In the spirit of letting bygones be bygones, Jordan Downs residents embraced Mayor Tom Bradley on Monday as he joined them to celebrate the opening of their renovated recreation center in Watts.
Just a couple of months ago, the residents were fighting a city proposal supported by Bradley to sell their housing project to private developers.
The refurbished center--with its bright blue and orange swing sets, blinding-white sand pit, lush grassy lawn and well-manicured baseball diamond--was praised by Bradley as the city's first step in renovating the dilapidated, World War II-era complex.
8 Projects Over 3 Years
The $200,000 park renovation was funded by a $3.7-million grant approved by the City Council for park improvements at eight city housing projects over the next three years, said James Hadaway, general manager of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
"I want this playground to give kids a sense of hope and pride in this community," Bradley said during a press conference at the facility, where he was greeted with hugs and warm applause.
The reception was an indication that residents hold no grudges against the mayor for his support of an unsuccessful plan to sell the 700-unit city project to private developers.
The controversial plan by former Housing Authority Director Leila Gonzalez-Correa infuriated tenants who said the city had consistently ignored their pleas to renovate the ramshackle housing units, mostly occupied by single mothers and their children.
Intense criticism of the plan by tenants and city officials led Gonzalez-Correa to resign from her post last month, and the proposed sale of Jordan Downs was abandoned. Housing officials said they will seek about $15 million in federal funds to renovate the aging facility.
"That's the great thing about living in a democracy," said Claudia Moore, a tenant leader who had been a chief critic of the proposed sale. "We can have a difference in opinion with the mayor and still work together as friends. We are very proud of our mayor."
Gary Squier, acting Housing Authority director, said he hoped the park refurbishments "would send a message that the city is committed to turning (Jordan Downs) into a community we can all be proud of."
Residents said they accepted the new recreation center as a gesture of good will by the city and trust that the entire complex will be renovated soon.
"After years of seeing no renovation, this new park gives us a lot of hope that the city is finally going to give us what we've been asking for over the last few years--a decent place to live," said Lillian Browning, a Jordan Downs tenant leader.
Other city project recreation areas to be refurbished are Nickerson Gardens and Imperial Gardens in Watts; Pueblo del Rio in South Los Angeles; Rancho San Pedro in San Pedro; Mar Vista Gardens in Mar Vista, and Ramona Gardens and Eliso Village in East Los Angeles.
"There are so many kids in the projects and so little for them to do," said Alberta Harris, who has lived in Jordan Downs for the past year.
"Parks like this give them a place to go so they can keep busy playing, not shooting each other or writing on walls."