City officials and representatives of CSX met Sunday with Charles Village residents displaced by last week's landslide, updating efforts aimed at getting them back into their homes.
"I was very pleased with the mayor's presence today," said Mark Truelove, one of the residents of the first block of E. 26th Street displaced by the collapse of a 120-year-old retaining wall.
He said he was less reassured by CSX officials, whom he said "had a few things to say about the specific problem they're dealing with here, rather than a long-term solution. … I am hopeful that CSX will come back to the table with more."
CSX issued a statement after the closed-door meeting, calling it "productive with constructive dialogue and the exchange of important information among all attendees... CSX is committed to working with the City of Baltimore during the reconstruction effort and to assisting community residents with security and other concerns."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, speaking to reporters afterward, said the emphasis would remain on making it safe for residents of the 19 affected homes to move back in, as well as on ensuring their comfort in the meantime.
"The emphasis is definitely on safety, and to make sure that … we're moving swiftly," Rawlings-Blake said. She said her office would do "everything that we can on our side to make their lives as comfortable as possible."
"Everybody working on this project has been told to make this a top priority," the mayor said.
Sharon Guida, a board member of the Charles Village Civic Association, said most people at the meeting left reassured. "Since Friday, there was a lot of movement made on being more available to the residents and on having more services available to the residents," she said.
William M. Johnson, director of the city's Department of Transportation, said steps would be taken to stabilize the area over the next few weeks, thus allowing people to move back into their homes while work continues on a more permanent solution.
The mayor said an investigation continues into why the slide occurred in an area that — just a year ago — was declared safe after a city inspection.
The retaining wall collapsed during heavy rain Wednesday afternoon, sending streetlights, sidewalks and parked cars cascading onto the CSX rail tracks below. No one was hurt, but residents were told they would have to live elsewhere until the area could be made safe.
Residents had been complaining for years, both to the city and CSX, about the condition of the retaining wall and the street and sidewalks atop it.
City officials estimate it will take 40 days before people will be able to move back into their homes. The city has provided hotel vouchers for some, while others have found temporary lodging with friends or family.
The civic association as set up an It Takes the Village fund to aid residents affected by the wall collapse and mudslide. Checks payable to It Takes the Village Fund may be sent to organization President Sandra Sparks, 2942 Guilford Ave., Baltimore 21218. Write "For Displaced 26th Street Residents" on the memo line.
In addition, Richard D'Souza of the Sweet27 Bar & Restaurant, 123 W. 27th St., will donate 30 percent of all food purchases from 4:30 p.m. to close Monday through Wednesday to the fund, CVCA officials said.