STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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This special reporting project wrapped up in May 2017. Read more.

Hamtramck pothole project cements neighborhood relationships

Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio
The Hamtramck Road Crew at work.

When a neighborhood's got a problem, sometimes all it takes is a few people coming up with solutions over drinks.

About a year and a half ago, a group of Hamtramck neighbors decided they were fed up with the horrible road conditions in their town.

They got together, bought some cold patch and started filling potholes.

Soon, more neighbors joined in.

They called themselves the Hamtramck Guerrilla Road Crew.

By the time they finished, they'd laid down 36 tons of cold patch and fixed 41 blocks worth of potholes. Here’s that story as recorded by Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett back in 2015.

Two of the original members of the Hamtramck Guerrilla Road Crew are Jeff Salazar and Maritza Garibay. They recently sat down at the very same dive bar where they came up with the idea. 

"I think they saw that if you have a loud enough voice with enough people that whoever you're trying to yell at is going to hear you."

“It was an idea that evolved," said Salazar. "It started out with just a question — is anything gonna happen to us? Any kind of penalty gonna come if we start to do this ourselves?”

But after getting an "unofficial clear" from the city, they decided to get to work, hand-in-hand with other residents of Hamtramck. 

“We met a ton of people that we probably wouldn’t have met if this thing didn’t happen," said Garibay. "And we’ve maintained those relationships with them too.”

Not only did they meet their neighbors through repairing the potholes, they also became local celebrities. Garibay said people she didn't know would come up to her in the supermarket and say, "You're the pothole girl!"

A year and a half later, the streets are in better shape, and Hamtramck learned a valuable lesson. 

"We actually do have a voice," Salazar said. "We do have some weight to our pleas to have things change for the better in the city. It showed people it can be done."

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Support for State of Opportunity comes from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a partner with communities where children come first.

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