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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Porters Quarters residents meet with local officials to express parking concerns

Residents of the historically Black neighborhood expressed concerns about trespassing and parking

A sign is seen on the corner of Southwest Fourth Avenue and Southwest Third Street discouraging Florida Vintage Market shoppers from parking in the Porters Quarters neighborhood on Oct. 19, 2021.
A sign is seen on the corner of Southwest Fourth Avenue and Southwest Third Street discouraging Florida Vintage Market shoppers from parking in the Porters Quarters neighborhood on Oct. 19, 2021.

The Florida Vintage Market attracts hundreds of visitors to explore local vendors, food trucks and music every two weeks. 

But on Oct. 10, shoppers were met with limited parking availability confined to the handful of spots at the 4th Ave Food Park, a rented parking lot on Sixth Street and Fourth Avenue, and city parking a few blocks away.

“Please no parking in the Porters community. You will be towed!” and “Be respectful of our neighborhood: No trash dumping, no loud music, no parking on private property,” read signs located on every block.

During the last market two weeks ago, residents of Porters Quarters, a historically Black neighborhood established in 1884, came home from church Sunday and found dozens of cars parked on their lawns and in front of their driveways with no explanation.

After calling the police at the event, Porters Quarters residents held a meeting with 4th Ave Food Park to discuss concerns about parking. GPD spokesperson Graham Glover said police were present at the community meeting and that the issue is resolved.

“There are no more issues,” Glover said. “The Porters community and business owners on 4th Ave Food Park met, they've talked, they figured out a way to get traffic where it needs to be and parking where it needs to be.”

Faye Williams, a 66-year-old Porters Quarters resident, said she was horrified by what she saw at the market a few weeks ago.

“We could not even park in our driveways,” Williams said. “They had to sit in the car, or go somewhere else and come back two or three hours to get in their own house.” 

She said if this were to have happened in any predominantly white neighborhood, cars would have been towed and ticketed immediately.

And this isn’t the first time Porters Quarters residents have seen this happen. Williams recalled a similar event that happened two years ago at a Depot Park concert.

“The guy who lives over here couldn’t even get into his yard,” she said. “One of his friends went and slashed seven tires, and the guys had to come out and hold him back because he just lost it… This man that worked all night and you can't come back and park in your own yards. And then they [the drivers] come back at 2 a.m. — most of them drunk and shouldn’t be driving.”

More than anything, Williams is afraid Porters Quarters is slowly losing its history, its culture and its people at the hands of incidents similar to what happened with the market as well as new residential and commercial developments.

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“When the young people come in, mostly young students, they have no idea what they're living on,” Williams said. “They’re just happy to find an apartment on Sixth Street…But they have no idea of the history of Porters.”

Nkwanda Jah, a 67-year-old East Gainesville resident, said she isn’t surprised by what happened at 4th Ave Food Park.

“It's alright to have businesses created, such as those in the food park on Fourth, but my problem is that it's not inclusive of the neighborhood that it’s located in,” Jah said. “I don't think anyone from that community has any business in that area.”

Jah said she’s more concerned about developers putting up student housing on Sixth Street than commercial businesses.

“Those apartments are going to be way out of the reach of the people who were displaced,” she said. “Now that's just gentrification. When they move a group of people out and they can't afford to live in the neighborhood that they previously lived in.”

Mia Crisostomo, 4th Ave Food Park’s digital coordinator and event coordinator, said she hasn’t had much interaction with the Porters Quarters community and parking has not been an issue in the past.

She knew the founders of The Florida Vintage Market because of her own experience as a vendor, and she invited them to host their market at 4th Ave Food Park.

“We also have a lot of food vendors that are local businesses here that would be able to benefit from the traffic that the market would bring,” Crisostomo said.

The local market scene has grown a lot during the last three years she has been involved and the turnout for the previous The Florida Vintage Market was one of the largest since COVID-19 started, she said.

“We haven't really had any complaints to the extent that we did at The Florida Vintage Market,” she said. “We really were shocked by the turnout. And we didn't intend for people to park in the community. We didn't know that people were parking in the Porters community until cops literally came and talked to me about it.”

Crisostomo said the Food Park attempted to divert people to the Southwest Parking Garage and city street parking that are free on the weekends.

The Florida Vintage Market posted a map on Instagram to show shoppers where they need to park.

“DO NOT PARK IN THE PORTERS COMMUNITY OR OTHER SURROUNDING NEIGHBORHOODS, YOU WILL BE TOWED!” market organizers wrote on Instagram.

But, as Williams and Jah said, the conflict is far from over as students continue to infiltrate the area surrounding their communities.

Contact Jiselle Lee at jlee@alligator.org or follow her on Twitter @jiselle_lee.

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Jiselle Lee

Jiselle Lee is a second-year journalism student and the East Gainesville Reporter. This is her second semester at The Alligator, and she is excited to continue her work at the Metro desk. In her spare time, she enjoys eating her way around Gainesville.


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