The Shame of Branch Street In Rocky Mount, NC – Councilman Joyner – Ward 3

“With the input from The Public Hearings, the American Rescue Plan Act money is intended for housing like you find on Branch Street.” SFH

I first drove up and down Branch Street in February 2022. I took the following photographs of boarded up houses and garbage. Here is a neighborhood that should be saved. My reaction to the condition of things,”Oh, for God’s sake!”

I returned on December 29, 2022 and found little had changed. A few houses show signs of work, but garbage is strewn around the same garbage cans. This Branch Street scene remains disgraceful. Granted, the neighborhood was in decline before Mr. Joyner became the councilman, but it is obvious that he has done nothing to work on the problem; to take action, to find leadership from the residents, to coordinate the volunteer work, stay on top of grant opportunities, pinch bottoms, believe!

In an August 21, 2021 Bill West Telegram article, Pastor Rev. Dennis Gunter told the City Council he counted nearly two dozen vacant residences along Branch Street in Southeast Rocky Mount. Gunter has served as pastor of the Greater Mount Hermon Missionary Baptist Church.

Gunter noted a part of Holly Street having been revitalized. “It looks very nice over there, but over on Branch Street, where I’ve been pastoring for 24 years, just those four blocks, 23 houses — empty.” Gunter noted trash is everywhere.

Reminder: We’re talking August 21, 2021

City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney reiterated that municipal staff and the council already are working together on an initiative to correct the conditions Gunter spoke about. Small-Toney made clear the plan is to set aside $3 million of more than $11.5 million the municipality is going to receive via the American Rescue Plan Act to help kick-start the municipality’s affordable housing plan.

Small-Toney said she believes the $3 million via the American Rescue Plan Act lends an opportunity to use those funds for leveraging and to get the private sector involved so the city can do more.

Then the ‘Happy Talk’ in the article begins…
“We’re at the beginning of creating a process that would help everybody participate in the rebuilding of inner-city, core-city Rocky Mount and create opportunity for developers, for individual homeowners, for institutions that have never left those communities and want to do better,” Blackwell said.

Those who shall not be named always talk about low income housing but when you check on things, the deserving people along Branch Street, for instance, live in a state of decline and nobody stops it. We’ve got Councilman that have their own agenda and there is no money under the table saving Branch Street. These Councilmen talk about low income housing but won’t save the housing we have with architectural and historical significance. I repeat, there is no money in saving rundown housing. Never mind that this would bring back neighborhood pride and safety. With pride the neighbors would pick up the garbage and put it INTO the garbage cans. This saved housing can shelter seniors, work force, professionals, singles and young families.

The people living in these ‘at risk neighborhoods’ have to stop voting for Councilmen whose good intentions gave way to power, control, money…the My Will Be Done agenda. Time passes, leadership talks, nothing changes. Praying for the Branch Street people and neighborhood costs nothing. Join me!

I’ll leave you with the latest stats I could find. There are 110 properties on Branch Street in Rocky Mount, NC. The average price for real estate there is $30,758. The average property tax on Branch Street is $280/yr and on average a house or building was built in and around 1937. The average household income in the Branch Street area is $40,119. The largest ethnic group in the Branch Street area is Black at 72.8% followed by White at 23.9%. 39.9% have High School education followed by 30.6% with some college.

If I could, I would call a meeting of the residents along Branch Street and hold it at Greater Mount Hermon Missionary Baptist Church. I would ask, “Will you work together to help save the neighborhood? I would take a survey at this meeting of the talents available. Is there skilled labor, an electrician, a carpenter, a painter? How many teenagers with strong backs, who want to learn something, would help? How many volunteers would step up to help one another? Habitat for Humanity could pick Branch Street to work on. Mr. Joyner needs to arrange that.

Mr. Joyner can arrange with the city to place Dempster Dumpsters where work is scheduled. He could contact OIC and ask the volunteers they have to help. If churches can take members on mission trips, Mr. Joyner can get in touch with other churches and ask them to make Branch Street their mission in 2023. This approach needs no permission or fooling around deciding to act. Councilman Joyner is elected to work for the people in #4. With the will and his leadership, like Nike says, “just ‘do it.”

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