SDP 2021-2022 Week 5: Industry, Inequality, and Environment in South Baltimore

After a week focusing more on some theory and hanging out in class on our own, we took a fabulous little field trip down to South Baltimore. On our way there, we saw the infamous BRESCO Incinerator and crossed the bridge to Cherry Hill and Brooklyn, past Middle Branch Park and Winans Cove, to one of the site visits where we stopped on the Zero Waste tour that occurred before the start of the semester.

I personally really appreciated being able to get off campus and see the site itself. We were all a little bit in awe at all the space and all the possibilities. When we had the Zero Waste tour, we only stayed in the main parking area once you got into the site, but there was more! It felt like a park, there were many flowers, there was a persimmon tree (some of us tried the fruit- sweet but then gave us all cotton mouth after chewing for a few seconds). We did not feel like we were in Baltimore. The space was going to be a landfill- less than a mile away from an elementary school (if I remember currently) and a neighborhood rec center. We all just kind of sat with that for a bit because it’s now an empty space and we can imagine different futures of what it can be- like a zero waste campus.

We kept walking through a little path that was created and spent some time discussing and learning about the history and use of not just that space, but Southern Baltimore in general. This included housing segregation, discussions on Lawrence Brown’s piece with the “Black Butterfly”, redlining, and more. Here, the elevation was higher and we had such a beautiful view- of the largest medical waste incinerator in the country, mountains of coal, and also a chemical processing plant all right next to each other like a little industrial invasive district. We were curious about the implications with everything industrial being accumulated in ONE singular part of the city and how they are all treated as one. There were also lots of deals with these industrial companies because interest groups wanted to bring more and more industry to Baltimore. The City pretty much looked the other way from a community that was carrying and breathing in and living in this industrial site.

We also discussed just space in general and how we design parts of cities to fit residents needs, but how many marginalized locales really don’t have environments that fit them or serve them. There is also the need to think about people experiencing homelessness or others that may use the proposed space for the zero waste campus- it did not look uninhabited because there was some trash around, we saw a very sad teddy bear so brutally destroyed and dried up. How invasive would the zero waste campus be? How can we prevent any complications or the same issues that we see with big industrial sites like we saw at the top of our hike? And also, what are the ideas or visions that residents may have and how are we centering them?

That was the first part of the day - just walking, talking, observing, foraging, resting and enjoying the time away from the business of the city and Hopkins life.

We then headed over to a local church after having some snacks (and doing a much needed grounding/ breathing exercise) to do some brainstorming and debriefing. There, we realized that there were two main pathways or teams that this work would fall into, in accordance with what Shashawnda and Greg and SBCLT have identified where we can support- there’s the residential/ community side and the institutional side with Hopkins and MICA mainly. We broke it down:

  • What is the problem or the goal that we are trying to address/have?
  • What are some of the steps that we need to take to reach those goals (on both the institutional and residential side)?
  • Who do we need to talk to, or who are the stakeholders?
  • We did not get to the “how” part necessarily but we touched on it a bit through the other questions.

We left off with new ideas about how the SDP would function and what our purpose would be. As Shashawnda and Greg told us, they are making calls to people who have already filled out the petition so we can help with that, and also circulating the petition around. Maybe we can think of more organized ways of informing people about their October 22 challenge and ensuring there’s opportunities for more people to get involved beyond us.

Curtis Bay Site Visit View:
The pictures of the brainstorming dumps are in the Planning channel.