Friday, December 31, 2010

Tales of River Quay II

When I was a volunteer for the Smoky Hill Railroad in Belton Missouri, I bought a book in the gift shop.  It was Tales of River Quay by Marion A. Trozzolo.   The tie in being, as I read the book that the railroad museum and its members were mentioned in the book.  Quite a few people were mentioned in the book as was pointed out in the forward.  Everyone but one had their names changed to fictional ones.  The book was a very idyllic look at what the River Quay was like in its heyday, when on the weekends cars could barely make it down Delaware Street for all the crowds.  This was in the mid-70's.  I met a man one who claimed he was the person mentioned by name in the book one memorable night in 1992, at a place called Java Gaia, that used to exist on Southwest Boulevard where Club Oasis used to exist.

We talked at length about Mr. Trozzolo, the book and the Quay, which by then was a completely faded memory and a faded ad painted on the side of an old building at about 14th and Main.  His traveling companions were John Paul who played in a well known blues band, and his girlfriend, who said her last name was Svoboda.  She told me that Svoboda was a common Slavic name meaning liberty.  I told her I thought it was really cool and asked her if someday I could use the name for something -- either a band name or a zine of some sort.  She said she thought that would be cool.  It is fitting that in a city enslaved by apathy and by class struggle, I should use the name Svoboda, meaning liberty to describe a blog/zine about the struggle for human expression in our area.

Central to that struggle is a part of town called the River Quay....
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River Market struggles to survive economically despite an excellent location and the best vista's in the Kansas City Metro area.
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Delaware Street is the heart of the Quay.  In Trozzolo's book, organic development was the life and breath of the area.  Hippies who wanted cheap living spaces upstairs and a little shop down and a landlord, Trozzolo, who was open to such ideas plus lots of abandoned vacant property where the ingredients to a new source of urban living.  This was not something that was invented in our decade.  This actually started in the 1960's.
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I have to take a Tima break here....
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I wish I knew where my copy of the book is.  This building was featured in a photo in the book.
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What is a loft these days.  To the con artist developers, it is an unfinished studio apartment with ceilings. Add the word loft to it, then you can charge a high price to the gullible with large amounts of expendable cash for a condo they actually have no real property rights to.  The maintenance fee's alone are enough for rent for most people.  A loft is usually a ware house or old building that is often popular among artists for all the cheap space.  The buildings have usually long past their useable life, so the owners of the building are more than happy to rent the space out to artists or musicians.  There are very few creature comforts in a real loft.  Often the occupant will create a small living space within the space that they can heat cheaply in the winter.  This little bubble of habitation is often an elevated area, or a loft -- hence the name, loft.  I don't know where the gentrifiers can bastardize that term to mean a small overpriced studio apartment, or a large, really overpriced condo.  It is all in marketing.
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When you start walking in the outlying areas at night, you can't help but feel like you are walking within the realm of ghosts.
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This market has been open only 11 months says the owner.  I asked if he had any brochures on the history of the Quay.
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I noticed the River Quay name on his menu.  I asked him if I could take a picture of it.  He said he was amazed that I was the first person to walk into his store to pronounce the word Quay, right.  The proper way to pronounce it is "Key."  The definition is here....
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Ken and I couldn't figure out where the Old Chelsea was.  When the dream died in the late 70's, all that was left was a bad reputation among stupid suburbanites and a sleazy strip club.
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The area was still, except for the condo dwellers walking their often oversized dogs.  Poor critters get to go out maybe twice a day for a couple of minutes.   Nothing like having a horse sized dog in a pup sized house.  A couple of businesses in the area have stuck it out through the years.  One of those is my favorite antique mall -- River Market Antiques.  It is one of two buildings that have murals painted on the side depicting the area's history.  Lewis and Clark came through the area.  What would people of that era think of our fear of terrorists in todays time?  Terrorism brought the Quay down.
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Empty streets and office space replace crowds and life.
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Another mural depicts the city of Kansas.  From wikipedia, I take this excerpt...


River Quay

One of the most tragic times during this period occurred when a gangland war broke out among members of the Kansas City mafia over control of the newly created (and thriving) River Quay entertainment district (and also control over mob skimming at the Stardust Resort & Casino in Las Vegas). In the process several mobsters were killed and three buildings were blown up in the River Quay which effectively ended its function as Kansas City's entertainment center. The battle was to end the era of mob control of the Vegas casinos.
The River Quay in the City Market area along the Missouri River on the north edge of Downtown Kansas City, had been a 1970s urban renewal project to offer a more family friendly entertainment complex based on the city's of Kansas City Jazz heritage replacing the establishments along 12th Street which had deteriorated into a center for crime, drugs and prostitution. The battle over mob skimming in Las Vegas was highlighted in the book Casino and movie by Nicholas Pileggi.

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Great persons have a sense of history.  Stupid people only have a vain sense of themselves.
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We sort of thought walking to the end of this bridge at night might be scary, but found that it was actually very busy with couples walking, people walking dogs, skaters, joggers and other such traffic.
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Various floods have visited this area.  The bottom one was the 1951 flood.  The middle one was a flood in 1844.  The top one was 1993.  Ken is about 6 foot something tall.
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My father, who is Italian American, visited the farmers market often in the 70's and 80's  He loved the bargains you could get, especially later in the day as the people who sold the merchandise - many of them Italians, would sell the stuff cheap.  After a redevelopment and remodeling of the market, and renaming to the River Market, my father, and others complained that the old Italians were driven away by raised rents, and the prices went up.
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Kansas City does not embrace the night, like many cosmopolitan cities.
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Ken called this the world's shortest shorline railroad.
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There are some interesing reads on the history of the River Quay.  One that comes up a lot when doing an internet search is a history written by J. J. Maloney who passed away in 1999.  Another link I found is a sneak peak at a documentary being made on the subject of the River Quay.  One of the best histories on the River Quay war is here.  One of the most curious references to the River Quay does not list the mob war as a reason for the demise of the area at all.  This reference seems to allude to a poor business plan as the reason for the demise.  I find it curious because it seems to feed in the idea that it takes big developers backed with taxpayer money to make a successful retail/entertainment district happen.  There seems to be a school of thought among urban planners and especially among Kansas City council people that the only way to move developments forward is by driving out the people who already live there, and consign over all the property to a large private corporation with tons of taxpayer money.  The words cheap rent or organic growth seem to be dirty words among developers.  Perhaps because there is no money in it for them, and face it, they are the ones running the power point programs that city leaders listen to.  However, if city planners leave plenty of room for organic growth, than success of an area is insured, barring something weird happening, like a terrorist attack or a mob war.  The River Quay war was really about un quenchable greed -- a hunger for more and more.  In such a scenario, the little people always lose, unless they band together somehow and just say no.  Through a combination of bad press, intimidation and apathy, the dream that was the Quay was allowed to fade.  In the end, I would like to suggest to Martin Scorsese that he make one more mafia film -- that being a docudrama on the River Quay war.  It is interesting enough to be made into a riveting film.  Perhaps, though, instead of looking at it through the eyes of a wise guy, maybe it should be done through the eyes of a victim, or even a city of victims, as we all are in Kansas City, weather we know it or not.

More links

http://eu-es.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=58116837932&topic=15724

http://www.facebook.com/pages/River-Quay/143763712302334

http://www.pitch.com/content/printVersion/148391/

http://books.google.com/books?id=m_3_YNa2bIgC&pg=PA29&lpg=PA29&dq=river+quay+war&source=bl&ots=NMFJGflopw&sig=prJ55qlbSkYdP3xzgVHW393mpn8&hl=en&ei=87AdTfmALJPvnge_hNWdDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=5&ved=0CC0Q6AEwBDgU#v=onepage&q=river%20quay%20war&f=false

And for fun, check these links...
One of the links is not safe for work and not safe for children....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CF_-hjaMmvA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGqMs557ixQ


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BLOG DOG
June 4, 2009 at 8.06am PDT
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2 comments:

Chloe said...

This is a great read, and these photos are spectacular! What a fun walk you must have had. I agree, the story of this area needs to be told.

Tima Svoboda said...

Thanks:)

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