Houston Heights Association Cans Board Member Who Built a Beloved Playground Train

Categories: Spaced City

terrortrain.jpg
Unauthorized trains are no laughing matter.
If you've driven through the Heights recently and thought, "Gee whiz, I wish this historic, beautiful neighborhood could become really douchey," you're in luck: The nonprofit Houston Heights Association, whose volunteers once created a jogging trail, planted trees, and created playgrounds, just dismissed a 74-year-old founding member and former president for installing a wood train in Donovan Park without asking permission first.

Paul Carr says he spent about $5,000 of his own money to build the four-car structure, which has been a big hit with kids and, at the time of its installation in December, received glowing media coverage. Certain people reading those articles may have thought "Wow, the Heights seems like a really close-knit community where folks go out of their way to help others. As a complete and utter douchebag, I hate that. They need to fire that guy."

Fortunately, HHA president-elect Matt Bedingfield and Bill Baldwin, vice president of finance and operations, are here to make sure the voices of the Douche Contingent are heard.

The firing of Carr, a retired fireighter and former fire department chief, from his job as property manager, was first reported by The Leader's Michael Sudhalter on January 23, and the blowback was immediate. After all, a lot of long-time Heights residents knew Carr and his wife Mary, who bought their Heights home in 1961. Carr led the volunteers who planted 312 oak trees in the neighborhood, as well as the construction of the popular jogging path, which was named in Carr's honor.

According to the article, Baldwin said the HHA's board was first concerned about insurance issues, but that ultimately the insurance company cleared the train (probably when they discovered it was made out of wood and was not an actual locomotive). The article also pointed out that Baldwin's brother John would replace Carr as property manager.

We would've thought that sentient beings with working brains could anticipate criticism for firing a guy who first served his city by becoming a firefighter, and then served his community through volunteer work. We would've thought Bedingfield and Baldwin would've had a statement ready to go that very day, and would have had no problem defending their decision -- after all, maybe the Leader article was inaccurate, or didn't tell the whole story. Because, really, what kind of people would behave that way?


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18 comments
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah topcommenter

Bill Baldwin is a jackass of the first degree...

H Newcomb
H Newcomb

I was born and spent my first five years in the Heights, in and out of it after that. Good solid mixed white and blue collar working class neighborhood, producing people like Red Adair and Richard 'Racehorse' Haynes. Sorry to hear there's people there now that seem determined to justify every Phil Robertson rant against yuppies. Makes me glad I hang in the near Southwest now.

Mark Markovich
Mark Markovich

Once a neighborhood becomes "cool," outsiders move-in and immediately set to gentrifying it in order to drive-up property values. They keep the image as a marketing tool, but that's about it. Everything that made the area fun and unique is slowly discarded, and a blanket of homogeneity it put in place. It's like the process of taking a beloved local restaurant and creating a franchise. Think of the metamorphosis of McDonalds.

Val Aponte
Val Aponte

More proof that the heights and montrose are lost the doucheois!

Puller58
Puller58 topcommenter

Sounds like homeowner associations.  Had a chat with a real estate attorney who told me he had to fight his HMA almost weekly.  He fully supported the concept, but said too many people tried to use it for their own agendas.  As an attorney, he didn't have to spend money to stop them.

Dee Gravink
Dee Gravink

The Heights is nothing more than a douchebag colony now.

HRMS3M
HRMS3M

If Mr. Carr had erected the train at Harvard Elementary without permission, HISD would have bulldozed it before lunchtime.  Like it or not, Houston is full of plaintiff's lawyers.  Kids get hurt on playground equipment and plaintiff's lawyers file big money lawsuits.  HHA had previously had a liability issue with a kid who got hurt on some splintered wood on the playground.  It sounds like Mr. Carr thought that they would not let him build the train because of liability issues and decided to force the issue by not seeking approval.  Without insurance in place, HHA would have had its assets exposed (i.e. the park with the train) had someone obtained a judgment against it arising out of an accident on the train. 


Also, the "park access" issue had to do with Mr. Carr asking people using the park if they were members of HHA.  HHA's policy is for the park to be open to the public.  Some who were approached by Mr. Carr felt that he was trying to run off people who were not members. 


I am not Bill Baldwin fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I have to say that the HHA was placed in a very difficult position in this matter and handled it as well as could be expected.  They scrambled to address the insurance issue and are looking at making modifications to address safety issues, all while being able to keep the train in place for kids to play on. 


It is a seductive narrative.  Rich yuppies throw nice old man into the bayou just because he loves the children so much.  And many in Houston are happy to find a way to hate on the Heights because they have been priced out of the once affordable neighborhood.  But the reality is that Paul Carr could have avoided this mess had he just gone through the proper channels. 

Anse
Anse

I lived in the Heights for about 9 years before moving just north of the Loop. Sometimes I miss it, but there toward the end, I kind of lost my love for it. I had a lot of great and friendly neighbors, but I had some that were just assholes. I guess that describes most any neighborhood but then the Heights likes to think of itself as something other than just any neighborhood. And I definitely understood that there was a divide in the Heights between the people who had money and the people who didn't, the renters and the people who had moved in before it got super dooshy, and the people with money felt mighty entitled to tell everybody else how shit ought to be. 

nguyenhm16
nguyenhm16

"Boutique real estate firm" is all I needed to hear.

Francisco Muñiz-Belmares
Francisco Muñiz-Belmares

No surprise. The Heights is now plagued by 30-something pseudo-hipsters douche-nozzles that seem to have no sense of community outside of getting stupid drunk on White Oak Dr. Its like Washington Ave., bu just pretentious and snobby in their own progressively unique way. Fuck'em.

HRMS3M
HRMS3M

@Puller58 HHA is not a homeowner association.  It is a community non-profit that owns and maintains several parks in the Heights and puts on several events (home tours, bike rally, 5k, etc.).  HHA has no control over anyone's homes or deed restrictions. 

joshwebster
joshwebster

This seems like truth to me. No one is going to discuss the "real" reason they terminated an employee.

craig.malisow
craig.malisow

@HRMS3M Hi HRMS3M -- I'm not sure where you're getting your information from regarding some of these issues, partly because your name didn't come up during my research. Trust me, if someone would've said, "You know, you really oughta talk to ol' HRMS3M -- we call him 'S3' for short," I would've remembered, as that's an uncommon name. 


Unfortunately, in my efforts to inform the public of the situation, I had to rely in large part on the president of the HHA, who I had hoped would be more forthcoming.





Puller58
Puller58 topcommenter

@HRMS3M @Puller58 I was just reminded of some incidents that some HMAs have engaged in.  I used to have a relative who lived in the Heights, but that was years ago.

HRMS3M
HRMS3M

@craig.malisow@HRMS3M I am not the journalist here.  Your research did not go far enough.  You are incredibly naïve to think that HHA is going to air all their problems with Mr. Carr in detail to a publication that has made it a practice to trash all things Heights (see hit piece on Mitch Cohen and White Linen Nights).  In fact, any employer in the world that has a clue would not discuss reasons for terminating an employee with the press (you must have heard of defamation at some point in your career).  If you really want to inform the public, you are going to have to get out from behind your computer and pound the pavement, especially with a story like this where the general sentiment towards Mr. Carr in the community is very favorable (I actually share that sentiment, but understand why HHA had to do what it did).  It should be obvious to a real journalist the dynamic at play and what it takes to really inform the public.  But you go for the cheap shot on HHA because it is too much work to really get the full story.  If the HHA won't write your story for you, they must be a bunch of douchebags.    

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