Why residents are worried about the entertainment center


Features



A family enjoys a walk along Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook. Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

Residents of WOODBROOK are calling for more meaningful and practical development that will preserve and complement the historic value of the community.

The 111-year-old community was sold to the Port of Spain City Council in 1911. Its Victorian gingerbread cottages and National Trust heritage site – Lapeyrouse Cemetery – are the hallmark of the area.

Of its 32 streets, the oldest are named after British generals.

From its rich history stemming from the Woodbrook Estate, owned by the Siegert family, who created the Angostura bitters, it is also home to Mandela Park formerly known as George IV Park.

Over the years, Woodbrook has been one of the fastest growing communities in the country.

But over the past 20 years it has taken on a new face as Port of Spain’s nightlife hub.

But residents feel their community is not meant to be a center of entertainment.

Although this change has revolutionized the area by attracting more business activity, residents said they have been suffocated by this continued expansion.

People hang out on Ariapita Avenue which is an entertainment nightclub. Photo by Sureash Cholai

According to residents, Woodbrook has turned into “one big washroom” for patrons. They said illegal parking issues had trapped them in their homes on several occasions. If they don’t have to deal with parking, problems with prostitution, displaced people, thefts, excessive insults and harassment from customers surface.

Every Sunday morning, their driveways are littered with feces, trash and vomit from revelers from the weekend’s activities.

Speaking to Sunday Newsday, they explained they had had enough and promised to do everything in their power to restore it to pristine condition.

Although they understand that change is inevitable, they will not accept changes that will cost them their peace, comfort and security.

They deny that they are against development but prefer to have proposals that improve the community.

Lynette Dolly, head of the Woodbrook Residents’ Committee, in an interview Wednesday said, “We grew up on business, but not on what’s happening on Ariapita Avenue.”

In the past, she says, Woodbrook businesses provided services that didn’t create a nuisance.

“Get us going. We have grown, we have 60 years of independence. Let’s show that we can have best practices if we want heritage tourism, and we can do it.

“Those who left were driven out of our homes. We were terrified by the nuisances and forced to sell.

These problems started when the casinos came along, Dolly said.

Soon after, the problems were exacerbated when bars and clubs were allowed to operate among residences.

Residents predict that schools, century-old churches and other essential services would become history and be replaced by more bars and entertainment stops to align with the vision of Tourism Minister Randall Mitchell and the Mayor of Port of Spain Joel Martinez.

And because they are convinced that the judiciary, the Environmental Management Authority (EMA), the business community, the police and the government of Woodbrook have refused to recognize the level of stress and the inconveniences currently being experienced.

In May, residents complained to the mayor at the municipality’s monthly statutory meeting about an increase in the number of displaced people settling on the streets. Many of them took place at Augustus Williams Park. Martinez said he was doing his best to address the issue and called on the Department of Social Development and Family Services to play its part.

Last week, police revealed a new ring of car thieves targeting filers who park their vehicles along the side streets of Ariapita Avenue.

They are disappointed that even after a series of consultations over the years, proposals that they believe could further interfere with their lives are being considered.

Cars parked in front of houses on Luis Street, near Ariapita Avenue, Woodbrook on the night of July 28. Photo by Sureash Cholai

Cécile George, a member of the committee, called on the authorities to say what is the real intention behind the proposed “epicenter”. “What’s the motivation, desperation and determination to ‘evolve’ Woodbrook in this? Who benefits? We have gone so far in this desperation to be something other than what we are.

A resident said she had to wait an hour before she could leave the house.

She explained: “(I) encountered litter thrown from cars parked along the street, used condoms, bottles, boxes of food, prostitutes peeing on the sidewalk between 6am and 8am. “

Another resident, who wanted to be identified as Cynthia, described the entertainment plans as ‘ridiculous and will only bring more rogue elements to Woodbrook and further frustrate residents with noise, illegal parking and blocked walkways , destruction of property, armed robbery and attacks, and home invasions…”

“Bandits entered my house with guns and beat my family demanding money, despite all kinds of security. My family had to be hospitalized. This is all because we have all these activities on the ave and all over Woodbrook.

“I had to ask cable, telephone and power companies to come and reinstall my lines because trucks pulled my wires out at Carnival. Now, if we have all these year-round entertainment and promotion trucks, am I now going to be subject to a year-round disruption of essential services?”

“They should revive downtown Port of Spain and put the entertainment plans there and not on the avenue or any other part of Woodbrook. Put Carnival in Chaguaramas – people could wine, twirl and make all the noise they want in the open air in Chaguaramas and their urine and faces could fertilize the ground there.

Antoinette, a retiree who only gave her first name, described what is happening as a punishment.

“Why punish us, the people of Woodbrook? We have to live with that every year. The noise, the crime, the inconvenience, the dirt. Others come here for a few hours and then return to their safe and peaceful lives to rest and rejuvenate. .”

Another resident claimed that filers threw bottles at her house, damaged her door and rang her doorbell when they passed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

Residents hope the mayor and minister consider all of these factors before asking residents to accept his vision for their community.

They said such a proposal would be best suited to Queen’s Park Savannah, downtown Port of Spain or Chaguaramas.

Their further frustration came following an announcement from Mitchell on July 26.

Speaking at Tribe Family of Bands’ SUNSETWKN (Sunset Weekend) launch along Ariapita Avenue, where soca king Machel Montano received the key to the city; Mitchell said he wanted to turn the avenue into a party strip.

This, he said, will enable an entire month of band launches throughout the weekend that will attract regional and international tourists away from Carnival while capturing the essence of Carnival and TT culture. The police, the TT Promoters Association, the Bar Owners Association and carnival groups headquartered in the area have all signaled their intention to work closely with residents to coexist comfortably.

On the issue of unbearable noise levels, the EMA told Newsday on Sunday that it is working to get noise pollution under control, not just in Woodbrook but across the country.

By email, the EMA explained that with the lifting of covid19 restrictions, they have seen a marked increase in noise complaints, and the country is now back to pre-covid19 levels of noise complaints. .

The EMA said it had conducted and been invited to consultations organized by the TTPS/Woodbrook community and the City Corporation in the past, but was unaware of any consultation regarding the band of the Ariapita Avenue and a year-round carnival/festival epicenter.

He said he strongly recommends extensive consultation with multiple stakeholders in this regard.

Most reports through the authority’s complaints hotline are noise-related.

He said a whole-of-society approach is needed to tackle the scourge of noise pollution and uses a multi-pronged plan.

“This includes the recent strengthening of the legislative framework through reducing the time frame for monitoring activities undertaken with noise variation permits and ongoing dialogue with the police and the TT Fete Promoters Association, and the TT Bar Owners Association.

The EMA is also carrying out other reviews of noise pollution control rules (NPCR) to help reinforce strong legislation. The Authority has also embarked on an awareness campaign.

He noted many noise level complaints from bar and club owners.

“Considering this, the EMA has met with and continues to seek proactive engagements with the TT Bar Owners Association to increase awareness levels among their members.”

The EMA encourages citizens to call the police and report noise pollution from bars and clubs.

Under section 70 of the Summary Offenses Act, anyone who causes a nuisance to the public is liable to a $1,500 fine or six months’ imprisonment.

Following the meeting with the police in June to discuss a collaborative partnership to combat noise pollution, the EMA is currently preparing for future engagements with the service, including training and capacity building on monitoring noise.

Limits prescribed under noise pollution control rules:

I. General areas

Daytime limits: Monday to Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day:

a. The sound pressure level, when measured as an equivalent continuous sound pressure level, should not be more than 5 dBA (decibels A) higher than the background sound pressure level.

b. The sound pressure level measured as the instantaneous unweighted peak sound pressure level must not exceed 120 dB (peak).

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is prohibited for any person to emit or cause to be emitted a sound whose sound pressure level, measured as an equivalent continuous sound pressure level, exceeds 80 dBA.

Night limits: Monday to Sunday of each week from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day:

a. The sound pressure level, when measured as an equivalent continuous sound pressure level, should not be more than 5 dBA higher than the background sound pressure level.

b. The sound pressure level measured as an unweighted instantaneous peak sound pressure level shall not exceed 115 dB (peak).

Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is prohibited for any person to emit or cause to be emitted a sound whose sound pressure level, measured as an equivalent continuous sound pressure level, exceeds 65 dBA.

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