Posts Tagged ‘grosse pointe park’


Homes in Palmer Woods, a district of Detroit


Excerpts from my journal


November 19, 2014, Wednesday, Detroit, Karen’s house

Extremely cold, upper 10s, overcast, calm—light snow expected over the next several days.

 A big day with Colin Connair (formerly of the Detroit police department, now a sergeant with the Grosse Pointe Park police department). First the absences. We did not manage to visit the functioning Detroit police station as I’d hoped—they never responded to Colin’s requests. We did not get permission to photograph the private security company in Palmer Woods that he told me about—altho I do have a tentative visit lined up for this early afternoon but I think I’ll cancel for several reasons: 1. Colin is not available to accompany me and he is a central feature in the photos and he presents himself as a police officer which might sweeten the conversation. 2. It is frigid and snow is expected, making biking difficult. And 3. I have a date with Kim at 3:30 pm for the New Work events of the afternoon and evening. So I might request a postponement.


Home of a Grosse Pointe Park woman murdered in this garage by a killer allegedly hired by the woman’s husband

Despite those setbacks we did photograph in Grosse Pointe Park, his home city, two sites of crimes—the murder of a woman allegedly by her husband and a robbery in an alley. Plus a barrier erected by the city to block easy access from Detroit [since partially removed]. Maybe not the most dramatic photos but they can offer a taste of life in Detroit and environs.


Detroit side

Barrier between Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit, from the Detroit side


Looking into Detroit from the other side of the barrier

Colin showed me the gas station that was the site of a shooting, the victim badly injured and bleeding, customers stepping over him as he lay there—as a Detroit police officer Colin came upon this scene later. And another site, a vacant lot, was the scene of a raging fire during a frigid time—Colin doubles as firefighter, common in small towns to conserve resources.)

Scene of a crime in Detroit that Colin responded to when on the force

The gas station where a man lay bleeding

We explored a rehabilitated housing complex which appears to house mixed income people. And the Roosevelt Hotel, the squat I thought the two guys at Manna’s kitchen told me about. But it is being renovated and seemed tightly secured. Other buildings near the intersection they’d named, roughly 14th and Vernon, did not look like squats. That Colin was willing to explore with me heightens my love and respect for him.


Roosevelt Place Hotel, under renovation, across from the abandoned Michigan Central Train Station


The hotel next to what remains of two buildings named Imagination Station, both burned and gutted, one ripped down

We cruised thru Palmer Woods, hoping to bump into private security in their Hummers. No luck. I made a series of photos of the houses, each distinctive, most of them exceedingly elegant. We found the so-called Bishop’s House, once occupied by the city’s bishop, now sold to private interests. In preparation for this, it was made “profane,” i.e., all religious articles removed including the Stations of the Cross and the papal throne, whatever that might be. We never found the Fisher Mansion that Spenser, Barbara’s husband, told us about.


Catholic bishop's former residence

Catholic bishop’s former residence

We joked about the church and its wealth. I told him about the day before meeting Father Tom who runs a women’s shelter, much like that of Shelly Douglass in Birmingham Alabama (Tom and Shelly know each other). The two residences represent the two poles of the Catholic Church—“royal splendor” and “catholic worker grit.” Similar to the gap between Palmer Woods and a somewhat less affluent Grosse Pointe Park, and most of Detroit.

I thought I recognized the home of Barbara and her husband Spenser, but I was mistaken. A woman appeared in a second floor window, peering at me suspiciously. She called, what do you want?

Is this the home of Barbara H?

It is not!

Do you know where she lives?

I don’t!

All very curt, unneighborly and indicative of fear.


Photo courtesy of internet


Dale Brown of Threat Management Center checks in on an elderly woman in the Boston Edison neighborhood in Detroit, Mich., AP Photo | Detroit Free Press, 2011

Colin phoned the security company, Threat Management  Division/Century Security (TMD), formerly known as Recon, identified himself as a police officer, said he was with his friend, a photojournalist from Boston, explained we’d like to talk with them about how they work, said this is not an expose. I complimented him on his phone presence and asked again whether he’d consider moving into detective work. No, he likes what he does, street patrol in a car as a sergeant partly because of the hours.


Colin and I discussed our work, how we both are drawn to danger and accept it. He asked me about danger when I photograph in Israel-Palestine, whether I’d ever been threatened with kidnapping. Yes, I have, and I told him about the time I and friends searched for the site of Rachel Corrie’s murder, when we encountered armed men, they looked inside the car and saw me, how I believed I was about to be kidnapped, but I was shockingly calm. He reminded me of the occasion when a man he was about to arrest leaned forward in the driver’s seat and could have pulled out a hidden gun. And the many times during a street chase that ended with capitulation of the suspect.

He works 2 back-to-back 12-hour shifts, 7 pm to 7 am, with 2 days off between. Which he finds ideal for his family life, 4 kids by 2 marriages, the youngest in pre-school. He calls this stage “the last days of my many-year nightmare with young kids.”

How do you deal with boredom, Colin? I asked. He replied, as a friend says, the Internet is a great boon for cops. Grosse Pointe Park cops know where all the open Wi-Fi hotspots are in the city. When I was doing street patrol in Detroit, I often read books during my down times.

We discovered that he was raised on Franklin Street in Cambridge. I told him where my younger daughter and her family live and he replied, I grew up next door! My mom built a trellis for the grape vine that is on the border fence. I remember looking over that fence at the set back house where your family now lives.

This coincidence is yet another element in what I call our “line up,” elements of our close friendship. On a lesser level, it’s like my friendship with Dan Turner—many eerie correspondences, seemingly incomprehensible. Colin is one of my Detroit treasures—a gateway to Detroit divergences and contradictions.

A stop for coffee and donuts

Donut and coffee stop



Palmer Woods

“Palmer Woods Historic District”

“The Other Detroit” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, February 2011
The city’s grandest enclave clings to the dream.

Threat Management Division Of Recon Security Palmer Woods
Palmer Woods channel 2 story demonstrates the efficacy of the Threat Management Center V.I.P.E.R.S. bodyguard training program. By creating non-violent outcomes through non-offensive, non- intrusive tactics, strategies and logistics preventing the conditions that lead to inappropriate societal conditions that are not conducive for a good quality of life.

“Homegrown Documentary Focuses on Paramilitary Security Force in Detroit” by Allan Lengel, December 2012
The movie “Detroit Threat Management” by Jacob Hurwitz-Goodman

“Fisher Mansion sells for $1.6 million in Detroit’s Palmer Woods,” September 2014

“Detroit’s Fisher Mansion to be retreat for addicts,” by Christine MacDonald and Joel Kurth, September 2014

“The Cities of Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit have reached an agreement regarding the construction of Piazza Square.  The following links contain an artist’s rendering and street plan for the new Piazza Square:  Artist Rendering & Approved Joint Plan.”

“Road barriers aim for safer streets in Detroit neighborhood”

“$10,000 reward offered in Grosse Pointe teen’s death,” by Mara MacDonald [recently increased to $100,000]
Local real estate developer offers reward for information

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Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit

Touring Detroit with Colin Connaire, a police officer formerly stationed in Detroit, we visited three police stations—one abandoned and vandalized, the second renovated into a nonprofit arts center and farm and garden supply company, the third still an active police station.





PHOTOS (in two parts)

March 27, 2014, Thursday, Detroit    

Warmer, low 30s, overcast, mild southerly breeze, rain-snow showers forecast, bike week begins today.

today [March 26, 2014] was another huge day photographing detroit. the police officer i wrote about earlier, colin connaire, is a special sort of guy—compassionate, committed to helping others, humane, and very knowledgeable about detroit, crime, and of course policing here. we visited 3 precinct stations, one abandoned and decrepit, another abandoned and converted into a for profit garden and farm supply center along with a non profit art gallery, the third a functioning station. he will contact the captain and request permission to photograph inside. this is more than i ever expected.

—To two friends

The tour with Colin was not what I expected, less in some respects, much more in others. I visualized we’d stroll around his old beat, his region in northeast Detroit, he’d tell me stories, I’d photograph as he did, him and the environment. Much as I did with Ibrahim in Gaza recounting his tale of near death between Hamas and Fatah. We might even meet some people he’d known on the beat, some stories of recovery or deterioration. This might itself be a major study. Instead we mostly drove, and often to sites I’ve observed and sometimes photographed myself, like the Cass Corridor. Not much juice here.


Colin Connaire

What I did not expect was the sequence of police stations. The vandalized and scrapped station was first. We explored it thoroughly, cells, intake, holding, garage, offices, etc. Lots of graffiti and vandalism, mostly from recovering materials for resale, like copper. Little that suggested anger at the police, which surprised both of us. Equally surprising was the second site, purchased, owned, managed, and maintained by Southwest Solutions, apparently a non-profit developer. A for-profit garden and farm supply firm inhabited the former police station garage, owned by 2 men, 1 of whom stood behind the counter and explained everything. (He is the strapping young man, well muscled, bare-chested that I photographed last fall.) Colin and I had noticed mounds of earth on the roof. The fellow explained, yes, a green roof. Because it’s not fully visible we plan to plant a tree.


Detroit Farm and Garden Supply

The rest of the building is devoted to a non-profit arts center—studios (some of them in the jail cells), exhibits, workshops, and a small café. The gallery is available for rental for weddings, receptions, parties, and the like. Listening to the vivacious, street talking, curly white-haired, goateed, dark-skinned Norm Kobylarz, himself an artist (sculpture, but his studio is not in the arts center), I sensed much vibrancy in the place, some traffic, a growing enterprise. I dropped in on a young woman, Ellen Coons, who explained to me when questioned, that yes, I am a hipster, maybe a new hipster. She is an artist and— self-admitted—apathetic. She graduated from the College of Creative Studies, and showed me some of her art, including animation. Her boyfriend, Joshua Mulligan is half Diné (Navajo) and himself a talented animator. She showed me an array of hers and his on video. Norm showed us a Banksy mural done originally on a wall at the abandoned Packard Auto Plant, but removed and fought for in court. The arts center now owns it and could sell it. Media are fascinated by it, as am I.


Norm Kobylarz, artist in the arts center, with Colin


Ellen Coons

The facility is officially named 555 Creative Community, and sits at 2801 W Vernor, Detroit 48216. This happens to be across from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Detroit Mexicantown International Welcome Center 14 (contradictory facilities?), which itself are near the Canada Bridge. Easy to find, near a well-traveled route.

Map 2801 W Vernor


Norm with Banksy street art retrieved from the abandoned Packard Plant

All this of course excited me tremendously: conversion, renewal, arts, agriculture, youth, many of my main themes coalescing in this one facility, or rather, the 3 buildings compared.

The 3rd was a functioning station, Precinct 11, which we visited last. The captain was not in so we couldn’t receive an answer to our request to photograph inside. But Colin promised to check today and call me [no luck, no access—yet]. I hope to at least photograph the interior of this working station, especially the jail cells, a central theme, if not some of the personnel.


Detroit police station

I explained to Colin the concept of “synecdoche,” the part standing for the whole, which is related to the question of the derivation of the word “cop”. He believed it derives from “Constable On Patrol,” I parried with “cop” from “copper” from the badges worn earlier. As usual, Colin said, oh my, I never thought of that, could be. One of his unique features is openness to new ideas, active interest, a flourishing mind. Same as his mom, the venerable dramatist, Chris Connaire, my friend from the Cambridge Quaker community and my link to Colin. I applied the notion to our station exploration: this small story of three police stations could stand for the larger story of Detroit.

At the end of the tour Colin treated me to a local favorite—fast food hamburgers in the style of White Castle, Telway Hamburgers. On Michigan Ave, not far from the 555 Arts Center. Four burgers for $2.50. Coffee that Colin claims excels most others. We were together for more than 4 hours and bonded quickly. He told me how much he loves his work, his work pals, his life. In a nutshell: born and raised in the Boston area, with roots in Michigan thru his mom and her mom; from the age of 8 wished to be a cop; joined the Detroit force after college; studied and graduated from Wayne State in law while in the police; lived in the upscale Indian Village during this time; moved to Grosse Pointe Park and joined that force; now a sergeant; owns his house; divorced, remarried, kids by both marriages, an 18 month girl with epilepsy.



Telway Hamburgers (courtesy of the internet)

I told him, this is somewhat like my story: my early wish to be a photographer, practiced from an early age, changed genres, studied, married, divorced, etc. Both of us love our work. A key question: risk, injury, death? How do you feel about all this? I didn’t get a clear answer from Colin. Except maybe when he’d stated earlier that one reason he shifted from Detroit to Grosse Pointe Park was danger. Maybe the incident when he almost shot a man. He and his partner noticed a guy in a parked car, they approached the car. The guy folded his body over and leaned down, perhaps to grab or hide a weapon. Colin’s partner had slid his hand thru a partially open window, opened the door, and was trying to pull the man out when he bent down. Colin pointed his gun at the man who then slowly rose up, hands empty. Later they discovered a Glock automatic pistol with a 30 round clip hidden under the seat.

Colin wasn’t sure of the man’s intent. Perhaps to rise up shooting. That, Colin claimed, was the only time he came close to firing his weapon.

Are you trained to fire non-lethally?

Oh no, to the chest, maximum bulk, the legs are too small for a target, shoot to kill.

Are you trained in humane methods of crowd control and other intervention?

Not really, we can pick this up on the job.

How about SWAT operations?

Yes, we are prepared for that but the approach is always maximum force, intimidation. I told him about my political arrest on Cambridge Common.

Furthermore: Colin told me he reads bodies, uses proportional force, as when he ended a chase because of the danger to him and his men, compared with the seriousness of the crime. We discussed our short hair, a convenience for him, but I suggested subliminal associations, as with monks, military, and skinheads.

He provided a perfect companion on the tour because he engaged all parties in conversation, like Norm, while I concentrated on photography.

Norm with Colin

Leaving Colin after the tour I walked briefly around his neighborhood, the “Cabbage Patch” of Grosse Pointe Park (on the border of Detroit, not quite so exclusive as other suburbs, perhaps named Cabbage Patch because of the Irish immigrants once living there) to feel the neighborhood and town—lots of cafes, boutiques, health food stores, etc. But most specially, three boys, 2 of color, 1 white, looking suspiciously Jewish, in fact like a young Woody Allen.



Grosse Pointe Park


Excuse me, young men, I’m a photographer from Boston, could I please photograph you?

This might emerge as the hit photo of the day.

To a friend:

btw. about your question, whether i feel completeness in this recent detroit foray: hardly, partially. 

some disappointments like doing nothing more on the theme of greening detroit (mostly because of the season) and not gaining access to a functioning police station (we tried but the boss never responded, a frequent occurrence in my line of work). and some surprising achievements like the police officer, colin connaire, escorting me to 2 other stations in various conditions and him personally, what a fine man he is, and the enormous, busy bike shop i discovered and photographed a few days ago. on and on. down and up personally. as with my work in palestine-israel my disappointments generate a commitment to return and plumb more deeply. i hope my achievements never fully satisfy me. disappointments and achievements fuel my curiosity.

satisfying yes, satisfying no. i suspect you can relate with your drawing. could be more, thank god it’s not too less.

thanks for asking, you raised a key point.



555 Creative Community Arts Center

Gallery’s plan to sell Banksy’s Packard Plant mural sparks uproar

Detroit Farm and Garden Supply

Eighth / Sixteenth Precinct Police Station

Volunteers clean up abandoned Detroit police station in hopes of it reopening (May 2013)

Detroit officials break ground for new police precinct (May 2014)

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