Welcome to Somewhere Over the Rhine

A site dedicated to Cincinnati's Over the Rhine neighborhood.

Monday, September 22, 2008

OTR labeled as "Combat Zone"

First, I'd like to apologize for my lack of posts lately. I've been very busy with work and other things and as a result, this blog has suffered a bit. I also want to apologize for the harsh tone in the post below.

Now to the subject at hand...
I just caught sight of this article from the Enquirer published a couple of weeks ago. Not only am I angered and disgusted by this trash talking of our neighborhood, but also ashamed to live in a city where people actually still think this way.

The really frustrating thing about this is that many people in Cincinnati actually believe every word of what a newspaper or TV news anchor has to say. So, when they see an article like this labeling OTR as a "combat zone" or "the most dangerous place you could imagine" they actually believe it without question!

Obviously this pathetic excuse of a lawyer Rick Gibson is an ignorant moron for thinking that OTR is "the most dangerous place one could imagine." Perhaps it is when you compare it to the white-washed suburbs surrounding the city, such as West Chester or Blue Ash. However, when you compare it to the rest of the world, its not bad at all. In fact, as pointed out many times before, OTR in any other major metropolitan city outside of the racist mid-west would be an urban mecca that people would flock to by the thousands.

Greenwich Village, SoHo, and Tribeca neighborhoods in NYC were all pretty rough areas much like OTR at one time. Once people started moving back to the once abandoned areas they have become beautiful, diverse, lively places to live.

When are the citizens of Cincinnati going to stop living in the 1950s and join the rest of the modern world? Sometimes I simply can't believe how ignorant and sheltered the people in this city really are. We have one of the most beautifully preserved historic neighborhoods in the world and the majority of the population here completely ignore it. We can't even get a 4-Mile streetcar loop built in a timely fashion with out people throwing a fit.

Here's my suggestion to people who don't understand my frustration with this city...Spend some time traveling to other major cities around the world. See what life is like outside of your monotonously boring suburban neighborhoods. Meet and get to know people of as many different cultures and backgrounds as you can. Perhaps you'll start to see that just because someone is different doesn't mean you have to be afraid of them.

OTR has been a ghetto for many years because it was abandoned. When you take everyone out of a neighborhood and leave a few under-educated poor people behind by themselves, the neighborhood will become ridden with crime and poverty. OTR was abandoned because of the racist driven "white-flight" and suburban sprawl that swept this country after WWII.

The civil rights movement has already taken place. The rest of the modern world has learned that racism was a mistake of the past and has moved past it. The people of Cincinnati need to do the same. Its no longer 1955, you don't have to live in a white-washed suburban neighborhood to be somebody.

Lets stop ignoring the social problems this city faces (poverty, terrible public education, substance abuse, crime...) and start facing them head on. Move back to our city's urban core and help solve these problems directly (by demanding better public education for instance). OTR has for too long been a dumping ground, a place where the suburbs can concentrate and ignore all of our troubled citizens. These problems aren't going to fix themselves. If you don't want to live downtown fine, but don't continue to mis-label a neighborhood that is so vitally important to our city's future.


kcitti said...


You pretty much hit the nail on the head. If I could get these pople out of their little bubble and get them a taste of the world, I would do it in a heartbeat. Instead we're stuck with people who don't leave and continue to complain and hate. It's disgusting.

Thanks for writing this post.

Julie said...

Thank you for this post, it's exactly how I feel. I'm young, white and female and people look at me as if I told them I lived in the Anbar Province when I say I live in OTR. There are NOT shootings every night. It is NOT a war zone. It has crime, yes, but you can generally walk down the street without a problem. I feel more at home here than in the suburbs I have lived in.

Anonymous said...

I particularly agree with the sentiment about suburbanites using the urban core as a dumping ground, or reservation, for the less fortunate. The newest installment of which is Citylink; brought to you by suburban Oakley's Crossroads Church. They have a facility on their property, the old Moser Dodge dealership, that is zoned for what they are currently shoving down the West Ends throat. I guess the concept of bringing those in need to an environment where there would be an expectation of success isn't as important as keeping them a nice car ride away.

If you want to help our city achieve a successful rebirth, don't give money to Crossroads or Citylink!

CityKin said...

I noticed this article also. Two things to note. First, this was a year ago, and 12th Street was a bit worse then. Secondly, this is a lawyer trying to make things look really bad, in order to save his client's life.

I definitely think people need to expand their travel to get a better perspective. I remember meeting with the architect for the Freestore, who wanted to demolish some buildings on Walnut Street. He commented that in OTR he could see the similarities to the streets of Europe that he saw on vacation. In the next breath he wanted to destroy that infrastructure, because there wasn't enough free parking! In other words, it is fun to see such places on vacation, but they aren't practical for a modern drive-in city. And this was an architect!

Anonymous said...

your view is narrow-minded. Yes, you can move back in and take ownership of a run-down area of town, but all you're doing is forcing the "ghetto" element out. A rat has to eat, so to speak, - if you force them out by taking over their neighborhood, they will not stick around - perhaps, if you're lucky, the ghetto element will move into Price Hill and out of OTR. Is that what you want??? This is a socio-economic problem, ridden with many problems. The poor, the uneducated, the homeless, the drug dependent and so on also need a place to live (and die). Let's be real - the vast majority of people in OTR which is considered the "undesirable" element - none of those people are going to go get a job, stop doing drugs, and stop shooting each other. If they can't do it in OTR - they'll find somehwere else. Is that what you want???

Unknown said...

I have to agree with CityKin regarding the source of the comments that got you so up in arms. They both came from lawyers trying to paint a certain picture to accomplish their respective goals. As such, I think its a bit silly be so offended by them.

Regarding OTR. I went to UC and lived in Clifton/Corryville for several years. After that I lived downtown for a few years. I have also lived in Brooklyn for a summer. I would never live in OTR. I hung out in OTR plenty, and saw the amazing lofts you can rent for dirt cheap. Still wouldn't live there. For you to act like its preposterous for people to think its dangerous is itself ridiculous.

I will admit I was surprised only 6 of 48 murders happened there but have you looked at the stats for any other crimes? OTR dwarfs most every other neighborhood in categories like rape, robbery, assault and burglary.

I don't dispute your argument that OTR is a dumping ground that has been neglected, and that that fuels the fires of drug activity and crime. However, to say that anyone who thinks its dangerous is racist and/or ignorant and/or sheltered is simply not true and I think shows you've become biased to the other end of the spectrum. I respect your dedication to live in the area and desire to help improve it but face it, its not a great place right now. Stop insulting people who state that fact.

Anonymous said...

ahhh..... the urban life!

it seems that there are two sides to OTR - the white, affluent, working class, who are most active from 6AM to 10 PM. And then you have the other side: the poor, uneducated, unemployed - strung out on drugs and who run the streets of OTR from 10PM to 6AM. What a contrast.

Jason said...

To the anonymous poster above:
Perhaps I didn't state this clearly enough in my post and for that I apologize, but in answer to your questions NO I do not want to simply "push" the "undesirables" out of the neighborhood to somewhere else. This is obviously not a solution to the root of the problem. It will take a multifaceted approach to fixing the problems this city faces with crime and poverty. For example, I truly believe that a large part of the problem is lack of quality education for children. Kids born into crime ridden communities are almost destined to remain there and live the same sort of lives as their parents. In my opinion alot of the cause behind this is due to a lack of quality education and extracurricular activities from an early age which prevents most of them from any chance of higher education or finding a career. These sort of things cost money. In order for a community to generate money there needs to be lots of people who are living, working and spending money near by and voting in favor of improvements to their community and schools. The more people living downtown the better the chances the schools will have in improving their funding and finding quality teachers.
That's just one of the ways that I feel the city could benefit from all of the revitalization efforts going on right now. Obviously there are about a million other things that need to be done also, but the bottom line is that nothing will happen to improve the area if we all just sit in the suburbs and ignore the problems as if they don't exist.

Jason said...

To ben.clinkinbeard:
I'm not trying to pretend that OTR does not have any problems with crime. Obviously, we all know that it has problems. Rather I'm trying to drive home the point that it is people's perception and fear of the neighborhood and the people who live there that has actually caused a lot of its problems. Fear and racism are two of the biggest reasons people to abandoned OTR in the first place (combined with the rise of the automobile and suburban sprawl taking place all over the country)
The only way the neighborhood is ever going to improve is if people change their attitudes.
The reason the lawyer's comments angered me was because they are fairly representative of the attitudes of many people in this city. Instead of thinking progressively and with an open mind about the future of OTR, people simply write it off as a dangerous place that you should never visit and stay as far away from as possible.
In my opinion, if this is truly your attitude towards the situation than you should be ashamed of yourself. Running from the worlds problems and pretending they aren't there is not the way we should live. That's the American way. As soon as your neighborhood starts to go a little down hill, its time to pack your bags and sprawl out to the next empty cornfield. Well, pretty soon there won't be anymore empty cornfields to build crappy houses on. What are you going to do then?
My point is at least there are people trying to improve something thats worth hanging on to. If it weren't for such open minded, progressively thinking people, neighborhoods like those in New York that you mentioned wouldn't be any better than OTR either. You have to step outside your comfort zone/fish bowl world to make any difference in life.

VisuaLingual said...

Two thoughts. One, the lawyer was being persuasive in his statement, not necessarily truthful or expressing his personal opinion. He was playing on other people's perceptions for the benefit of his stake in the case. The article doesn't temper his statements or help the reader put them into a broader perspective, which may reflect the writer's bias or simply laziness. So, the article is a bit misleading if not read carefully.

Two, it's difficult to compare Cincinnati with a place like NYC, where many people moved into certain undesirable neighborhoods in search of affordable housing, not necessarily because of their own progressive attitudes, or lack thereof. Apples and oranges, I think.

Quimbob said...

Well, your history is kinda flawed.
There were people who wanted to create a community of the poor, mentally ill and drug addicted in OTR. They wanted these people to create a community of their own and manage it on their own. They literally wanted the inmates to run the asylum and thought it would be some kind of poor paradise.
It was pretty illogical and the area just got worse. Everybody left as soon as they could. You may have heard people around town crabbing about black people on section 8 moving into their west side neighborhoods ? This was "black flight" and that is what left OTR abandoned. Well, that and landlords who let their buildings get so bad the city wouldn't let people live there anymore.
As far as the area being a combat zone ? It is for the people who choose to live that way. That's why parents used the section 8 to get their kids the hell out.
I agree with a lot of what you say about people's perceptions. I couldn't convince co-workers to eat lunch at Findlay Market because they thought they would get shot !
People do have an attitude of "these people live here" around here. I have known poor people who won't go to Hyde Park because "it's not for their kind". I mean it goes both ways. It's weird.
Anyway, it doesn't do much good to run around all bigoted and insulting people, acting all victimized and calling everybody a racist.

John said...

i'm glad you rebuttled this - kudos.

tucker's - i miss you.

Anonymous said...


Absolutely amazing.

OTR is filled with criminals and derelicts, and it's the people who DON'T live in OTR who are the problem.

Great logic.

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