Way back, yes, way, waaay back — even before Florian Gardens became a co-op we held tenant meetings, and in an effort to share information from those meetings with residents who did not attend them, we created the Florian Gardens Newsletter. This webpage will contain a timeline of excerpts from some old newsletters and provide additional details about FGC’s history.
April/May 1992 – This issue of the FG Newsletter recognized James Blackwell, president of the Brightwood Community Association (BCA). Not since Kimi Gray addressed our meeting has a speaker so excited the audience. The normally double-sided one page publication was lengthier than usual, because it contained an additional a two-page tribute to former beloved board member, Vernon Smith, who left this world on April 21, 1992. Our write-up for Vernon included the following stirring poem by Helen Steiner Rice, titled On the other Side of Death.
Death is a GATEWAY we all must pass through
To reach that Fair land where the soul’s born anew,
For man’s born to die and his sojourn on earth
Is a short span of years beginning with birth . . .
And like pilgrim’s we wander until death takes our hand
And we start on our journey to God’s Promised Land,
A place where we’ll find no suffering nor tears,
Where time is not counted by days, months or year . . .
And in the Fair City that God has prepared
Are unending joys to be happily shared
With all of our loved ones who patiently wait
On Death’s Other Side
To open “THE GATE!”
November 1991 – The FG Newsletter gave an account of one of many activities organized and enjoyed by the residents including the 1991 Halloween Party, which was well attended by FlorianGardens’ children and some of their parents and invited guests. Here is what was reported . . .
A Halloween Party planned by Hazel Williams and Ann Murchison was held in the co-op social room on Thursday evening. It brought out resident ghosts, goblins, and their friends. Fifteen to twenty little kiddies weren’t the only ones haunting the premises. Over a dozen grown-up “kids” also showed up in costumes as pirates, dragons, gypsies, inmates, little bunnies (also a big bunny, Skip), and firefighters … Games and contests were as popular as the treats which included delicious cupcakes baked by Kathleen Adams.
April 1990 – The FG newsletter reported on a mini-workshop hosted by First Housing, the construction firm hired to do the restoration of our complex. The workshop was held to prepare FG residents for the in-place renovation and let them know what to expect during the months-long process. The newsletter ran the following report encouraging members to purchase homeowners insurance.
Florian Gardens residents should shop around to some major homeowners’ insurance carriers and ask them to send you information about coverage and rates. In an informal survey, it was learned that rates range as low as $70 a year for $10,000 coverage and $280 annually for $30,000. Cost is based on the value of the contents in your home.
May 1987 — For a few years FG had an annual cookout. Before we began catering the event, food was provided by the tenants who cooked or baked some of their favorite recipes. Those who didn’t contribute a food item were asked to provide something – anything: paper napkins, plates, cups, because experience taught us that some people would show up (or send their children) to get a meal when they had not donated anything. Sometimes in order to encourage tenants to contribute, the Florian Gardens Newsletter editor injected a bit of humor, like the passage below . . .
The Florian Gardens cookout was the main subject discussed at the last meeting. Plans for the upcoming event will be finalized at the June 11th meeting. It is not too late for you procrastinators to jump on the bandwagon. Your donation of a food or non-food items is your ticket to what is sure to be a fun event for Florian Gardens tenants. Tenants, who do not contribute, please do not send your kiddies with sad faces and open hands to the food tables [to get plates and carry them back into the apartment] while you peek out of the window. The tables will be staffed by “Hard-hearted Hannah and the Meany Company,” to make sure that there will be no freebies.
November 1986 – In the early days, Florian Gardens invited numerous guest speakers to address our tenants association meetings. One of them was Kimi Gray. During the late 1980s through the 90s, Kimi Gray, a popular grassroots activist and Chairperson of the Kenilworth Parkside Residential Management Corporation was well-recognized in the District for her highly publicized success in getting the city to turn over management of Kenilworth — a Northeast public housing project — to the tenants. In addition to home ownership, Ms. Gray worked miracles at Kenilworth, including helping teens living there to earn good grades and scholarships, enabling them to go to college. During her years of activism, the divorced mother of five, traveled the country promoting tenant empowerment and home ownership and was even honored at a White House ceremony. In addition, the Reagan Administration awarded 6.4 million dollars to finance a mini-mall at the Kenilworth complex.
Although only 14 tenants attended the meeting, Ms. Gray was well received and she captivated the audience. Afterward the Florian Gardens Newsletter published the following report: Speaking with candor, wit and from personal experiences [Ms. Gray] stressed the importance of having a well-organized tenants association and she emphasized the things that doing so could accomplish. If the enthusiasm of our tenants . . . was any indication, then Ms. Gray made quite an impression on Florian Gardens.
Note: Following a prolonged illness, Kimi Gray died in her home in March 2000.
February 1986 — Decades before the country heard of Florida neighborhood watcher George Zimmerman, Florian Gardens formed a short-lived Neighborhood Watch group led by Officer Eartha Hicks, Program Coordinator at the 4th District. Since the FG property had not yet been purchased or renovated, there was no conference room and tenant meetings were held at the precinct. Officer Hicks advised tenants of the importance of forming and maintaining a Neighborhood Watch group. During that time, 4D officers with the NAB (Neighborhood Anti-Burglary) program visited FG tenants and, upon request, engraved ID numbers on theft-targeted personal property (like television sets, VCRs and other valuables). The officers also distributed stickers and crime prevention information to the tenants. Relevant to that first NW meeting, the Florian Gardens Newsletter published the following account: The purpose of the [FG] Neighborhood Watch program is to increase tenant awareness and decrease crime in our complex. In addition, you will get to know your neighbors. Some of you are probably thinking — I don’t want to know my neighbors. Now come on, how do you expect to know who’s gossiping about whom, if you don’t know the players? Besides, that very neighbor who you are trying to ignore may be the person to lend you a helping hand one day.
(More newsletter excerpts to come.)