All sorts of housing can be seen from the Blue Line, but the public housing projects are what caught my eye with their uniform cream color, barred windows, unkempt grass, rundown playgrounds, and numbers labeling each building like an internment camp. No judgement passed my mind; however, my curious nature as always enticed me to learn more about what I had seen and my surroundings so I did some research on public housing off of the blue line. According to the Public Housing Authority, the average family annual income in public housing is $20,416 and the average monthly rent is $456. People in public housing can not put more than 30% of their income towards housing which is mostly paid by people’s wages rather than government assistance. However, many people in LA spend 50% of their income on housing. Its not easy to get public housing and about 40,000 are on the waiting list.
The below video is the Pueblo Del Rio Public Housing Complex, but the Nickerson Gardens projects are the ones I first noticed. I go in and out of the Willowbrook metro station and I drive by the Nickerson Gardens projects everyday two blocks from the station. Sitting in traffic I noticed the tall iron fence with spikes pointing inward rather than outward as if to keep people in like a prison rather than keep people out. According to Wikipedia, Nickerson Gardens is the largest public housing development west of the Mississippi River and it has over 1000 units. A 2007 LA Weekly article explains that Nickerson Gardens was the possible origins of the Bounty Hunter Bloods gang and used as a base for their nationwide drug-trafficking network. It describes the front wall of the complex’s recreation center which has 300 names of Nickerson Gardens residents that have been killed in gang violence. The articles describes several heartbreaking stories which is an important reminder that the faces on the Blue Line have experienced things that I can’t even image. For example, the former gang member being interviewed in the article says, “Sherills told me he became a gangbanger because he was sexually molested. ‘But that’s taboo,’ he said. ‘You don’t say that. Feeling worthless, like you are an object. In this neighborhood 90 percent of young men have been sexually abused. I will say 99 percent of ladies. Everybody is operating within the cloud. It’s the elephant that is sitting in the room that no one speaks of.’” There are also descriptions of post-traumatic stress disorder among children and of kids hiding in their homes rather than playing with others kids. I wonder how Nickerson Gardens has changed in the last ten years and if things have gotten a little better. I have seen kids riding bikes and playing on the playground as I pass by.
I also read a 2015 LA Times article which said that Willowbrook/Rosa Parks station was the “busiest, dreariest and most crime-ridden light-rail stop in Los Angeles County”. The station and the Blue Line will be under-construction and getting a new makeover soon. I sit on the Blue Line looking at the diverse passengers thinking its important to not judge a book by its cover. Regardless of our personal stories and what we have individually experienced in our lives, the Blue Line should be a place of respect and common courtesy which has been my experience so far.