Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Above The Falls Master Plan Updates

Post and photo by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.

After months of planning and public comments, the City of Minneapolis has updated its Above the Falls master plan.  The full document, public comments, and a summary of recommendations and responses to comments can be found here.  A public hearing on these proposed changes will be on Tuesday, February 19th, 4:30 p.m. at City Hall.

More information will be posted soon, but Hawthorne has been focused on, among other things, three items in particular:  a connection along 26th Avenue North from the residential sector to the riverfront (including bike lanes and walkability), bike paths along the river that connect the Grand Rounds/River Parkway from downtown through Hawthorne and up to the Mississippi Regional Park, and land use around the Riverview condominiums that will take into account the opinions of our residents who live in that part of the community.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Northern Metals Public Comments

Post and image by Jeff Skrenes,  Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.

The Northern Metals Environmental Assessment Worksheet process has resulted in sixty-nine public comments received by the MPCA.  A list of those comments shows who is on the side of the community and who is not.

The final tally may be inexact.  Several organizations have multiple letters included.  Councilmember Hofstede included a series of letters, although some of those people submitted their own comments as well.  However, my best count is this:  Fifty-five people or organizations submitted comments that were either against any increase, or in support of a full Environmental Impact Statement, or expressed serious reservations about the application.  Four letters were written stating that an organizational entity had no position on the matter.  Three letters (one from Northern Metals itself) supported granting the permit.

That's right.  More people took the time to comment that they had no position than those who support the increase in pollution.  A breakdown of who said what is after the jump.

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Northern Metals Ruling Issued

Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.

On June 19, Judge David C. Higgs ruled on the tangled legal web brought to us by Northern Metals.  The Order can be found here, and for the most part it seems beneficial to the community.  As a layman, there are a few significant developments I see that I hope to correctly interpret and point out.

First, the orders to stay proceedings are vacated.  That would seem to be necessary if for no other reason than to bring the case out of legal limbo.  Second, Northern Metals' requests for monetary damages are denied.  Those requests seemed to have little chance of success, and appeared to be little more than a legal bullying attempt.  Still, if they would have been granted, chances of Northern Metals failing to obtain their pollution permit would be much greater.

Finally, the MPCA is ordered to make its decision on an Environmental Impact Statement "as soon as it is administratively feasible for a meeting to take place."  This was the ruling that I and many others had anticipated would come down in some form.  We knew that the most likely decision from a judge would be that the MPCA would be told, "Ok, it's time to make a decision here.  You've got however long to do it."

Where things get really interesting is in the page-and-a-half Memorandum that follows Higgs' Order.  Remember now, this whole mess got started when a Writ of Mandamus was issued that essentially forced the MPCA into an unprecedented legal corner.  During that proceeding, and those that followed, Northern Metals has apparently asked the court to limit the criteria on which the MPCA can make its decisions surrounding the draft permit, an environmental assessment worksheet, or a full environmental impact statement.  Higgs declines to place such limitations on the MPCA.

"The district court has no right to interfere with an administrative agency which is proposing to act in a manner properly within the scope of its responsibility until final action is taken...A restriction, by this Court, on the evidence that the MPCA may receive and consider is improper as it unduly interferes with the MPCA's decision-making authority."
In essence, Judge Higgs tells Northern Metals that the MPCA is doing what it is supposed to be doing, and as long as that keeps up, the courts have no right, much less a desire, to interfere.  Now the ball is back in the MPCA's court, and hopefully the public hearing (that was just about to take place before the last court order) will resume.

**On a final technicality, there has been some minute hand-wringing over whether the petitioner in this case is Northern Metal or Northern Metals, pluralized.  Some have said that the name is actually Northern Metal.  However, since the Order clearly identifies "Northern Metals" as the petitioner, and since people throughout the community frequently refer to the company as such in speaking, I will continue to use "Northern Metals" when writing about this case.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

(Drum Roll Please) Announcing the 2012 Tree Nursery Lineup!

Post and photos (except where credited otherwise) by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.

The Hawthorne EcoVillage tree nursery has received a shipment of thirty trees for 2012.  We have ten Ironwood trees, ten Fall Fiesta Maple trees, and ten Bur Oak trees.  These are free for anyone who owns property (or renters who have permission from property owners) in north Minneapolis.  They are available on a first come, first served basis.  The cat in the photo above has first dibs though.

The EcoVillage tree nursery is located at 404 31st Avenue North, and trees will be available for their first round of distribution on Saturday June 2nd, 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon.  For more information, please feel free to contact the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council office at 612-529-6033 x204 or jskrenes@hawthorneneighborhoodcouncil.org.

Our partners at Tree Trust have put together a handy little sheet that shows pictures of the trees they have available, including the three kinds in the EcoVillage.  And like last year, I'm including a photo of what the trees look like in the nursery along with a photo of what they will look like when they are mature.

Ironwood in the nursery
A more mature Ironwood tree, photo from the city of Blaine.
The Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple in the nursery.
The above sugar maple showing why it's called a Fall Fiesta.  Photo from Knecht's Nursery.
The Bur Oak in the nursery
A mature Bur Oak, courtesy of Bachmann's.
If you can't make it to the distribution on Saturday, feel free to call the Hawthorne office or email me to schedule a pick-up time, so you can give a tree a new home in north Minneapolis!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Layman's Summary of the Northern Metals Legal Wrangling

Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.

"Dramatic" and "roller coaster" are two words rarely associated with something as dry and bureaucratic as a Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens' Advisory Board meeting.  But those two descriptions certainly applied on Monday, March 26th as the board took up the issue of Northern Metals' request for increases in their pollution limits.  The board had taken up consideration of whether to approve the request or require a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  In part because there has been no public meeting on the application yet, over forty residents and employees within North  Minneapolis took time out of their workday to attend the hearing and speak on the issue.  We were also supported by many of our elected officials, including Linda Higgins, Bobby Joe Champion, Joe Mullery, Barb Johnson, Diane Hofstede, Kari Dziedzic, Phyllis Kahn, and Jon Olson.

But even arriving at this point was a long and winding road.  In recent months, it started with Northern Metals applying for what amounts to increases in pollutant levels and decreases in emissions testing and requirements.  Public meetings were announced and subsequently cancelled.  The MPCA realized that their calculations around particulate matter emissions were inaccurate.  As they were in the process of reworking that data set, Northern Metals did an end-around on the process by going to a judge to issue a peremptory writ of mandamus.  That legal wrangling essentially required the MPCA to take up the matter at their next board meeting.

The writ had several extenuating circumstances that were quite rare.  First, it appears the MPCA had not even received notification of its filing, and had no chance to represent itself at the hearing.  Second, the district court website biography for the judge in the matter, Elena Ostby, indicates that she once worked for the same law firm, Briggs & Morgan, as the attorney representing Northern Metals.  Finally, it appears that this particular ruling is unprecedented in the history of Minnesota.  The highly unusual--and frankly, rather suspect--sequence of events meant that the MPCA was working feverishly to overturn or at least slow down the judge's order.  And many environmental justice groups were watching these proceedings with bated breath.

But because Ostby issued that order, the MPCA had to proceed assuming it would not be overturned.  In those proceedings, the staff issued a recommendation that a full Environmental Impact Statement be issued.  Short of a flat-out denial of the permit application, an EIS is about the best thing the community could ask for.  The current draft permit application and Environmental Assessment Worksheet is rather limited in scope - on top of the fact that the particulate matter emissions data is inaccurate.  A full EIS would allow for more accurate information, but it would also allow a broader scope of criteria.

In an EIS, we could look at environmental justice issues, such as how low-income and minority communities are disproportionately affected by asthma and other diseases and hospitalizations related to elevated pollution levels.  We could look at future land use policies, such as the Above the Falls master plan and the Mississippi Riverfront Design Initiative.  Both of those plans call for more and expanded bike, pedestrian, and park usage along the Mississippi River, much of which would be directly adjacent to the Northern Metals facility.

I asked many of our elected officials how much weight the staff recommendation for an EIS carried with this board.  No one could think of a time when the staff recommendation was overturned or ignored.  It was possible that the recommendation for an EIS could get some minor adjustments to it, but highly unlikely that it would be disregarded by the board.  Amid all the consternation, the most probable outcome of the hearing was a required EIS of some kind.

Since the MPCA did not want to be legally outmaneuvered, and since Northern Metals did not want the burden of an EIS, we were unclear as to who initiated the order to stop the day's proceedings.  Luckily, I snapped a photo of the judge's order.  (Ostby recused herself and a new judge had been appointed.)  That order shows Northern Metals as the plaintiff.  However, I am unsure if Northern Metals simply remained as the plaintiff since they initiated the writ of mandamus.

In any case, the court order reads...

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Northern Metals Update

The Northern Metals courtroom saga is well-documented elsewhere, but Hawthorne wishes to provide the following update:
The Citizens' Advisory Board meets on March 26-27. On the 26th, the meeting starts at 1:00 p.m. They will take public testimony at that time. On March 27, the meeting starts at 9:00 a.m. and no public testimony will be done then. We are encouraged, though to bring as many people to both meeting times as we are able.

Public comments will be accepted up to five calendar days before the meeting on the 26th. To be on the safe side, comments should be submitted by March 20. This includes the change.org petition. Please direct public comments to William.Lynott@state.mn.us. The board will be given copies of all public comments.

It will also be helpful for the MPCA to get a list of those who wish to speak at the hearing on the 26th.

That hearing is at 520 Lafayette Road in St. Paul, and can accommodate between 200 and 250 people. Let's put that number to the test. Who can come?

Friday, February 03, 2012

Northern Metal Resolution for Precinct Caucuses

The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council strongly opposes the application by Northern Metal Recycling to increase their permitted levels of pollution.  We are asking everyone to attend their precinct caucuses on Tuesday, February 7th.  Click here for the Secretary of State link to your area's and your party's precinct caucus.

One of the ways you can help the Hawthorne neighborhood and all who value the Mississippi River is to bring a resolution to your precinct caucus.  If enough resolutions make it through this process, then the issue becomes a part of the party's platform as a whole.  And if that happens, we can use that platform as a way to lobby our elected officials both here and statewide to support protecting our residents and our river.

Please bring the following resolution with you to your precinct caucus and submit it as part of your party's platform.

WHEREAS the Minneapolis lakes, rivers, waterways, and riverfronts are world class and are vitally important to Minneapolis’ economy, and;

WHEREAS the City’s lakes, rivers, waterways, and waterfront provide recreational pleasure and enjoyment to residents and visitors, and;

WHEREAS Northern Metals Recycling, Inc. is a business located at 2800 Pacific Street, near the Mississippi River, near Ole Olson Park, and adjacent to a proposed land bridge connecting north Minneapolis residents to the Mississippi, and;

WHEREAS Northern Metals Recycling is applying for a permit to increase particulate matter emissions by 1,000% and hazardous air pollutants by 300%, and;

WHEREAS Northern Metals has not complied with its existing permits; in December 2009 performance tests showed particulate matter emissions exceeded the permitted levels by 204% and mercury emissions exceeded permitted levels by 32%, and;

WHEREAS the proposed increased emission levels could double the risk of cancer in the immediate area, could increase the risk of cancer among urban gardeners by 50%, and increase acute inhalation of particulate matter by a factor of 5.5, and;

WHEREAS residents of Minneapolis believe that it is important to protect natural resources, built resources, and community amenities for all people along the Mississippi River corridor against pollutants and other environmental hazards,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the ___________________ Party support the full enforcement of all particulate matter and hazardous air pollutants at or below the currently permitted levels along the Mississippi River, and;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the ___________________ Party support a full Environmental Impact Study and a full Environmental Assessment Worksheet for any entity applying to increase said emission levels along the Mississippi River.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ominous Graffiti on Block of Recent Tragic Shooting

Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council housing director.  Photo by Constance Nompelis.

I wish I could have attended today's press conference, but I already began today calling in sick to work because of a stomach illness.  That feeling was intensely compounded upon hearing of the tragic death of three-year-old Terrell Lamont Mayes Jr.  Words simply cannot express the sorrow and outrage that we all feel.  A baby is dead because someone had a stupid, foolish dispute that they had to settle with a gun.  In a year wherein Minneapolis has seen the age of shooting victims get younger and younger, this is about as heartbreaking as it gets.

At the press conference, we were told "the community has a job to do."  Even while we mourn, there will surely be hard work ahead for all of us.  One small job we can do is to call in graffiti to 311 or remove it ourselves.  Send the message to those who would do such a thing that these streets, these homes, this community does not belong to them.  This is a good neighborhood and a strong community, and now is when we show what we're made of.

On the same block where this shooting occurred, there is a vacant house with various graffiti that appears to be gang-related.  I wish I had seen this before and called it in, but a fellow north Minneapolis resident sent the picture my way.  It may be hard to see, but one part of the defacement says "Haywood City."  Many Hawthorne residents have quickly speculated that this refers to Haywood Eaton, another youth who was killed by gunfire in Hawthorne several years ago.  Another possibility is that it refers to an alias of the infamous Evannor Haymon, who was the scourge of the Hawthorne EcoVillage and sometimes used "Haywood" as a last name.

Gang-related graffiti is troublesome anywhere it rears its ugly head, but on a block where this tragedy occurred, this particular tagging is especially ominous.  We've called it in to 311 and asked that priority be given to its removal.  As we pick up the pieces after this week's event, let us start by comforting those who grieve and then begin to take back our streets to show that this is not a place where such acts are tolerated in the least.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Hawthorne's Letter to the MPCA Regarding Northern Metals

December 9, 2011

Re: Northern Metals Application for Major Permit Amendment

Dear Mr. Lynott, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Cc: Governor Mark Dayton, Senator Al Franken, Senator Linda Higgins, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representative Keith Ellison, Representative Joe Mullery, Representative Bobby Joe Champion, 3rd Ward City Council Member Diane Hofstede

Hawthorne Neighborhood Council is adamantly opposed to the approval of Northern Metals Application for Major Permit Amendment as the more lax regulations they are seeking would have devastating effects on our community.

This organization, and the Hawthorne neighborhood at large, is on track for creating and maintaining healthier and greener lifestyles and practices. The Hawthorne Eco-Village is a testament to these efforts as we continue to encourage residents to build and live “green.” The pollutants and toxic particulates that stand to be released into our air if the amendment to Northern Metals’ current permit is granted can only damage a community that is not in a position to withstand or absorb any further harm. As Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison stated in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency in February 2011, “In low-income and diverse communities of color, the benefits of reducing toxic air pollution cannot be overstated as these communities already face higher than average rates of asthma, birth defects, and respiratory disease.” This statement was made in regards to mercury pollution, one of the toxins that Northern Metals currently emits and of which further relaxed standards would allow increased release. Furthermore, Northern Metals would like to be exempted from cleaning their surface areas should there be precipitation or snowfall in excess of one inch on any given day! Taking into consideration the duration and severity of our Minnesota winters, Northern Metals may not have to clean the area surrounding their operation on a regular basis for up to six months out of the year. This is not a reasonable request by any means.

Northern Metals acknowledges that there are some parks in the area (although they fail to make mention of all them). There are several in close proximity as well as two schools, a high rise dwelling for seniors and persons with disabilities, townhomes and single family homes that will undoubtedly be affected by the carcinogens and other harmful byproducts produced by Northern Metals. Residents of the nearby townhomes currently cannot even open the windows in their homes during the summer months due to the dust and the odors from Northern Metals. This situation will only worsen if the application to amend emissions and cleanup guidelines are relaxed. The area in which Northern Metals is located has been designated as a National Bird Fly Way. This fact has also been omitted from Northern Metals application. Further contamination from pollutants like mercury and hexavalent chromium (and the multitude of others detailed in their application) would be detrimental to supporting the wildlife that inhabits this area.

We understand that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency will use comments received regarding this matter to determine if there is a need for an Environmental Impact Statement. We demand that this report be done!

The Mississippi River is an amenity that should be used, appreciated, and enjoyed by all residents of Minneapolis and walking and biking trails (especially the Grand Rounds Bike and Walking Path) have been developed for this purpose. Additionally, the Hawthorne neighborhood, along with several other North Minneapolis neighborhoods, has been working diligently to secure funding for a land bridge that would extend from 26th to 28th Avenues North and would connect North Minneapolis residents to the Mississippi River. If we are successful in this quest, this bridge as well as our walking and biking paths would actually abut Northern Metals’ facility and would end up exposing countless individuals to numerous poisons. Their application also does not appear to address the effects that additional emissions would have when considering prevailing winds that could significantly increase the areas potentially subject to contamination by Northern Metals’ increased output of toxins. The very fact that Northern Metals would like to extend their current hours of operation is reason enough for nearby residents to be concerned and angry as this would detract from their quality of life as they deal with additional noise and traffic. When you factor in the knowledge that an even greater amount of deadly chemicals will be released into our community it is beyond the scope of reason.

Economic development and success are very important to the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council, but it cannot come at the expense of our residents’ health. Virtually every plan for the Mississippi River being developed by the City of Minneapolis reflects the residents’ desire to move industry away from the river. The types of non-industrial businesses that we and other organizations are trying to attract to this area also reflect this trend. For example, Coloplast Industries produces medical supplies. How will an increase in toxic emissions affect their sterile standards?

We implore you to take our concerns into consideration as you review Northern Metals Application for Major Permit Amendment and deny their request regardless of the notion that their expected emissions may still fall within guidelines considered acceptable to the EPA.

If you have any questions, or would like additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me.


JoAnne Kelty Board Chair

Friday, December 09, 2011

Hawthorne Calls for Strong Environmental Regulations Along Mississippi River

Post and top photo by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.  Image from the Northern Metals Environmental Assessment Worksheet.

Northern Metals Recycling has applied for a permit to relax some environmental regulations at their site on Pacific Street and 28th Avenue North in Hawthorne.  The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council strongly opposes lessening environmental and health protections in our community.  The impact of such changes would be:

*       Additional air emissions

*       Increasing the air emissions limitation

*       Relaxation on emission standards

*       Increasing emissions used to extend outside the hours of Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Weekend & holidays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

There are many provisions within the above-linked environmental worksheet that give Hawthorne residents serious pause.  Among them are:

Northern Metals has proposed to change the requirement to clean all primary roads, entrances,
internal roads, and exits once per day to a requirement to clean these areas “when necessary to
prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne.”
Instead, the Air Emission Permit will still require daily road sweeping and cleaning, but allows for exceptions when the roads are snow- or ice-covered, or if 0.1 inches of liquid precipitation fell in the last 24 hours. (p. 12)

 We worry that "when necessary" is far too subjective and that minimal cleaning during periods of snow and ice could lead to pollution concerns for a site adjacent to the Mississippi River.

Also on page twelve of the report, Northern Metals is requesting that a whole host of tests regarding particulate matter be reduced in their frequency or eliminated altogether.  We are gravely concerned about such diminished protections and support keeping them in place.  The proposal would allow Northern Metals to shred auto hulks and greatly increase their allowed hours of operation.

Section 11 on page 15 of the document references minimal impact on wildlife (due to the industrial area surrounding the site) and the permit amendment would not cause any environmental or land use conflicts.  While this may be presently true, it neglects to take into account the proposed redevelopment efforts underway through the Above the Falls master plan and the Mississippi Riverfront Design Initiative.  A Farview land bridge would extend to the River with 28th Avenue North as its northern boundary, and would border the plant.  Decreased environmental regulations and an increase in potential air and noise pollution are incongruous with the long-term development of the Mississippi River as a true community asset.

The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council is in the process of drafting a formal letter to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and will post it here upon completion.  Comments to William Lynott (651-757-2542) must be received by December 14, 2011.  From those comments, the MPCA will be taken into consideration when deciding whether to require an Environmental Impact Statement.

Hawthorne demands that such an assessment be done.  We urge concerned residents throughout our neighborhood and Minneapolis as a whole to make that same demand of the MPCA.  Please contact both Council Member Diane Hofstede and the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council (Jeff Skrenes or Alexandra Jasicki, 612-529-6033) with your concerns as well.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Hawthorne Receives Community Energy Services Award!

Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.  Photo and quoted items from the Center for Energy and Environment.

From CEE:

Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Awarded a $2,500 Grant! 

The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council (HNC) was awarded a $2,500 grant from the Center for Energy and Environment and the McKnight Foundation on Tuesday, October 25th, for placing 10th in the participation grant challenge, with 8.26% of eligible properties completing a home energy visit through Community Energy Services (CES).  HNC Housing Director Jeff Skrenes was on hand to accept the award.  The award was presented at the Community Energy Services Award Ceremony where partnering neighborhood organizations and volunteers were awarded over $45,000 in grants for their work with CES.  
Since spring of 2010, HNC has been a partner in the Community Energy Services program, providing over 40 home visits that have helped homeowners’ save energy and money in their homes.  CES is still available in Hawthorne and throughout Minneapolis, with now being a great time to participate and prepare your home for winter.  Please visit www.mnces.org for a list of upcoming presentations where you can learn how to save energy and money in your home and sign up for the home energy visit for $30.

Come join over 4,000 Minneapolis homeowners already participating.  For more information about Community Energy Services or to view a list of Community Energy Service Award Recipients, visit www.mnces.org or call (612) 219-7334.

From Jeff Skrenes:

This award was especially meaningful because many of the other recipients were from areas of the city with much higher rates of home ownership.  The outreach and organizing efforts from Hawthorne community leaders and staff, and the strong partnership between Hawthorne and CEE, are exemplified in the success of this program. 

Furthermore, one of the refrains we heard from our community after the home energy visits was that the basic services were helpful but access to funds that would help with bigger-ticket items like a furnace or boiler was still quite limited.  In response to that concern, Hawthorne created a green rehab loan product.  Property owners in Hawthorne can apply for up to $4,500 in assistance with home repairs that line up with Minnesota Green Communities guidelines.  The assistance is a lien against the property, but has no interest or monthly payment and is forgivable over time.  Contact Brenda Yaritz at CEE for more information or to apply.

Friday, October 14, 2011

To the Banks, Broadway, and Back - October 19

Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director, top photo originally used at www.northbynorthside.com, and reposted at the Twin Cities Daily Planet.

On Wednesday, October 19, Hawthorne leaders and partners will be meeting at the corner of 26th Avenue North and 4th Street North, near the Farview Park sign.  We will walk down 26th towards the Mississippi River, and highlight the fact that the bike lanes diverge from sidewalks.  The bike lanes take 26th to 2nd Street, then down to 22nd Avenue, and east to the Mississippi trails.  The easiest continuous sidewalk route veers south on Washington instead of 2nd, and then across to the River at 22nd.  Pedestrian access to the River becomes difficult as a result.

The second picture shows a staircase on the Northeast side of the River.  Although we do have trails and a park on the north Minneapolis side, there are no paths or steps inviting people to come to the water's edge.  We will discuss ways that the Mississippi is a wonderful amenity to Hawthorne and north Minneapolis, while also brainstorming ways to improve upon river access.

Come and join us at 5:30 on Wednesday!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Celebrate the EcoVillage Garden October 1, 3-6 p.m.

Post and videos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.

On Saturday, October 1, Hawthorne will celebrate the first year of its community garden in the EcoVillage! The garden was featured on the Minneapolis parade of community gardens in August, and we'll have more of the delicious food, prepared and served fresh. Come and stop by anytime between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a great meal! In the videos above and below, EJAM organizer Harriet Oyera takes us on a quick tour of the garden.

The area in front of the garden is free for anyone to come by and take food.
Harriet finds a hot pepper that I claim as my own.
Harriet shows us some of the other vegetables growing in the garden.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Free Trees Still Available at EcoVillage Tree Nursery!

Post and photo by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.

Earlier this summer Hawthorne was able to assist several dozen households throughout NoMi with new trees after the tornado.  Some trees are still left from that initial push, and the EcoVillage Tree Nursery has received several more trees as well.

We have:

11 Redmond Linden trees
9 Juniper trees
7 Autumn Brilliance trees
4 Greenspire Linden trees
2 Kentucky Coffeetrees

These are available to any homeowner in north Minneapolis, one per household, and they are all free.  As an added bonus, there are some small spruce trees that were left at the site.  The summer heat wave did a number on a few trees that might not make it through the winter.  So if any talented arborist thinks they might be able to save one of those, we'll let you take a regular tree AND one of the ones in need of some tender, loving care.

Think about that:  you get one tree for free already, and then a second tree also free of charge.  That's an increase in the value of your acquisition of infinity percent.  You won't find a deal like that anywhere else, guaranteed.

To make an appointment to pick up one of these trees, contact the Hawthorne office at 612-529-6033 x204, call me on my cell phone at 952-210-1086, or email me at jskrenes@hawthorneneighborhoodcouncil.org.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tax Forfeited Properties in Hawthorne

Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Housing Director.

The city of Minneapolis has published a list of properties that the state of Minnesota or Hennepin county have taken through tax forfeiture.  They are seeking community input regarding the potential acquisition or disposition of these properties.  There are three options people can recommend for these properties:

  • That the city acquire the property if there is a developer interested in reuse.
  • That the property be withheld from the public market while a reuse is determined.
  • That the property be sold on the private market.
The city of Minneapolis is asking for public input on these properties by September 26, 2011.  People can go to their respective neighborhood groups with recommendations or contact the city directly.  

The letter explaining the process can be found here, and click on this link for a list of all properties citywide.  To search for more information on the properties via the city of Minneapolis, click here, and to do the same at Hennepin county's website, click here.

There are twenty such properties in Hawthorne, and 2511 4th St N is pictured above.  The other nineteen properties are after the jump...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Types of Trees Available from Tree Nursery

Post and photo by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director

On Saturday June 18 from 8 a.m. to noon, Hawthorne will have trees available on a first-come, first-served basis.  The tree nursery is located at 404 31st Ave N.  In order to be eligible for a tree, you have to be a property owner in north Minneapolis, and the tree must be placed within the community.  Our preference is to give away trees to people affected by the tornado, but we're going on the honor system.  Here are the trees we have available:

Autumn Brilliance - 10
Kentucky Coffeetree - 4
Redmond Linden - 12
Greenspire Linden - 5
Juniper - 7
Sugar Maple - 2
Blue Beech - 1
MN Redbud - 1

One of the Autumn Brilliance, as well as the Sugar Maples and the Blue Beech look to be in rough shape.  I believe they're all alive, but those four trees need a home fast.  Everything else is in good condition.  I look forward to getting people trees on Saturday!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Tree Nursery Giveaway on Saturday June 18, 8 a.m. to Noon!

Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director

In response to the huge demand for trees, Hawthorne held off on giving them away through word of mouth.  Instead, we are opening the tree nursery this Saturday, June 11, from 8 a.m. to noon for trees on a first-come, first-served basis.  The address of the nursery is 404 31st Ave N.  There are currently 47 trees still available, but two of them look like they took second place in a Charlie Brown Christmas tree contest.  (so they're probably dead, is what I'm getting at here)

A list of which trees are still available will be published shortly, but keep Saturday morning on your calendar, rain or shine!

Monday, June 06, 2011

EcoVillage Tree Nursery - 47 Trees and Counting

Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.

For the past few years, the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council has distributed free trees throughout north Minneapolis through our tree nursery in the EcoVillage.  Late last week we received this year's shipment - a whopping seventy-nine trees!  Given the damage in NoMi from the tornado, a decision was made to prioritize trees for those who lost one to the storm.

I announced our new shipment of trees at the Hawthorne Huddle and posted another announcement on the Minneapolis Tornado Watch Facebook page.  Word spread like wildfire, and before any standardized method for distributing trees was set up, over thirty trees already found new homes.

In order to try and give people throughout north Minneapolis an equal chance at getting a free tree, we will schedule a time later this week or on the weekend when trees can be picked up on a first-come, first-served basis.  The specifics of that announcement will be coming within the next 24 hours. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

EcoVillage Home Featured on Minneapolis/St. Paul Home Tour!

Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director. Video from the Minneapolis Television Network.

The Hartzell family is one of the newest additions to the Hawthorne neighborhood, having purchased the first LEED-certified home in the EcoVillage last fall.  Before they even closed, Mayor Rybak publicly welcomed them to Minneapolis, and now their home is on the Minneapolis/St. Paul Home Tour.  Many new homeowners have been profiled in the NoMi blogosphere, to the point where we pretty much tell people that moving into the EcoVillage makes you a sort of local celebrity.  That was said BEFORE this video was released.

I'd love to gush even more about what a great place Hawthorne, and the EcoVillage is to own a home, but the Hartzells do a great job of that in the video above.  Instead, I'll quickly remind readers that we're building another similar house on the corner of 31st and 6th this summer.  And if you buy a house anywhere in the Hawthorne neighborhood, you'll qualify for $5,000 in down payment assistance money through the Hawthorne Advantage program.

So take a look at the EcoVillage, and let us welcome you to the neighborhood!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Get $5,000 in Hawthorne Advantage Down Payment Assistance!

Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.  Photo from a Minnesota Public Radio article on the Hawthorne EcoVillage.

The Hawthorne Neighborhood Council recently revamped its down payment assistance program from a percentage of the sales price to a flat $5,000.  Any owner-occupant purchasing a home in Hawthorne should inquire to CEE about qualifying for this assistance.  The $5,000 is recorded as a lien on the home, although we will go behind virtually any other assistance program.  The loan does not accrue interest and it is forgiven after ten years.

As an aside, it takes a while for each site that lists our down payment assistance to be updated, so even the CEE link references the old program.  That will change shortly.  And a special thanks goes out to a NoMi Realtor extraordinnaire, Constance Nompelis.  Connie did several market analysis reports for the Hawthorne Neighborhood Council board and housing committee.  These reports helped our neighborhood understand what the market was like in Hawthorne, and how we should construct an assistance program that was an appropriate response to housing conditions here.  She provided this service as a volunteer for the community, and we are grateful for her help.

Come and check out home ownership opportunities in Hawthorne!  We've got a great community and $5,000 in assistance for you.

A "Dream Home" Finally Worthy of the Nickname

Before renovation.
Exterior after rehab
Living room/kitchen remodel

Instead of bedrooms like this...
Bedrooms are like this now.
Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.  First photo contributed by Alissa Luepke Pier, Hawthorne resident and project architect.  Photos 2-4 and 6 from Aesthetic Eye Photography.  Photo #5 by Jeff Skrenes, originally appearing on North by Northside.

Urban Homeworks continues to impress me.  They took something as drab and dreary as a Dream Home - which even without the exterior that so many in NoMi find distasteful, brings about memories of yet another case of mortgage fraud in this community - and turned it into a house that people would be proud to live in.  Much of the rehab can be attributed to the vision of local architect Alissa Luepke Pier, who designed the facade improvement and re-oriented the front door to create a more comfortable space.

The development project also reconfigured the second floor by removing one of the bedrooms and making the rest of the rooms a little more spacious.  Urban Homeworks staff said that floor looked "too much like a dormitory" before they changed it up.  I thought it compared more to a prison, but in all fairness, I've never been incarcerated, so maybe I'm being too negative towards prisons.

One aspect of this house that made it a viable rehab candidate is that it is what's often referred to as a "second generation Dream Home."  The first round of Dream Homes were slab-on-grade, no basement, no garage, six bedrooms, and baseboard heat.  This one at least had a full basement and a garage, making the other renovations much easier to work with.  If anyone wants to see the property, it's at 2515 Irving Avenue North.  The house has a family as its proud new occupants as well.  If you see them in their yard, make sure to welcome them to NoMi!  And thanks, Urban Homeworks! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CEE Expands Programs to Support Energy-Efficient Businesses

Post and photo by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Housing Director

The Center for Energy and Environment has expanded their programs and they are now able to serve businesses throughout the city of Minneapolis and non-profits statewide.  Click here for a matrix of programs.

Free Home Energy Visits Also Generate Funding for Neighborhoods!

Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.  Photos originally appeared on the Johnny Northside blog.

Hawthorne board member John Hoff was kind enough to allow me to document his home enegy visit from CEE.  These free home visits include tips on how to make your house more energy-efficient, supplies and materials to make that happen, and information on access to more low-interest home rehab loans.  In case this hasn't been emphasized enough, the visits and materials are FREE to owner-occupants.  The only requirement is that recipients must first attend a workshop (which is ALSO free) put on by the Center for Energy and Environment.  Here are the next two workshop dates:

Thursday, March 24, 6:00 pm
North Regional Library (1315 Lowry Ave N)

Thursday, March 31, 6:30 pm
Salvation Army (2727 Central Ave NE)

For more information, or to reserve a spot, contact Kyle Boehm at kboehm@mncee.org or 612-219-7334.

But wait, there's more!   CEE and the McKnight Foundation have been generous enough to help fund a friendly cross-neighborhood challenge.  There are various levels of awards given out for neighborhood participation.  The more people participate, the greater award each neighborhood may be eligible for.  So here's how it works for you as a Hawthorne resident:  attend a free workshop about energy savings, get free materials that will make your home more energy-efficient, sign up for a free home energy visit where experts can give even more personal tips, AND participating can help fund your neighborhood organization.

So what are you waiting for?  Sign up today?

Flier for upcoming workshops
McKnight Outreach Challenge flier

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Hawthorne NRP Plan Vote Wednesday, February 9

Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director.  Photos from HNC websites.

Please join us for a community meeting on Wednesday, February 9th, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Farview Park to vote on Hawthorne’s NRP Phase II plan. Approval of this plan will also reallocate some Phase I funds (mostly to Phase II strategies.) Your opinion and your vote is very important!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lawmakers say "No" to Neighborhood cuts proposed by Mayor, City Council

Media release from the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization, image from www.nrp.org.  Editorial note:  This post is the press release, largely unedited, from before last night's council meeting.  Results of that meeting may differ slightly from some claims made below.

Emergency meeting draws 65 including 9 lawmakers, 2 City Council members
Find video and plicy analysis by the University of Minnesota further below

Minneapolis MN - 65 people including neighborhood leaders, 9 state lawmakers, and 2 City Council members from Minneapolis turned out to a meeting at Corcoran Park on Sunday, Dec. 12, despite a weekend snowstorm that buried cars, crippled transit, and collapsed the Metrodome.

The meeting was called to discuss a recent proposal by Mayor R. T. Rybak and the City Council to re-purpose Neighborhood Revitalization funds as "tax relief," a move that would require approval by the Legislature.  The City Council voted on the proposal on Monday, Dec. 13, less than one week after the proposal was first made known to the  public by an article in the Star Tribune.

Senator Ken Kelash, Chair of the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP) policy board, explained that while past mayors and city councils have tried to take control of Neighborhood funding, "this is the first time we've been ambushed, aand that's what this is--it's an ambush."  Representative Joe Mullery called the City's proposal "improper and illegal," adding...

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

PPL Needs EcoVillage Volunteers This Week!

Post by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council Housing Director, photo contributed by PPL.

PPL Building Project-Hawthorne EcoVillage
Support efforts in North Minneapolis to build and renovate affordable housing for those in need in the community in response to the foreclosure crisis. PPL’s Housing Development dept. is renovating a house at 3023 N. 4th St. as part of the Hawthorne EcoVillage project. Volunteers needed! Construction/carpentry experience welcome but not required.

Where: 3023 N. 4th St., Minneapolis
When: Thursday 11/4, 9-5
Friday 11/5, 9-5
Saturday 11/6, 9-1

Construction experience is welcome but not required. Skilled supervision, tools, materials and snacks provided. Volunteers are asked to bring a bag lunch and work gloves.

For more information or to sign up, please contact Julie Huck, PPL Volunteer Mgr., at 612-455-5111 or email Julie Huck.

Agenda for the November Hawthorne Huddle

October 28, 2010


To: Friends of the Hawthorne Huddle

At this month’s Hawthorne Huddle, we will learn about local youth development projects that get young people involved in urban farming/gardening, from the planning stages to managing its growth, harvesting and marketing the produce. These programs not only educate youth about the source of our food; more importantly, they provide development opportunities that can open up new avenues for their future. Representatives from local organizations will tell us about the programs they offer to the youth of our community and how we can become involved. Please join in the discussion; we welcome and encourage your input and ideas.

The Hawthorne Huddle will be held from 7:30 to 8:45 a.m. in the Multipurpose Room at Farview Park, located at 621 29th Avenue North. A continental breakfast will be available at 7:15 a.m.


Ellen Luger


  • WELCOME Ellen Luger
  • SAFETY UPDATE Representative, Minneapolis Police Department 4th Precinct

  • Amanda Stoelb, West Side Program Director, Youth Farm and Market Project
  • Marilu Thomas, Executive Director, Redeemer Center for Life
  • Representative, University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

Friday, October 22, 2010

Photos from President Carter's Visit to Hawthorne

Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council housing director.  Group photo above taken by Pat Carney.

More photos from the day of President Carter's visit to Hawthorne after the jump...

Photos from Day 1 of Habitat Week

The first volunteers of the week!
At the beginning of the week, there was only a foundation at 430 30th Ave N.
Post and photos by Jeff Skrenes, Hawthorne Neighborhood Council housing director.

A technical, editorial note:  Blogger is acting up and only allowing one photo at a time to upload.  Posts therefore are coming in more slowly than I'd like due to time constraints with other job duties.

More photos after the jump...