The Mayor’s Selective Love For Parks

Mayor Kirk Caldwell says he loves our parks. He’s spending $1.5 million of our money just for a consultancy on remaking Ala Moana Beach Park.

And just in time for the 200-unit condo project by MacNaughton Group, Kobayashi Group, BlackSand Capital and General Growth Properties across the street. Don’t want people paying up to $10 million for the penthouses looking down on the shabby and the homeless.


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The Chinatown Gateway across from Aala Park is a permanent homeless encampment

“Three-hundred parks around the island … they are our front doors, they are our backyards,” says the mayor.

So, mayor, how about Aala Park downtown?

It’s a door hardly anybody but a down-and-outer would want to open. If it’s a backyard, it’s one in a slum.

It didn’t become that on Caldwell’s watch. Nothing good but a drab skateboard rink, basketball court and unsuccessful homeless tent city happened there under mayors Fasi, Anderson, Harris, Hannemann and Carlisle.

It’s a disgusting place. The grass has turned brown. The city ignores homeless camping on the sidewalk along the Beretania Street frontage. There’s been a homeless encampment as long as I can remember at that little triangle on the King Street side that’s marked Chinatown Gateway.

The park should be filled at night with citizens from nearby Mayor Wright housing project and Kukui Plaza, and weekend days with children. But with the kind of humanity that uses it as a hangout, I’d not recommend it to them — and certainly not to tourists walking Chinatown.

Some of the scariest-looking people in our town hang out there, do drugs there, drink there, defecate and urinate there.

It’s filthy. It’s frightening.

I guess it started out bad. Developers didn’t begin filling in that traditionally swampy area until 1899. But we did inherit a park with a bandstand and baseball diamonds. There used to be regular ball games and political rallies.

I was reading an old news story quoting an event-planning resident saying, “Aala Park is made for everyone. And that’s why we are here to showcase Aala Park so everyone knows it’s a perfectly fine place to be at.”

That was then and now is now.

Here’s what Leeward resident Jerrae R. posted online:

“You no longer see families with their children running around while enjoying a picnic or the kupunas gathering to talk story. I would not recommend it. The park is riddled with Hawaii’s homeless, popping tents on the sidewalks, sleeping within the park until they are forced to leave at night. Be careful here, broken glass and the smell of urine remove any sweet memories one may have had. Sad situation for those who played here as a child and would want to share those memories with their children. Best to enjoy this park from afar.”

That money for Ala Moana Park planning would have gone a long way at Aala. But no multimillionaires are looking down on it.

The city’s parks department did not respond to an email request for information on its Aala Park plans, if any.