February 21, 2019
Like a lot of parents, Kelyn and Isaiah Allen wanted to commemorate their daughter's first birthday with a fun and festive photo shoot. On Saturday, they brought a pink blanket, balloons, and adorable little Anya to a scenic sidewalk in an affluent Houston, Texas, neighborhood to snap some pictures, but the photo shoot was cut short when an angry resident asked the family the leave.
The woman, who has been identified as Houston socialite Franci Neely, got out of her car with her Pomeranian and approached the Allens. Mr. Allen began filming on his phone, and his video of the confrontation has gone viral.
In the clip, Neely can be seen arguing with Anya's parents over their presence on the sidewalk. City of Houston officials confirmed to ABC13 Eyewitness News that the walkway and streets are in the public right-of-way, but area residents have been in a years-long battle with the city over the property rights and non-residents utilizing these areas for photo shoots.
In Mr. Allen's video, Neely slaps at the balloons, removes the blanket from the sidewalk and appears to try and knock the father's cellphone out of his hand. Little Anya can be heard crying throughout.
"Anya started crying because [Neely] came super close to Anya," Mr. Allen told KFVS12. "She's a stranger. We never met this woman before. She's encroaching upon her personal space, and by extension, our personal space."
The Allens contacted police and plan to press charges. Neely, who is the ex-wife of Houston Astros owner Jim Crane, told ABC13 Eyewitness News in a statement that she is "very sorry that I got upset" but claims the Allens were not respectful during the encounter.
Anya's parents, who were only able to take a few pictures before their photo shoot was interrupted, were unaware of the controversy surrounding the sidewalk. As Mrs. Allen told KFVS12, "We had no idea that taking shots at that location was so contentious. I think had we known, I wouldn't have gone."
Anya's first birthday photo shoot was "something that was supposed to be very special for us," added her mother, "and I hate the fact that when I look at these pictures, this is what I have to remember."
Anya's actual first birthday isn't until next month, so the family still has time to take some more precious photos and make some happy memories. We don't think they'll have a problem finding a location to take some pictures, either. The Allens had an unfortunate experience on one sidewalk, but we think most people would smile at the sight of a sweet little girl and her birthday balloons.