Austin Highway has seen its share of upgrades and redevelopment in recent years.
Many disputed or abandoned properties, once regular scenes of criminal activity and squatters, have been addressed either by the city or means of legal action. New apartments and retail centers, with anchor businesses such as Target, Chick-Fil-A, Lowe’s and Petco, have popped up.
But incidents in the last several weeks speak to the need for continued vigilance along Austin Highway and into surrounding neighborhoods, residents said. One man died after being hit by a car while attempting to cross Austin Highway in the early morning hours of April 2. This fatality was one of five incidents involving pedestrians and vehicles along the same stretch of road since January 2016.
While the April 2 incident took place north of Eisenhauer Road, area residents said public safety remains a top concern all along Austin Highway. Early on March 22, police responded to a shooting at the Stay Express Inn motel. One woman was found shot there, following an argument with a man. The woman was rushed to a hospital, where she died.
Police have responded to several incidents at area motels.
“For me and other residents, that’s one of the biggest nuisance hotels. It backs right up to the neighborhood,” Jenny Heymann said of Knights Inn. Heymann is president of the Terrell Heights Neighborhood Association. “Drug deals and prostitution have been taking place there. I heard there was a police raid there, but (criminals) keep coming back.” Until its demolition by property owners earlier this year, the closed Skyline Motel had been a magnet for squatters.
The Terrell Heights organization has for years been a proactive organization, covering more than 80 percent of neighborhood households. It uses social media as well as traditional communication methods to keep residents informed of happenings and issues in the area. The group has about 150 individual members and hopes to expand that number to 200 by the end of 2017. Even with their proactivity, neighborhood association members say they wish the city could do more to support efforts toward crime prevention and other enhancements in the region.
“We’re proud of our association with (THNA),” said Mike Gallagher, who is stepping down as District 10 City Council member this month after not seeking re-election.
Gallagher said the city, with support from groups such as THNA, has made strides to reduce safety risks and increase commercial activity. He praised the late Jack Judson Jr., who presided over the Austin Highway Revitalization Project, for his group’s work.
In recent weeks, THNA has also been looking forward to meeting its new San Antonio Fear Free Environment (SAFFE) officer, Chad Tudor. The previous SAFFE officer, Moses Berban, was promoted to detective. According to Heymann, THNA’s crime and safety committee has been eager to follow up on Berban’s previous idea to create a Terrell Heights decal. “The decal can help ID people who live in the neighborhood,” she added.
Gallagher said the city’s Dangerous Assessment Response Team (DART), in addition to police, the fire department and code compliance, has been helpful in addressing safety issues specific to neighborhoods. “And I’ve told (Police) Chief (William) McManus we need more SAFFE officers. That’s boots on the ground. They know what’s going on in the neighborhood,” he added.
Gallagher said a planned direct intersection at Austin Highway and Harry Wurzbach should improve mobility and safety there. He expects work to begin within the next two years.
There are also ongoing concerns about speeding and needed repairs on sidewalks.
“We got the city to install speed trailers on some roads here because we’ve had some speeders and cut-through drivers,” Heymann said.
Aside from public security, THNA has quality-of-life committees. The beautification committee led the effort to clean up and landscape traffic islands in the neighborhood.
The committee also partnered with the city of San Antonio to give away 75 five-gallon trees to attendees of the association’s annual picnic on April 8. The same committee is partnering with Mount Calvary Lutheran Church to host a community cleanup with volunteer residents June 9 and 10.
Terrell Heights residents have banded together to create and grow a community garden with help from the Green Spaces Alliance of San Antonio. The neighborhood gardeners also hold workshops for neighbors on subjects such as growing fruit trees, seasonal planting and organic fertilizers. “This is all being done to make the neighborhood even more desirable,” said Heymann.
UIW chorale performs in New York City
The University of the Incarnate Word Cardinal Chorale was invited to take part in a March 17 concert at New York City’s Lincoln Center. The performance was part of Vocal Colors, a presentation by Distinguished Concerts International-New York.
The Cardinal Chorale performed a variety of pieces, including a South African prayer for peace, a drum dance from the country Georgia, and El Guyaboso, an Afro-Cuban tune. New York Concert Review praised the Cardinal Chorale’s performance: “This choir has great virtuosity, beautiful sound and rhythmic precision; all their music was memorized (by the conductor as well), and they sang nearly completely a cappella (one viola obbligato), that is, every sound was made by the human voice.”
Spirit of Brackenridge returns
The Brackenridge Park Conservancy will present its third annual Spirit of Brackenridge at 6 p.m. May 12 near the San Antonio Zoo. The event is a fundraiser for the conservancy, a nonprofit that advocates for preservation, maintenance and improvements around the park.
Attendees are encouraged to kick off festivities by boarding the zoo’s Eagle Train for a tour of Brackenridge Park. There will be brief stops along the way, complete with complimentary craft cocktails and live music. The evening culminates at the Sunken Garden Theater, where guests may enjoy more music, cocktails and a dinner menu created by noted local chef Jason Dady.
Supporters for Brackenridge Park hope to raise awareness for the park. The city has completed a long-range master plan for the 300-acre-plus park. Also, the city’s proposed $850 mil-lion bond includes money for improvements for the park. Voters will consider the multi-proposition bond May 6.
For details, visit www.brackenridgepark.org.
AHISD revises rules following cheating scandal
Alamo Heights Independent School District officials said they are empowering teachers to report incidents of cheating or plagiarism. This follows an incident where more than 100 students were caught last November cheating or plagiarizing.
According to news reports, district leaders said many teachers feared they had little or no power to be involved in effective consequences for students violating academic integrity rules.
Currently, district guidelines stipulate a blend of teacher-provided consequences and a 15-day suspension from extracurriculars for students caught cheating or plagiarizing.
The new rules will become effective this fall; teachers will be able to select from an offering of classroomcentric consequences for such students. Consequences for first-time offenders range from redoing an assignment for partial credit, losing credit or receiving a lower grade.
Second-time offenders would be offered any of those options. Additionally, the teacher would alert campus honor societies of their student’s action and/or provide a lower conduct grade.
According to media accounts, the district’s education advisory council crafted a subcommittee to form new guidelines with teachers, coaches, students and administrators to craft the revamped guidelines.
By Edmond Ortiz