The week of Thanksgiving is reserved for family feast and gatherings large and small, but for lifelong Watts residents Ronald Antwine this annual holiday ritual will be particularly special because it be the last one before ground breaks on a new park right outside his door steps.
Forty-two years ago Antwine’s mother had a modest four-bedroom house built along Motor Ave. in Watts.
The spacious four-bedroom home was where the family accumulated on the holidays to share treasured memories, but just beyond the front yard was the eye sore.
Each time the door would swing open to greet visitors and friends would, they would see the railroad tracks which ran down Wilmington Ave. separated by a parcel of land that has long been transformed into a dumping ground.
It was one thing to adjust to the sound of the screeching train roaring through the neighborhood, but yet another to see mounds of trash pile up, polluting the environment and imposing health hazards.
Antwine would have to continue to endure the misery of the ugly landscape and more long after his mother past away.
In this gang-infested community, dominated by drugs and murder, the blithe that settled along the train tracks fit right in.
For Antwine, 54, also known to family and friends as “Kartoon” he also became a victim to gangs and drugs before he transformed his life more than two decades ago.
Today he still resides in the mouse that mom built, one that he has fought to keep. Instead of being a menace in Watts he has been a much-respected peacemaker in the gang warfare and is a positive example for those who have been afflicted by the chronic abuse of drugs and alcohol.
Now, four decades later it appears that Antwine’s crusade to do something about a distance of 200 feet and where the remnants of trash was dumped in daylight and remained is paying off.
The land is reportedly owned by Union Pacific Railroads whose tracks run adjacent to MTA's Blueline tracks.
It is the 1.4-acre location that evolved into illegal dumping ground without any consequences, Antwine told the Sentinel during this exclusive interview.
Residents frequently complaints about it, but their pleas for change were ignored.
“Years ago weeds would grow as tall as seven feet with trash scattered
throughout. Others used this plot of land as their personal landfill in the
early morning hours,” Antwine explained.
After contacting Union Pacific Railroad, Antwine was debunked, but not deterred.
“No one wanted to come out to Watts and clean up the mess on their
property. So, I decided to take it a step further, file small claims
case to get compensated for the flat tires of an abandoned vehicle, that forced excessive dust dirt into his home while the rodents who ran rampant,” he continued.
Antwine met a lawyer who was willing to take a look at his complaint. “The
lawyer saw the rubbish, weeds and lack of concern and not only represented
me, but she represented all those impacted by the blight. More than 30
residents received from $17,000 to $55,000 from Union Pacific Railroad providing with they would not file future claims,” he added.
Subsequently he said that he learned that Union Pacific Railroad never had intentions of cleaning up their property, but discovered the City of Los Angeles would.
Reportedly, the City billed Union Pacific Railroad $10,000 for the maintenance of the lot.
Ironically, his mother began complaining in the mid 70’s and even reported
seeing a dead body in the field.
The plight of this one-man mission to have a park built was met with scorn by the Watts Neighborhood Council, a local developer and the Los Angeles City Council, but in the end he prevailed.
The local developer had purchased the land from Union Pacific and planned to build homes on the parcel, but the long time resident fought against it.
“We don’t have a park with green space that could sever as a walking trail and allow for families to watch their kids play and without driving a distance. Many of us don’t have cars,” Antwine stated.
“The sweat was worth it.”
The developer has since sold the land to Trust and Public Land who has relinquished it to Recreation and Parks.
“Developers and contractors for the park have been to our community allowing us
to have input in the designs,” he joyfully said.
“Our children will have a skateboard park, we will have our own walking trails,
their will be weather resistant exercise machines yet more importantly we will
have greenery, which produce oxygen and serenity helping us all to live in
harmony. Thank you Ted Watkins for saying "Don't move, improve." I thank my
mother Ruby Joyce who started a fight that her first born finished...”
Ground braking is scheduled for Jan 2014.