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

Categories: Spaced City

Baldwin, who owns a "boutique real estate firm" specializing in "neighborhood-centric niche marketing" wouldn't talk to us, though. He cited HHA policy, which dictates that only the president may talk with the media. Which is, of course, a crucial building block in creating a douche-centric neighborhood association. You don't actually shoot straight with anyone, much less the media. You don't man up. You duck and cover. You defer.

But when we called Bedingfield, it turned out that he didn't actually want to talk to us either. He stuck as close as he could to an official written non-statement mired in vagueness, obfuscation, and pseudo-corporate palaver. (The non-statement also accused media coverage of being "one sided and derogatory to the Houston Heights Association," which is definitely a risk that an organization runs when it does stuff that looks like it might be really, really dumb, but doesn't say why).

The key part of the non-statement was this: "Beginning in 2011, HHA contracted with Paul to maintain the Association's properties. However, it became evident that Paul's views on the management of the parks grew apart from the Board's, and he often disregarded the Board's wishes. Paul's increasing lack of respect of the Board's decisions in these matters include several attempts to restrict access to Donovan Park, and, most recently, the purposeful concealment of the construction and installation of the train."

It also noted that "Paul Carr has served as a valued member of this Association since its inception, including serving as President. As a long-time participant in the maintenance of our parks and past member of the Board, Paul is fully aware of the HHA's established policies and procedures with regard to its properties."

Getting Bedingfield to elaborate and clarify was like pulling teeth. From a duck. We told him we had no idea what "attempts to restrict access" meant. Did the dude build an alligator-filled moat? Did he ensconce Donovan Park in razor wire? Were robots somehow involved?

Bedingfield told us the statement speaks for itself. When we told him that, no, it really didn't, he alleged that Carr put up signs to keep people out. Which is completely in keeping with the character of a guy who spends $5,000 of his own money on building an awesome train for kids to play on. (Bedingfield also initially told us that The Leader article contained inaccurate quotes, but after we asked him to point out specific inaccuracies and if he had contacted the newspaper to request a clarification or correction, he said that he took another look at it, and that it was, in fact, accurate.)

As for "purposeful concealment"? If that truly speaks for itself, what it's saying is this: "God, we really are a bunch of douche-nozzles."

But then we thought we were missing something. After all, we weren't familiar with the Houston Heights Association. What does it actually do? What are its goals? When we asked Bedingfield, he told us it's all on the website.

But what we found on the website, under "mission," was "to foster a sense of community" in a number of ways, including "maintaining, improving and beautifying parks...." and "promoting and fostering friendship, goodwill, and community spirit."

And it touts the grassroots blood, sweat, and tears that went into the create Donovan Park's playground in 1996. That's when, according to the site, "a close-knit community in Houston, Texas, rolled up its collective sleeves and built a lasting legacy for its children. Families, neighbors, craftsmen, teachers, students, local businesses, and friends of Houston Heights joined together in a monumental effort to construct what is now The Heights Playground. They worked from early morning until late night. They sawed, drilled, hammered and painted. They served food, tended minor wounds, and provided child care. They gave their time, their skills, and their hearts, yet asked nothing in return."

Which, to us, sounds like Carr.

When we spoke with Carr this week, he also sounded like a guy with no real hard feelings. Just disappointment when thinking about the days when being part of the HHA was really like the website's description. Back then, he says, there was real sweat-equity; there was a sense of pride and ownership that came from getting your fingers dirty planting trees just because you wanted to make your neighborhood an even prettier place.

When we told Carr about Bedingfield's allegation that Carr put up signs to keep people out of the parks, Carr said the only sign he put up stated "Parties and group activities prohibited without approval," as a way to make sure there was no trash left behind from large gatherings.

People "would call our business manager to see if they needed to get approval, and she would tell them, 'No, you don't need approval, but would you mind bringing some garbage bags'...and it worked perfect. It took care of our garbage issue."

Carr believes Bedingfield and Baldwin love the Heights just as much as he does -- they just have differing philosophies. And Carr isn't fuming or wallowing. His biggest fear is that his firing will cause friction, and he just wants the whole thing to go away. In case you missed that: dude was just fired for no real reason, and his only concern is that it might pit neighbor against neighbor.

"This is really a win-win for everybody," Carr says. The HHA "got rid of me, so they got what they want. The children got the train, and that's what I wanted, and then my wife and I don't have to deal with these people anymore [and] that's what we want."

And as it turns out, Carr didget paid for building the train. He says that last Christmas Eve, shortly after the train was unveiled, he was presented with a banner -- a long section of butcher paper filled with messages and drawings from children in the neighborhood who loved playing on the train.

"It's the best Christmas present I ever got...I really cherish it," Carr says, adding later, "I tell you -- that banner those kids...created and gave me, that paid me for everything."

Sheesh, that kind of selfless community spirit must drive douchebags crazy. Thank goodness they've got the Houston Heights Association in their corner.



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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

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

@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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