Goodmon’s Crenshaw Neighbors Pledge to Fundraise and Sue MTA for a Light Rail Subway

The full text of Ari Noonan reporting on Monday’s Emergency Meeting in The Frontpage Online is below:

Goodmon’s Crenshaw Neighbors Pledge to Fundraise and Sue MTA for a Light Rail Subway

Like a shrewd, confident general prepping his underdog troops for a courage-testing fall campaign against mountainous odds, young journalist/advocate Damien Goodmon assembled his grittiest soldiers in a confined setting last night, trying to pep-talk them to success against a giant that almost never loses.

For the second time in three weeks, they assembled near the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue. In almost cheerleading tones they pledged their wallets and their wills to achieve a civic longshot.

Can young Mr. Goodmon, savvy and mature well beyond his late 20s, drive a band of lately aroused middle-class residents — the Crenshaw Subway Coalition — to make the behemoth agency MTA act against its will, its nature, and do, instead, what South Los Angeles residents want?

This was hardly a secretive meeting in the Community Room of the U.S. Bank. Not only did elected officials such as County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Culver City) and Assemblymember Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) send representatives, even former Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) dispatched a delegate.

“The community,” in Mr. Goodmon’s words, “wants two design changes in the Crenshaw-to-LAX Light Rail Line,” scheduled to begin construction next year.

Before Victory Comes Money

He spent a fair part of the evening drilling them in the fundamentals of transparent and effective fundraising to underwrite an anticipated lawsuit on environmental grounds against the MTA after the powerful board finalizes its intentions for Crenshaw at the Thursday, Sept. 22 meeting. (Briefly, the pivotal meeting was moved to Thursday, Aug. 4, and then returned to the original date.) Mr. Goodmon’s group has 30 days, from Sept. 22, to file its suit.

Their objectives:

  • They want a subway instead of an above-ground rail route for the middle 11-block portion of the rail line,48th Street to 59th Street, and
  • A station at Leimert Park Village, a focus of African-American cultural and social life for decades.

As the wily Mr. Goodmon reminded the turnout of 50 to 75: They don’t want the subway and station added but rather restored because they were included in the original plans.

Aesthetics aside, subway advocates argue that with 225-ton trains roaring down the center of hugely busy Crenshaw Boulevard, nothing more vital will be at stake than the safety of pedestrians in the heart of the commercial district, and the welfare of businesses, during the years of construction and thereafter.

Says Mr. Goodmon: “The negative consequences of MTA trains crossing already-congested intersections like Slauson every 2½ minutes during rush hour is bad enough. But the impact to our community goes far beyond traffic. To squeeze street-level tracks down the middle of Crenshaw, from 48th to 59th, the MTA will have to eliminate nearly half the street parking, left turns, mid-block pedestrian crossings, and the mature trees in the median.

Will the Dream Die?

“These permanent roadway changes, on top of four or five long years of disruptive street-level construction, will kill the Crenshaw economy and our community’s dreams of revitalization.

“Look at what MTA’s median street-level design has done to Washington Boulevard with the Blue Line: More blight, more traffic and no new development. We cannot let MTA doom Crenshaw to the same fate. The Blue Line travels from downtown Los Angeles to Long Beach, through South L.A., Watts, Willowbrook and Compton. It is the deadliest light rail line in America, 102 deaths and thousands of injuries in at least 900 accidents.”

Sorry, can’t be done, says the MTA — mainly board members Mayor Villaraigosa, Zev Yaroslavsky and their beholden allies.

Wrong, said the dynamic, well-organized leader of last night’s crowd.

Plainly speaking, Mr. Goodmon and others contended, this cabal has built and is planning to build subways all across Los Angeles, with notable exceptions. But through a peculiar coincidence, they happen to be in majority white neighborhoods.

East Los Angeles and South Los Angeles have been pointedly and repeatedly snubbed by the MTA’s subway partisans.

These determined but financially modest South L.A. neighbors believe logic and momentum are in their favor. But to gain even minimal ground in what may be a marathon war, they first must make the most elementary step and initially fund filing of a lawsuit at about $25,000.

With the most expensive public works project in the history of South Los Angeles starting in months, the often-disappointed neighborhoods of South Los Angeles have vowed not to be defeated again.

(To be continued)

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