Rally to Save Lipke Park Recreation Center
Saturday, July 26 from Noon to 1 pm
19320 Van Dyke, Detroit map
(between E. Outer Drive and E. Seven Mile Rd.)
All who oppose the stripping of public assets from public service and awarding them to private parties are encouraged to attend.
The City began secret meetings with the Salvation Army in 2012 to turn Lipke over to them. The City shut the Rec Center down in October. even though its operations were in the current budget. The plans were made public in December and the Lipke community has been fighting City Hall since. The Lipke area has the largest concentration of kids in Michigan.
This is more than a Northeast Detroit neighborhood issue. At stake is whether we believe neighborhoods no longer need the provision of recreation for young people, seniors or the general community.
Public recreation is the third element in community-supported education, along with our schools and libraries. It teaches physical education, provides team sports and the social and health benefits of those programs. For seniors, Lipke provided physical therapy facilities as well.
The process of dumping Lipke has been a variation of the asset-stripping that has been going on in Detroit for years. The Recreation Center was only built 10 years ago, but the Mayor and City Council are calling it “surplus”, a prerequisite for the hand off to the Salvation Army.
The Lipke community has been challenging the City to reopen and maintain Lipke as a public asset since last December, when their year and a half of secret planning with the SA became public. We now need to show the community support for Lipke that the City and its district Council rep., Scott Benson, are ignoring. We need your support as well. Add your voice with your presence at Lipke on Saturday,Noon, on Van Dyke, 2 blocks north of Seven Mile.
On Thursday, June 26, 2014, the Planning and Economic Committee of City Council met to hear the Salvation Army’s plan for taking ownership of the City of Detroit’s Lipke Park/Recreation Center. The SA did not provide any written plans and said that they would not do so until after the City transferred the property to them. They said verbally that they will make it an SA outreach center and close the one that they have had on Harding and Mack since the 1930s.
Scott Benson declared that he walked a street next to Lipke and that residents supported the SA getting the property. Committee chair Gabe Leland pronounced it good and the 3 members (Leland, Benson, Sheffield) moved approval to the full Council to begin the steps for selling Lipke to the SA, before hearing public comment.
In public comment we reported that we had surveyed the same street as Benson did and 29 of 29 residents asked did sign letters opposing the sale of Lipke. We also pointed out many other weaknesses of the sale. But the vote had already been taken.
On Tuesday, July 1, City Council voted 5 to 2 to declare the Lipke Park/ Recreation Center “surplus” and to transfer the land and facility to the Plannning and Development Department to implement a sale. The sole intended buyer is the Salvation Army.
The 2 no votes were Brenda Jones and Raquel Castaneda-Lopez. Scott Benson, who has pushed this sale against the wishes of his District 3 constituents, and George Cushingberry were absent.
On Monday evening, July 30, six Lipke area residents (central northeast Detroit) attended the Mayor’s six month report and raised the Lipke matter. We were promised a meeting with the Mayor to discuss it.
Scott Benson asked community leaders in the Lipke area to attend a meeting on Tuesday evening, July 1, with the Salvation Army to discuss working together, even though Benson has been told that we do not want the SA or any other private group to get Lipke. His office said that SA leaders, the Mayor’s office and others would be there, But the SA did not attend. Nor did Benson. Instead, a McDonald’s owner who is chair of the local SA board, Errol Service, tried to persuade the 10 community reps that this was a good deal for all. He also said that he wants to built a water park on the property, something the SA has said is not in their plans. All the community leaders said no to the SA “plan.”
For those in the community closest to this issue, it appears that Service is helping SA get the property with the help of Scott Benson, who also keeps talking about a water park to residents. Service may then get the SA to allow him to use some of the land for his water park, which residents are opposed to. Chandler Park already has a county water park a few miles away. Service told the gathering that if his water park is not supported, then that is a “deal breaker.”
– Russ Bellant, July 6, 2014