“Change doesn’t happen overnight,” said Eric Booker, president of the Broadway East Community Association, from the new office of Sen. Nathaniel McFadden (D-45), at 1812 E. Ashland Ave., in East Baltimore. Booker, a member of the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee representing the 45th District, is a disciple of McFadden, and the East Baltimore political machine that birthed them both.

A view from the window of Sen. Nathaniel McFadden’s new office. (Courtesy Photo)

McFadden and Booker gazed out of the senator’s window Nov. 27, and highlighted the physical transformation of a community known as “Middle East,” in the shadow of ubiquitous Johns Hopkins Hospital.  The area was once dubbed “Zombieland” (a reference to heroin addicted residents and blight) in the 1990’s by the Baltimore Sun, to McFadden’s chagrin. Yet, the veteran lawmaker said his political acumen, diligence and patience, in cooperation with many, has helped invigorate the once beleaguered Ashland Ave., and the neighborhoods surrounding it.

“Seventeen years ago we looked at East Baltimore and saw the crime and the devastation, and the drug problem and we said we need to attack it in multiple ways: health, education, housing…skill development and that takes time, ” McFadden told the AFRO. The senator named several developments erected over the last several years (many of them visible from his new office), including the new building his office is located in at 1812 Ashland Ave.

The $65.5 million innovation hub, for Johns Hopkins Hospital research, was developed by Hopkins, Forest City Enterprises and East Baltimore Development Inc., (EBDI). On the ground floor of the building is a Starbucks, which would have seemed implausible a decade ago. The building is part of the 88-acre EDBI renewal area.

“The generation that we live in now is a bit impatient. But, the situation is still the same, it requires time,” added McFadden, whose analysis seems to be a direct response to Del. Cory McCray (D-45), who has launched a vigorous challenge for McFadden’s senate seat. McCray, 35, recently told the AFRO, “The challenge is the city is in such challenging turmoil right now that you can no longer wait things out,” in reference to some who suggest McCray wait McFadden out.

McFadden, 71 defended his record during an interview with the AFRO, Nov. 27 and also answered some of McCray’s recent assertions. Specifically, McCray blamed McFadden for the lack of new or renovated schools coming to the 45th as part of the 21st Century Schools Initiative.

“It was done by the school system, based on a survey by a firm that did an analysis that projected population trends, Census tracts of where people would be,” said McFadden.

“If you want to build new schools in the portion of the district that he’s (McCray) referencing you have to have places for those students to go while those renovations or new construction takes place. It wasn’t anything deliberate. It wasn’t anything that I said, or did or did not do. It wasn’t like we were asleep at the switch.”

McCray also alleged McFadden doesn’t actually live in the 45th District, which McFadden refuted.

“My residence is 2702 Mura St., always has been,” said McFadden who explained he and his wife plan to live full-time in a condominium in the swanky Village of Cross Keys, which is outside of the 45th. But, McFadden said emphatically, he has not retired.

“Some 30 years ago I was young and I was impatient,” McFadden explained before name checking a list of legendary political figures in East and West Baltimore who taught him the ropes.

“Clarence “Du” Burns, Clarence Blount, Samuel Daniels, Ben Brown, Herb Brown, the faith community said, `son, there’s a process, there is a way in which you can advocate for the things that you need, but, it’s a process you have to go through.’ I had to learn, I had to understand you had to put yourself in position to effectuate change and that comes over time.”

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor