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A REASON TO CELEBRATE: City Council President Herb Wesson thanks colleague Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and County Supervisor Chairman Mark Ridley-Thomas for their efforts in securing MTA approved funding for construction of the underground station at Leimert Park Village for the planned Crenshaw Line. MALCOLM ALI PHOTO
Mayor Villaraigosa, Sup. Ridley Thomas and Council Pres. Wesson stand together in celebration of African American Culture that Resonates in Leimert Park Village
As the evangelical icon The Rev. Cecil ‘Chip’ Murray fired at 600 hundred elated supporters three chants of “Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” they joined elected officials and community leadership in celebrating approved funding for an underground station on the planned Crenshaw Line at historical Leimert Park Village, on Friday May 24.
Acting on a motion co-sponsored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and four other Metro directors, the board voted to include the Leimert Park Village station in the new Crenshaw-to-LAX light rail line after securing the necessary funding in its upcoming budget.
The most recent estimate for the Leimert Park station is $120 million, and Metro’s fiscal year 2014 budget contains $460.5 million in uncommitted funds—more than enough to safeguard against a significant cost overrun. Further burnishing the station’s funding prospects was the recent commitment by the Los Angeles City Council of $40 million toward the design and construction of the station.
Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, who is also on the Metro board and who has championed the Leimert Park station for years, greeted the vote with a deep sense of satisfaction and gratification.
Ridley Thomas stated; “I am delighted that the board has approved funding to make this historic community a train stop,” he said. “Leimert Park is an iconic neighborhood in Los Angeles. All we have ever said is that it should be treated on par with our county’s other great cultural landmarks. This was always a matter of will – a test of will. Because we knew there was a way to make this happen. This is one case where it really did take a village to get a fair share for Leimert Park Village. It is a major achievement for those who have advocated for the station, for those who insisted that the Crenshaw line quite obviously had to stop in the heart of the Crenshaw community.”
Added Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose support for the Leimert Park station was crucial: “The fate of the Leimert Park Village station on the Crenshaw/LAX line has - up until today - been uncertain,” he said. “I am proud to say that both the city of Los Angeles and Metro have stepped up to the plate and committed a total of $120 million to fully fund the Leimert Park Village station. We worked together, we got creative, and we never gave up. I look forward to seeing the upcoming designs so that this project can move forward and serve our entire region.”
Rev. Murray began a celebration that almost never was. One that was stalled for two years in tangled negotiations and left on a respirator to die. The 8.5-mile Crenshaw Line would run south from the Expo Line at Exposition Boulevard along Crenshaw Boulevard through Inglewood, terminating at the Green Line near LAX.
“The announcement of funds to build an underground train station in Leimert Park Village along the Crenshaw Line is welcomed news for so many residents who have patiently and diligently worked to make this day possible. Leimert Park Village is a vitally important cultural destination in our community and construction of an underground station ensures this area continues to thrive and fully reap the economic benefits such a project can provide. I commend all of the local leaders both inside and outside of government who have fought and believed in this project from day one. I will do all that I can to further support the construction of this station in the months ahead,”
said Karen Bass in a statement.
During a Metro Transportation Authority board meeting earlier this month, Mayor Villaraigosa seconded a motion by Mark Ridley-Thomas, which insisted that a Leimert Park station be inclusive in the planning of the Crenshaw Line.
It ended two years of fighting for a light-rail station in Leimert Park, with the approval of $120 million full funding for a stop in the heart of L.A.'s African American community.
“Good News! Good News! Good News! Good News in Leimert Park Village today, clap your hands and give somebody a high-five and tell them there is Good News in the Village today!” proclaimed Ridley-Thomas at the rally.
The supervisor referred to the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child,” paraphrasing it to ‘It takes a village to cause a train to stop at Leimert Park Village.”
“In other words we did it together. Say Mr. Mayor we did it together! Mr. Council President we did it together! Ms. (Jan) Perry we did it together! We did it together with the Sentinel and other newspapers! We did it together,” Ridley-Thomas added, also mentioning churches, clergy and community organizations that were instrumental in solidifying the station.
That was the theme celebrated in the same location that three to four years from now will be an artery through, to and from the single region in Los Angeles that is most symbolic of African American culture.
Mayor Villaraigosa smiled continuously and then reflected on the long journey of not just the Leimert Park station but also his 33-year relationship with glowing political superstar Ridley-Thomas.
“For 33-years Mark Ridley-Thomas and Antonio Villaraigosa have been working together. From the co-chairs of the Latino/Black Roundtable to work on his campaign for city council, mine for the state assembly, my first second and third run for mayor, we have understood that when we work together, we get things done,” said Villaraigosa.
The mayor concluded by saying the event is a celebration of the Leimert Park Village community that has always been a big part of this town from the very beginning. “This is a community that has a cultural destination point that people from all over this town should come and visit.”
Leimert Park was developed in the 1920s as an all-white neighborhood known for lush golf courses, but after the 1965 Watts riots, Black musicians, writers and artists began to move in and transformed it into an African American cultural destination for entertainment, food and business.
Sounds of Jazz can frequently be heard throughout the community, lined with shops, art galleries and the last Black-centric bookstore in the region. Leimert Park is the last African American business corridor in Southern California.
“Let me just say this. The role that the Sentinel has played in this outcome, frankly has been under reported,” said Sup. Ridley Thomas. “I want to publically acknowledge the rather, pivotal and critical role that the publisher (Danny J. Bakewell Sr.) of the L.A. Sentinel has played in this. That’s not overstated, that’s just frankly the facts. So two years to the date was not the day we hope that it would be, but today is the day we hope for.”