The Liquidation of Hobo Junction
Albany, CA's homeless hooverville by the Bay, "Hobo Junction," is going to be torn down by The Man. Entrances are already being blocked off, and it's now difficult and dangerous to get there. Worse, these obstacles are making it hard to get to the nearby HORSE TRACK on foot. Local historian, Pao Tzu, has an overview of situation.
The Albany, CA dump. Now known as the "Albany Waterfront Trail." The situation has become critical for the dump residents. As of today, Albany police have already conducted several operations issuing tickets to the residents and their dogs.
Now for an audience refresher of what mass media is covering. Keep in mind that this same media is the lifeline of critical thought for most Albanyans, as it is for most people. Mass media, let's just call this "The Man," focuses attention on issues such as Medicare, presidential campaigns, Kosovar homeless, rats at fisherman's wharf, and U.S. involvement in the rigged elections of Israel and S. Africa... oh, wait a minute, The Man doesn't cover that last story. In any case, The Man surely does not pay any attention whatsoever to the issues surrounding the homeless in the immediate proximity of the brainwashed local Bay Area population at large. The Man doesn't tell you that none of this mess is the fault of the homeless people who are being kicked out of the Albany landfill. The Man doesn't tell you that this problem dates back to the corrupt politics of the last half century.
The Albany site at hand is adjacent to the historical Golden Gate Fields racetrack, which dates back to the post WWII era, when horse racing was re-legitimized and Japanese concentration camps (AKA horse stalls) were converted back to equine habitations in the neighboring track of Tanforan (now defunct). The racetrack is rather unusual real estate as it's split by the border of Albany and Berkeley. Traditionally, the adjacent Albany property has been a dump for broken industrial equipment. The industrial equipment originated in, of course, the real estate on the Berkeley side.
For years, the system worked. Trash incineration, car wrecking, cog manufacturing and God-knows-what being performed on the Berkeley side. Berkeley's useless industrial junk was trucked a quarter mile around the racetrack parking lot and dumped in the Albany landfill. Sounds good, right?
Well, Reagonomics took over. The somewhat productive industrial hell hole of Gilman Ave. in Berkeley floundered under the trickle down money pyramid scheme enacted by idiot politicians such as former '80s California governor Dukemajen. It is important to note that at this time, the racetrack economy was bigger than it is now. The stakes were high, with big turf races, and the cashflow from local bettors was popping like a snail on fire. This was a result of everybody being broke and trying to come up through excessive gambling.
The local homeless population skyrocketed throughout the decade. Not only was the population taking off in the Albany landfill, but also in the surrounding railroad tracks and decrepit backroads and underpasses connecting the failing highway intersections clear from Gilman Ave. to the next stop at University Ave. in Berkeley. The landfill was known to the local track addicts and backside dwellers as a highly populated squatter site, and it was known to the Gilman unlicensed habitants as "Hobo Junction."
The system worked for awhile. People began to build more sophisticated houses at the landfill site that included windows, doors, and doghouses. These bayfront houses would still be considered a shanty town by other neighborhoods if they even knew about the landfill. However, I'd like to point out that in comparison to the shit-hole shacks, which make up the ethnic Albanian villages in Kosovo, the homes built by the landfill residents were mansions.
Keeping in mind that America fired millions of Y2K-uncompliant weapons to "free" these same shit shackers, wouldn't it make sense that politicians would step in and do something to increase the living standards and opportunities available to the people of the Albany dump?
In a fantasy world, maybe. The driving force of politics for this microcosm would turn out to be none other than Mother Earth herself in the form of the 1989 earthquake rocking at some 7 points on The Man scale. The earthquake brought new concern for the transportation infrastructure which spawned the retrofitting, bulldozing, reconstruction, and repaving the local roads, rails, and highways. Having suffered extensive fire, water, and now earthquake damage as a result of structural neglect, many of the buildings on Gilman Ave. were torn down. The real estate was sold to the highest bidder, who turned out to be a tycoon, and who will not be named here. Let's just say he is responsible for several aspects of progress a little distance away, near U.C. Berkeley, in the form of stolen compact disc buyback, substandard pizza (not the Brunette kind), bong shops, and a clothing store sporting a title that suggests there is extensive sand in Berkeley. Anyway, the area went from ghetto to a popular yuppie freeway stop.
Time moved through the 1990s. The dump was still pretty much a true-to-life dump. Big business moved out of neighboring El Cerrito via the downsizing of the former monopolistic clothing empire known as The Emporium. The homeless population grew. The racetrackers hardly even noticed them anymore, as it became more important to get to the track in time to bet the Daily Double, and the Pick Six, in order to hit the Big One before the senate tried to fuck up the gambling tax laws worse than they did in the previous decade.
Now, here we are, 1999. The Albany waterfront and goose preserve is complete. The cities entire scheme becomes obvious. I, being a goddamned expert on getting to the racetrack, have noticed the following obstacles thrown in the way of the vehicleless within the last twelve months: The stairwell leading to the old walkway is completely destroyed; the railroad tracks are sealed with a ten foot barbed wire fence that only has one spot where someone successfully cut the wire, and this person is either the size of a horse jockey, or a professional contortionist; the freeway is now actually connected to the intersection, providing the added thrill of having to avoid highway traffic while en route to the dump; and the most glaring blockade, which I recommend everyone go check out for themselves, is the strategic insertion of heavy bramble where all those concrete pipes used to be in that hole connecting the coastline with the Golden Gate Fields parking lot that was erected by drunks who weren't allowed to bring bottles and cans into the racetrack and needed a secret hole to sink a 40 oz. or two on their way. And to top it all off, they put a heavy-duty fence around the single water valve, which was used for a long time as the only illegal water tap for hobos in the area.
These obstacles look to me like gigantic billboards which read "Hobo Free Zone" in a classic "Nuclear Free Zone" motif. If the city really bulldozes these people's houses and throws them off the land, the racetrack-walk obstacles will be fortified so that nobody will be able to cross without a vehicle. As it is, the appearance of the work ordered by the city lacks a walkway entirely... it expands the overpass into a four lane road. The only way to get across at this point is to walk across fenced asphalt, which is likely going to also be part of the same road. No sidewalk = hobo free zone. Even if one path is still left standing, it will be a no-brainer for the police to monitor everything that goes down. They are probably going to use surveillance to keep the homeless from reclaiming their houses.
So go yell at City Hall, damnit! This isn't even about hobos in junkyards, this is about easy access to gambling establishments. Albany is fucked if they think they can just get away with blocking the road to the horse track. Fuck that.
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