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East Bank Trail offers river views in Northeast

If you’re looking for a new trail to refresh your bike path options before winter sets in, check out the new East Bank Trail in northeast Minneapolis. 

It’s rideable, even if ancillary features adjoining the path won’t be completed until around the end of October. Best times to ride this month are evenings and weekends; give construction vehicles a wide berth if you’re riding during the day.

The trail connects Boom Island with NE Marshall St. north of the former Grain Belt complex.  It realizes a route that on paper dates back to the 1999 Above The Falls master plan, and matches a similar path built in 2007 on the river’s West Bank.

It’s the most substantive park improvement on the river in Northeast since the master plan was approved.

The trail is actually two paths separated for foot and bike travel north of the Broadway Bridge, where it winds through the mostly undeveloped Sheridan Memorial Park. There’s a combined path in the tight corridor between the Graco factory and the Mississippi River. That’s also true where the path crosses what is supposed to become a park on the former Scherer Bros. lumberyard.

When that park is developed, the trail will also run under the east end of the Plymouth Avenue Bridge. For now, it crosses Plymouth near the entrance to Boom Island Park.

Planning is now beginning for making more of a park at Sheridan, with help from a $500,000 federal grant. A playground and picnic area are planned, but a more substantial shelter may hinge on the feasibility of bringing in water and sewer lines, according to planner Deb Bartels. A veterans memorial was dedicated in 2014.

Meanwhile, if you're wondering how much the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board will need to pay for the easement across Graco land, that case still languishes in condemnation proceedings.

Housing board grants rent relief to tenants on extended absences

Public housing residents in Minneapolis will no longer need to pay their normal monthly rent when travel abroad erases their income, a change particularly sought by East African immigrants.

The board of the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority approved this week reverting to its previous policy of collecting only minimal rent during extended absences. The change takes effect once approved by federal housing officials, which is expected by year’s end.

Abdi Warsame, a City Council member, told the board that the policy in place for the past five years works a particular hardship on elderly East Africans who must save for long periods if they want to visit their homelands. He said that many receive federal Supplemental Security Income, which is halted when the recipient is outside the United States.

Yet the policy required people to keep paying rent, which is income-based. Travelers gone for 30 to 90 days could apply for a hardship, which meant that they paid the minimum $75 monthly rent during their absence, but were required to make up the difference between that and their normal rent over the next year or two.

The change will mean that residents will pay only the $75 minimum per month, assuming they apply for the hardship status.

From 50 to 75 public housing residents report such absences annually, according to Mary Boler, an agency manager. She said the cost of the change will be less than $50,000. The agency found that the paperwork burden of tracking repayment was higher than anticipated.

“This was brought up to us again and again and again in every building we visited in our ward,” Warsame said.  “Everybody was afraid to leave the country.”

He said common reasons for travel abroad include visiting families left behind or participating in the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are expected to make at least once.

The agency allows a maximum absence of 90 days, after which it takes steps to terminate a lease. With a long waiting list, “That’s a long time for the asset to be kept empty,” Boler said.   

The agency board now has two members of Somali descent, Mohamud Tamir and Abdullahi Isse. The agency’s resident advisory board also backed the change in rent policy for extended absences.