It has taken two years, but the desecrated monument at Veterans Memorial Square on York Blvd. and Figueroa St. in Highland Park is finally going to be repaired. Councilmember Gil Cedillo managed to get a motion passed on Dec. 7 to transfer money for the repairs from the Mayor’s approved city budget to the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Bureau of Street Services. The repairs are expected to be complete by early February, 2019.
In years past, it has taken activism and fundraising by veterans and residents to keep a fresh flag flying atop the flagpole at the center of the square. Residents have also pitched in to try to keep the Square clean.
But the monument’s current damaged state is beyond the ability of concerned citizens to correct on their own. The large circular foundation to the flag has been bludgeoned into chunks of broken concrete, with stagnant water collecting in the holes and crevices created by the piles of rubble.
Another problem is that the Square, ringed by benches, has become “home” to homeless people who sleep and congregate there regularly. In November, when veterans and concerned citizens gathered at the Square to demand action by the City to rescue the monument, many people in attendance said they were afraid or disinclined to visit the Square because of the homeless presence and general squalor.
The City money will fix the monument, and that is a step forward. But it won’t fix the homelessness problem, which at this point, has usurped Veterans Memorial Square.
“The Veterans Memorial Plaza is the scariest corner in Highland Park and it’s supposed to be the most inviting,” said David Bloom, a resident of Highland Park and veteran of the Iraq War who has worked with other veterans to get resources for the Square. “It should be treated with dignity, however, there is no plan in place for that once the repairs are completed.”