"She's right," Gatheright said of her remarks later.

Deputy Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman told a reporter that demolishing Lansing Avenue serves a strategic purpose.

Blocks like this —tucked away, secluded, forgotten — are a haven for drug dealing, he said. Clearing out such alley streets for green space makes the main drags like Lanvale and Federal streets more attractive for rehab projects, he says.

Even though the city doesn't own the homes, officials gave the owners a chance to plead their case. No one made much of a go at it, he said.

Not just Lansing, but the 1600 block of N. Bethel St. will also be knocked down, he said. Contractors will leave up the house next to Gatheright's as a buffer, sawing away the roofs so it comes down without tearing. The city will work to relocate him and his family, then tear down his house, too.

This is not just a plan for the city, but imminent and in motion as part of the Lansing Avenue demolition, Braverman said.

That was news to Gatheright. He said he owns his home after working out a deal with the owner. But property records show that it is owned by a South Baltimore corporation. As the housing officials pulled off, Gatheright said no one has informed him of his impending move.

Sitting in his plastic lawn chair, Gatheright folded his hands and shrugged. Nothing surprises him at this point, and besides, he owns another home up the block — purchased for $8,000 a few years ago.

"If they need the house, so be it," he said. He wants to see good things happen here.

"I'll go in the other house," he said, then adds with a smile, "till they tear that one down too."

Baltimore Sun researcher Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com