Tulsa residents, leaders hold spirited meeting about troubled 61st and Peoria area
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
2/20/13 at 8:09 AM
Get complete coverage: Read about the Fairmont Terrace quadruple homicide and the Tulsa World’s investigation of the area.
About 80 residents and community leaders squeezed into a City Hall meeting room Tuesday for what officials said was one of the most spirited displays of support for improving the 61st Street and Peoria Avenue area that they can remember.
"I think people are pumped," said City Councilor Jeannie Cue, who called the meeting to organize a task force seeking quality of life improvements for the area. "I don't think the energy's going to die."
The crowd assembled to discuss social problems in the area and join the 61st and Peoria Quality of Life Task Force, which will seek to reduce the area's high crime rate by improving health, housing and social services there.
Those who spoke during the loosely structured hourlong meeting agreed that action is needed now - before outrage subsides over the Jan. 7 quadruple homicide at Fairmont Terrace apartments.
"Right now, the city of Tulsa will never be behind this more than they are at the present moment," said Jerry Kirkpatrick, a 30-year resident of the area. "I think this is the time."
Officials gathered volunteers to serve on six subcommittees - housing, safety, health, education, social services, and social services center fund-gathering - that will meet periodically and recommend improvements to the main group, Cue said.
The group will then seek grant funding, policy changes and anything else that is necessary to accomplish the recommendations, although no timetable for those goals will be set, she said.
"What we're looking for is a working task force, not ideas to come up with - because we all know those ideas," she said. "We want a working task force that gets out and does things, and we don't want to put a time limit."
The crowd - standing room only in a room with an occupancy limit of about 100 - was better than expected, Cue said.
Applause rang out occasionally as about a dozen residents and community leaders spoke, detailing what they believe are the area's most pressing problems and reiterating their desire for quick action.
Several participants said they thought the sheer number of apartment complexes in the area was the main factor in its crime rate.
Improvements to the complexes themselves would inspire residents to better their lives, said Mike Salerno, pastor of HANDS Changing Legacies, which has been serving the area for about two years.
John Priest, who is working with a group seeking to buy Fairmont Terrace, and Jennifer Griffin, manager of St. Thomas Square apartments, told the crowd that they both want to renovate their complexes.
Priest's group, Crossland Construction Co., and developer Midwest Development Partners LLC, plan massive security upgrades and renovations as part of a pending $43 million deal to buy Fairmont Terrace.
Other participants Tuesday said more focus on residents themselves will be needed.
"Just putting a new facade, I don't think that going to fix our problem," Rose Washington said. "You need to look at the kind of people you're attracting to those apartments."
Councilor G.T. Bynum, who, along with Cue and Arianna Moore, was one of three councilors in attendance, said residents must continue to speak out if change is to come - including by telling officials that they want the city's proposed $800 million capital improvements package to include funding for the area.
"There is more focused attention in this building on 61st and Peoria right now than at any other time since I've been on the council," he said. "The time is now."
Original Print Headline: 61st and Peoria meeting spirited
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486
John Priest from Crossland Construction Company talks about the company's plans to purchase the Fairmont Terrace apartment complex during a meeting about the 61st Street and Peoria Avenue area at Tulsa's City Hall on Tuesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World
A task force gathers during a meeting about the 61st Street and Peoria Avenue area at Tulsa's City Hall on Tuesday. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World