A night out on Lower Greenville Avenue provides enough stuff for a Hollywood movie.
The story line would be something gripping about a lone antagonist threatening small-business owners. Or perhaps a feel-good piece where a group of money-hungry capitalists trample the rights of residents until one man takes a stand. Maybe a teen flick featuring hordes of drunken revelers who guzzle beer and drive around wildly, terrorizing a neighborhood of kindly townsfolk. A political thriller? An inept city government ignores residents' pleas until a crusader exposes political corruption. No? Then how about this: City officials battle local terrorist while building toward a dream community.
Lower Greenville Avenue is all of those things, depending on one's perspective. And in each scenario the central figure would be the same: a small, stocky, middle-aged man named Avi Adelman.
Many residents of the neighborhoods surrounding Lower Greenville dismiss his antics as counterproductive, at best. "I think his problem is that he pisses off everyone--neighbors, bar owners, the city," says John Carlisle, a Greenville Avenue-area resident. "That's not the way I would do things." Adelman inspires hatred and hurls it back in equal measure. "He tells so many lies about me," complains one bar owner who requested anonymity. "How does he get away with it? I've busted my ass to do what I'm supposed to do, and all I get in return are raids and harassment. Avi calls 911 on us." In addition, Adelman posts crude snapshots of drunks urinating in not-so-secluded spots around Lower Greenville on his Web site, Barkingdogs.org. He referred to Bob Peterson, owner of Blue Goose, as "Dirty Bob" and called him "an evil person" in one e-mail message. He razzes the mayor and City Council members and longs for the day when bars along the Lower Greenville strip board up their doors for good.
Definitely the basis for a feature film, if the whole damn fight wasn't really just about parking, publicity and the normal pace of city business.
Bars and restaurants generate more than half of the total demand for parking spaces--2,880 spots calculated according to city code standards--in the area around Lower Greenville, often competing with residents of the neighborhoods abutting the entertainment strip. City planners claim that customers of the 54 establishments between Belmont and Ross account for much of the area's off-street parking shortage. Desperate for parking, bar and restaurant customers search deep into the neighborhoods for a place to drop their cars for the evening. Valet parking only exacerbates the problem, says Leslie Cooke, owner of the Corner Tap. "Valets will park in the first available space, and the easiest spots are behind Arcadia, Milkbar and other bars," he says. "Customers then have to drive around."
Much of the shortfall has to do with exemptions granted to commercial properties in business before the parking code was adopted, and the city's arcane parking regulations add to the trouble--for example, establishments with patios or rooftop seating are not required to provide parking for these additional seats. As a result, area residents must put up with steady traffic early in the evening--Greenville Avenue alone carries 24,000 vehicles a day--and an unsteady flow of obnoxious drunks staggering back to their cars late at night. Along the way they sometimes pause for a few moments to ensure that neighbors' lawns grow thick and lush.
"When you confront someone urinating on your lawn, they always say, 'I had to go,' neighborhood resident Bill Dickerson reports. "Well, I don't care. Go in your shoe. Go in your car. Why do our kids have to play where you urinated?"
Dickerson patrols west of Lower Greenville as part of his neighborhood's crimewatch program. Each weekend he discovers men and women relieving bladders in yards, on fences, in bushes and so forth. One night a panicked drunk even plowed into him with a Jeep. The scrappy Dickerson landed on the hood of the speeding vehicle, taking an eight-block ride down Ross Avenue.
Adelman, who lives on Belmont near Greenville, decided three years ago to alert the entire city to the parking problems, soiled lawns, litter and other attributes of life alongside a bar district. "It was terrible every weekend," he recalls. "So how do you bring this to people's attention? Who do we talk to? Well, the media." He began an e-mail advocacy campaign and created a Web site. His first big coup came when he ran an ugly trash bin contest, posting photos on his site. "It got on Fox 4, and it worked," he beams. Next he called for a New Year's Eve boycott of the strip. "Channel 8 picked it up," he says. "That started the media ball rolling."
People insist that the media-savvy neighborhood activist is a kind person, intelligent, witty and even nice. But his demeanor changes once you become a target. "You're not going to reduce stupidity," he says of the bar patrons wandering his street. "There is a definite trend downward in quality. Last year we had Infinitis and BMWs. Now we see regular cars." In e-mail messages to subscribers to his Web site he blasts city officials regularly, especially after the annual St. Patrick's Day street party. On his Web site he charges that Mayor Ron Kirk "regards the citizens of Dallas as no more important than roadkill on the highway to personal riches." He definitely has a way with words.