.m. at Frenchy’s, then you need to get out of the City Centre bubble. Oh, and the soul of the ‘old’ Montrose and Heights can be found East of US 59.” [doofus, commenting on Comment of the Day: Downtown Is on the Edge] Illustration: Lulu

31 Comment

  • I wasn’t aware you had to have “white people” to make an area the “it” place. (Maybe you do, who knows) Look, ask yourself Doofus, would you rather live next to Hermann Park, Memorial Park or the ship
    Channel–discuss amongst yourself.

  • people live/shop where they feel safe, especially is a dangerous city like ours. East EADODO doesnt make me feel safe

  • Something tells me you’re not actually familiar with the east side, Ben.
    If you don’t feel safe in Eastwood, then I don’t think Eastwood is the problem.

  • The East End used to be THE Houston: Forest Park Cemetery, Hobby, UH, Buff Stadium, McGregor Drive (s), Houston Country Club–all were on the east side of town. White flight abandoned the tonier residential areas in the late 40s/early 50s, which resulted in Briarcroft, Tanglewood, filling up of River Oaks, etc.

  • Doofus makes a really good point. It’s not just the East Side of town that has a bad rap. Most people view Houston as black and white. There are the “good” parts of town: where everyone talks about the bars and restaurants, even when the food’s not that great; where people climb all over each other to secure an apartment; where the good news always seems to get reported and the bad news comes as a shock…. And then there are the “bad” parts of town. The areas East of Downtown, but also Sharpstown and the Greenspoint area, to name a few. Here only the bad news gets reported, if any news is reported at all. The existence of top ranked universities and institutions is kept secret. Superb restaurants go unnoticed to all but a few connoisseurs.
    The bad things with this way of seeing Houston are that there’s nothing in between. But it’s also a huge disservice to our City and it’s institutions, and it helps reinforce a cycle of poverty and urban problems in the neighborhoods that are deemed “bad.”

  • A lot of the places mentioned are in south Houston or within 2-3 miles of downtown… what is he arguing, exactly? I think it’s pretty clear there’s more Houston to the west than to the east.

  • I went to Kanamwan before the Thai nazi died. I met Mama Ninfa in 1973. My degree is from UH. I live in West U.I have friends in CL, LC, and Katy. I am white. Ninfa’s, Kanamwan, and those suburbs would not exist without people like me. As far as safe: Turn off your TV. Houston is safer than it was 10 years ago according to the FBI stats at least and the woman who was shot dead in a parking lot and her baby stolen from her arms happened in…? The Woodlands. Be fearless my friend. Things happen.

  • I dont feel safe downtown either

  • And don’t forget Garden Villas, which may be the funkiest neighborhood in Houston.

  • @Creole: Of course you need “white people” to make an area the “it” place. Don’t act dumb man. Most planning department are largely white and there influence effects the city on where new things are being developed and where other areas are being neglected. Just look at history. Why is that one side always has the new infrastructure, new schools or hospitals, or other new developments, and the other has to put up with the past? This didn’t happen by accident…

  • the east end, lindale park/northside, are cool. sure, not for everybody. works for me over sharpstown, parts of southwest houston.

    i moved into the heights before it gentifried. you kow when the crime started? when it got nice. Criminals have cars and go where the money is. where i feel the east side fails is the third ward. the area around UH north to downtown might take off thanks in part to the rail connection to downtown. But the city leadership doesn’t seem that interested in the third ward south of OST.

  • The East End also contains a truly great street, probably the only one in Houston with a song named after it………Telephone Road.

    It used to have personality.. hookers, biker bars, used car lots, “lounges” and other things that created atmosphere and life.

    Now it is just another street, like any other in Houston.

  • Once upon a time the majority of the people on the east end were “white.”

  • @ Zo: Other cities’ planning departments may work that way, but not Houston’s – it really has little influence about matters it gets to address, since it’s more of a reactive agency than a proactive one, and primarily relegated to processing plats and providing technical assistance.

    Other departments (looking at you, Public Works and Engineering) are more fitting for your assertion.

  • I grew up on the East side in the 60s and 70s and all of our fathers worked in one of the many refineries that line the channel. It was a good, honest upbringing and we didn’t know of the world outside of “all things east”. We had Gulf Gate and Almeda Malls (and their associated theaters) and dining out was a rare treat (that includes fast food). Little League baseball and High School Football were king. Community dances followed. Then, Armco Steel shut down and jobs were lost and many families had to uproot and follow job opportunties (early 80s). That’s when my home no longer was my ‘home’. Immigrants (non-English speaking) moved in and the culture changed. As with any community, good, hardworking people made up this area (before and after Armco), but there was cultural disection that just didn’t fuse with the predominant Protestant/Baptist community. The days of running carefree at all hours changed. Neighbors no longer spent their post-supper hours out in the yard talking about their work days at the plant over a cup of coffee or a beer. Nightly gunfire and graffiti were commonplace. So were burglaries. I moved to Montrose in the mid-80s and then later to the Heights maybe because I was drawn to these walkable communities that were much like my home (although Montrose and the Heights was still rough in the 80s in certain areas). I had tried the suburban master-planned communities and I guess it was too vanilla for me (and I wanted a close commute).
    So, back to living along the channel… I know many who I grew up with that still live in the area and they’ve stayed there or close by maybe for the same reason I moved to town – for the close commute to their occupation. But, would/could I live in the house I grew up in??? No. Wouldn’t feel safe at least specifically in that neighborhood. But heck, I left the suburban master-planned community for the same reason. I was burgled 7 times in a year and a half. Fortunately, my 30 years in Montrose and the Heights has been much more safe and I enjoy unique dining and activities that are all very local. I can agree with many things Doofas says and certainly Dr Radzjik, but I’m an innerlooper that lives just west of downtown and it’s very much my home.

  • There are few if any legitimately scary parts of Houston, unless proximity to minorities is how you measure safety. I moved from the suburbs into the East End in the late 90s, which to my naive teenage mind felt like moving into the Mean Streets. The neighborhood was bad because I could hear sirens at night. (I lived behind a fire station.) The “crack house” down the street that I avoided was really just full of poor people. (They waved at me at the grocery store.) Most of the concerns about safety from the TV class out in the suburbs can really all be chalked up to proximity to people in general. People feel safer when only 20 other people live within a 5,000 foot radius of them. Sure the brand new neighborhood that you live in, which was uncut prairie or swampland 15 years ago sure feels safe, but give it about 50 years. It’ll be the next Sharpstown-esque hellscape in no time.

  • Financially and culturally East Houston is the heart of town. Unfortunately Houston is also one of the most closeted racist cities in the country. It is not shown in potty language or the waving of rebel flags but in its development. The cycle usually goes something like, white folks get tired and they move, leaving homes to be occupied by the racially and economically disenfranchised ,who believe their god-forsaken lot in life has changed. Then one day you look up and all the businesses and stores have moved, replaced by energetic but under capitalized small businesses who are left with slum lords who seemingly have no desire to maintain or upgrade their property. Add to that a municipal government who allows the streets to crumble, industry to pollute and 14 lane freeways to cut through the heart of the neighborhood. Eventually the school district cuts funding due to low property tax revenue and soon drop out rates increase, teenage pregnancy climbs and crime becomes a reason for the cycle to perpetually get worse. Oh yeah and its supported by taxpayers who are dooped into believing there are making their city more “DIVERSIFIED”. I live in Eastwood in the house my wife has lived in all her 40 years next to a handful of neighbors she’s known since childhood. What gets me is that the only development people can seem to come up with involves mixed use residential, office and retail, how about building destinations? Don’t we have enough? The East End has neighborhoods, it has families willing to enhance their community, what it doesn’t have is jobs. Instead of “white man come in, jack up the price, force everyone to move” how about the botanical gardens, a festival ground, more museums or even something better than discovery green. Its easy to gentrify but rerouting freight tracks around communities, providing grants so home owners can stay put and help rebuild the community seems to be out of the grasp and intelligence of this city I call home. peace

  • @SimplySid, nice rant, I can’t even begin to list how many things are wrong with your assumptions, but if you truly believe them, then there is no hope for you and your kind.
    To summarize your speech, is the tired ole excuse, it’s the fault of the rich white people and I bear no responsibility for my own fortunes through my actions and actions of my community members.

  • SimplySid – I’m not sure I agree that Houston is the most closet-racist city in the US. I grew up in Maine, and I would argue that the problem of closet racism there is far worse than it is here – worsened(and hidden) by the fact that Maine remains 95% white.
    I also question your distaste of gentrification. It’s true that end-stage gentrification is bad. But the early stages of gentrification being with them lower crime rates, better schools, and cleaner streets. A net-positive for neighborhoods.
    That said, I agree with you on the frustrations of improving neighborhoods with things like parks and botanical gardens. But The East end is actually lucky compared to my neighborhood. You have a light rail line that’s about to open. A lot of the museums and non-profits doing things like artist housing and such won’t even consider neighborhoods unless there’s a light rail line.

  • Gentrification is just a fancy name for immigration of an economic nature and the East End has been and is the home for many immigrants so any new one should be welcomed as well. With its close location, no freeways bisecting it, hills and rivers the real estate is just too prime to remain as cheap as it’s been. The areas that have become run down by the residents will get dozed and redeveloped. It’s an organic process.

  • Maybe one day they’ll even open a grocery store east of downtown.

  • SimplySid, reroute freight tracks around communities…..seriously? You want the city to do that?

  • My small contribution to this, regarding the perceptions of safety and crime…a good friend of mine lived in Third Ward up until about four years ago. Never had a problem with crime. Seriously. I recall stopping at a little convenience store on McGregor, a bit nervous being the only white guy in the place, but god how stupid I felt when the worst I encountered was a hello, and an enterprising young man selling pirated DVDs out of his car in the parking lot.

    Meanwhile, up here in Oak Forest, we’ve got residents going positively bananas every time a car gets broken into or a mysterious car is seen driving slowly around the block. Check out the Oak Forest Facebook page. It’s an astonishing epicenter of paranoia. It’s so bad that I think it’s actually hurting efforts to make a good community. We can’t go a week without some poor black guy having his picture plastered on the page with somebody asking if anybody recognizes him. And most of the time, it’s a plumber or an electrician or somebody going about their work. And now we’ve got a group handing out shotguns to everyone in the name of security. I’m sure that’s going to work out just fine.

    It’s not that I don’t feel safe here; I absolutely do. I just get tired of the gossip passing for actual news. I want to live in a place where people are happy and engaging and hospitable, but I worry that it’s not going that way at all. And as somebody with a mixed-race child, I admit that I do worry about some crazy neighbor calling the cops because she’s out riding an expensive bicycle or something. And that makes me almost as paranoid as some of my neighbors.

  • Simply Sid, there is so much wrong with your post, it’s hard to know where to begin.

    Let’s just start with your assertion that Houston is the most closeted racist city. (I suppose you just mean in the United States and not a place with indentured servidtude like Saudi Arabia.) “Closeted” is a term people generally use when they don’t have evidence.

    Look at those city maps where 4 different ethnic groups/races are represented by a dot. Out of all the graphs for the major cities in the U.S., Houston appears to be the MOST integrated major city, with most neighborhoods mixed or at least only small ethnic enclaves as opposed to an entire side of town where 90% of people of a certain group live. For example, almost every black in St. Louis lives in the northern half of the city. OTOH, the east side, near northside, Cypress, Spring Branch, and Gulfton all have many Hispanics. Many cities like LA, SF, and NYC all appear to be more segregated than Houston. Others have also come to the same conclusion (e.g. Tory).

    Why oh why do people insist on long rants without even looking at some data first?

  • Houston’s no more racist than any other major US city, it can actually be argued less so. I know for a fact it’s less racist than Atlanta (where the racism comes ironically from the Blacks, not the whites) and certainly less than Dallas, with its Wiley Price and ghosts of HL Hunt. For a southern city in particular, Houston is very progressive.

  • CREOLE: To say that, “for a southern city in particular, Houston is very progressive” with respect to the mixing/opportunities between various races and ethnicities, I think downplays how profoundly segregated northern cities are. I’d perhaps go so far as to say that for ANY city, Houston is very progressive. It is perhaps the most mixed and harmonious of the large cities in the United States.

    It’s easy to make a case against Washington D.C. or Detroit or Chicago or St. Louis, I think. By contrast, there’s Austin. It’s certainly more of a closet case than Houston. Texas Monthly did an interesting comparison between the two recently:

  • @TheNiche—-agreed

  • Interesting Texas Monthly article. I can certainly see many of her points, but what ah fails to mention is how in El Paso and San Antonio as a European American you! are the one who feels invisible. Before the last council election San Antonio had zero Anglos on council –ZERO! Even though the city is 30 percent White. I never heard whites going on and on about it, they just went on their way. I liked the Latin Culture of SA, but as a white guy I often felt like –geez, must EVERYTHING be tied to Mexico! Frankly I often felt like I was living in Mexico. I always felt very at home in Austin, now I know why

  • I lived in the Rio Grande Valley for a while and it was much worse than anything I’ve ever experienced elsewhere in Texas (as a white guy). I’ve even had people assume that I was just a light-skinned Mexican and cuss me out for not knowing the mother tongue. They were always apologetic once I explained that I was merely white, but even still. It was fairly unpleasant. At least I wasn’t black.

    There’s an authentic cultural identity for you, though. Maybe its good for tourism.

  • Mike Levy hates Austin; that’s his thing. And while no one expects New Yorker-like fact-checking (or prose) of Texas Monthly, it’s strange they should let pass that bizarro bit about the park. Perhaps being read is not something they have to fear. Zilker Park any weekend day is impossible to imagine without an extended Hispanic family barbecuing at the cement picnic tables, either where Barton Springs Road crosses the creek or over by the frisbee golf course, or both (prompting, true, thoughts of one’s now-otherness, viz. what would that be like, to not be alone in the world, to have people, and also, I’m hungry …); and very likely a girl in a quinceañera dress being photographed in the botanical garden. My favorite was the one who got out of the car and threw on her dress over her jeans, not bothering to take them off.
    Someone, somewhere, may be feeling uneasy. When Central Austin voted for single-member districts, voluntarily ceding its green political influence, it spelled the end of the gentleman’s agreement (self-congratulation all around). But assuring African-American representation on the council hinges on whether Hispanics choose to continue to honor the Abhorred Practice.
    Race relations in Austin are not very easy at the moment, but Anglo/Hispanic tension, or alienation, is not at issue. That Texas Monthly piece can only be described as a bit of misdirection.