On March 12, 2012, the City of Salem claimed a lien upon the lot at 38-40 Palmer Street in The Point neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts. That January, city officials contracted to remove a dilapidated one story building that had become a public safety issue, a fact that came to light the previous summer during a neighborhood walkthrough with local teens, the mayor, and police.
Two years ago, this was a good move by the city. But now the site remains fallow. Even at less than 3,000 square feet, it is a waste of space in the most densely populated area of Salem. The empty lot is across the street from Mary Jane Lee Park, a well-used space in the neighborhood. In March of 2013, I prepared a survey for Point residents, asking them for their thoughts on the lot. They said:
• This should be a place for the youth and kids to have a safe place to be off streets.
• Needs to be cleaned up a little bit more.
• A park needs to be here.
• Empty space going to waste. They should make some kind of kid recreation, mostly for the summer and for the winter there is nothing for these kids to do.
• They should build something for the kids.
• A big empty space that should be filed with something positive for the community.
• This should be a place where the kids can learn about gardening and painting.
• There should be a little park for kids under 5 because big kids and little kids can’t play in the same park because the big kids hurt the little kids.
The problem is that the property owner has been missing for years. He has abandoned the property, but not legal ownership. The lot remains entangled in property rights purgatory. An empty lot doesn’t pose the safety issues of an unstable structure. A lot is easily forgotten by those who are able to untangle the legal web.
Post and photos by Claudia Paraschiv.