When the neighborhood on the northeast side of Carbondale is mentioned it is often in a negative connotation.
Though there certainly is a fair share of negativity in the neighborhood, residents say it is just like any other. Places of worship dot the streets and residents hangout on their porches waving to neighbors as they pass by. Attucks Park draws crowds of people playing basketball and the playground attracts parents and their children.
“These kids can walk the streets in this town and not worry, you can’t do that in Chicago,” said Cleveland Matthews, longtime resident, as he pointed to a group of children riding bikes at dusk.
On any given day residents play chess on their front porch, volunteers water the community garden at the Muslim Center, mothers braid their daughters’ hair or a man cleans his catch of Bluegill.
There is a history of drugs and violence in the area, but also in the city of Carbondale, although it seems to be more visible on Chestnut Street, at the Chestnut Housing Complex where large groups of people hang out.
“This is the command center for gang activity,” said Howard Gates, Jr., a neighborhood resident. “Teenagers tear up blunts right in front of kids, they don’t have no respect for the kids.”
He said police come through about 20 times a day.
“They see the cops coming and they do things to piss them off,” Gates said.
Carbondale City Council member Jane Adams said she doesn’t think there is anywhere in the city that would be dangerous to walk in. She said she does not get the impression that the northeast side is dangerous.
According to the Carbondale Police Department website, out of 13 reports of burglary and robbery in the last two weeks, only one occurred in the neighborhood.
Matthews said he agrees there is violence but it is not enough for him to worry about his grandchildren when they visit.
“I’ve raised three kids here, we’ve had no scares,” he said. “The trouble can happen anywhere. We have our
share of clowns.”
But that is part and parcel to any neighborhood with bored teenagers, he said.
“I hate for them to condemn my side of town,” he said. “It’s a good neighborhood.”
Matthews said ignorance is why there is such a common misconception of the neighborhood.
“We fear what we don’t know,” he said.