Weld’s “Neighborhood Voices” series features interviews with the presidents of each of Birmingham’s 99 neighborhood associations about the strengths and challenges facing their communities. If you are a neighborhood leader and would like your neighborhood to be included, you can reach out to us at email@example.com.
Birmingham’s Pine Knoll Vista neighborhood is a tiny one, tucked between Brummitt Heights, Maple Grove, Brownsville Heights, and Penfield Park. It features a population of just 212 residents, according to the Birmingham Housing Survey, and its neighborhood association meetings take place at the Brownsville Heights Community Center, which is just a few blocks south of the neighborhood’s southern border. As part of District 4, it’s represented in city government by Councilor William Parker.
Recently, Pine Knoll Vista’s neighborhood president, Justine Atkins, spoke with Weld about ways she hopes the neighborhood’s “close-knit” community can become even more involved.
Weld: Why did you decide to become your neighborhood’s president?
Justine Atkins: One of the reasons was that our neighborhood president [at the time] wasn’t attacking the problems that I was seeing in the neighborhood. I’ve been in the neighborhood since 1995. It’s a very good neighborhood, and I wanted to bring and add something to my neighborhood and to the city of Birmingham.
Weld: How would you characterize the community involvement among members of your neighborhood?
Atkins: Since I’ve been the president, there’s been a lot of involvement. Our attendance has doubled, maybe even tripled. I’ve added activities, so we have more events where the neighborhood will come out. It’s because I’m making [residents] more aware of what’s going on in the city of Birmingham. They’re willing to give back to the neighborhood any way that they can.
I’ve [organized] activities like a fun day, where everybody comes out and meets and greets. Before, we met with another neighborhood, Brownsville — but that wasn’t our neighborhood, per se, where they could really get a chance to know their neighbors. Our neighborhood is a very old neighborhood, and it has a lot of senior citizens. So I needed to let the senior citizens know that we were having some events so that they could come out and walk around.
Weld: What are some of the biggest problems facing your neighborhood?
Atkins: We really don’t have any large problems. But one of the problems — and it may be minor — is getting certain homeowners to keep the grass on their lawns cut, so that the neighborhood looks presentable. What I do with that, I give it to the public works guy after I see they are not maintaining their property. Mostly, it’s if we’ve had someone move in. That’s the problem when we have new people — if a person has passed away, and their property is being rented out, then the issue is that the new resident moving into our neighborhood should know the bylaws that we have to keep a nice neighborhood.
Weld: What are some ways in which you’d like to see your neighborhood improve?
Atkins: I would like to see improvement in participation from our neighbors, because they’re sort of laid back. With senior citizens, they’re set in their ways, so I would like to see improvement with more technology that can make them more aware. We have robot calls now, [for example]. I’d like to see more of them coming to the center of the Brownsville Heights Community Center, where they can engage in some exercises and some arts and crafts. … Right now, we’re contemplating what activities we can bring forth that would get our neighbors out and get them more active.
Weld: In what ways do you think the Birmingham city government could help your neighborhood improve and flourish?
Atkins: One thing the city is doing right now is, they’re going to improve our park. We have a stipend of $65,000 [for the park]. And one of the things that the city can [do is] make sure that our streets are being paved correctly and reconstructed.
Outside of that, the city has been very engaged with us when we have issues, like with trash or if there’s some kind of disturbance in the park, which we have very little of. The police department has been very, very cooperative in coming out and seeing if anything’s out of the ordinary. They’ve been patrolling.
We had some issue with [our neighborhood] Latino community. [They had] poultry — chicken and ducks — on their property, not in their cages. They were roaming the streets. Once I got in touch with my councilman, it was taken care of. One of the the things that I’ve found out with diversity, you must let them know what the rules that they must abide by in the community [are]. Because we’re not directly in the city, sometimes when people move in, they’re not aware of the city ordinances. It can get a little out of hand.
Weld: What do you want Birmingham citizens outside of your neighborhood to know about your neighborhood?
Atkins: I would want them to know that this neighborhood is very, very, close-knit. We are neighborly. We are concerned about neighbors. Let me tell you this: We have a fund that, when someone passes in our neighborhood, we send flowers. When someone’s sick, we’re a very caring neighborhood. We’re open for diversity and to all ages. It’s a neighborhood that your family could come and live in and you could have a great home, great neighbors, concerned neighbors who are real caring.
Our neighborhood itself is like a diamond in the rough. If you really are not familiar with our neighborhood, you wouldn’t know that it’s there. But it’s such a great neighborhood. We’re having some young people move in, and I am, with our [robocaller] and our outings, giving them a chance to know what the community is doing and getting them to engage and be able to [be aware] of what’s going on in our neighborhood.