Housing plan is attacked by residents Many see a return of '70s 'urban removal' to Clay Street area; 'Disappointed' by reaction; Community must OK proposal for new houses, job training


Members of the Clay Street community accused Annapolis Housing Authority officials last night of trying to evict longtime residents through a proposed multimillion-dollar renovation of two public housing complexes.

The residents call the plan a "miniurban renewal project" similar to one in the 1970s that was blamed for destroying much of the mostly black downtown community.

Back then, residents characterized it as "urban removal" and said it displaced dozens of black businesses and sent hundreds of black families out of the downtown area into housing projects on the city line.

Housing Authority officials assured residents that the proposed HOPE VI project, which hinges on the agency's receiving a federal grant, would bring new townhouses and job training to the deteriorating Obery Court and College Creek Terrace areas on Clay Street.

Last night, more than 100 angry residents crammed into a room at the Obery Court Recreational Center and said the proposed project was being crammed down their throats.

"We all remember urban removal," said John Bryant, a Clay Street resident. "All the blacks living in downtown and all the businesses here were moved out. It's happening again.

"Just look at the name of the program. It's I 'HOPE' I get a home," Bryant said. "Don't be led by what someone says they are going to do for y'all. They're blowing a lot of smoke."

Other residents grilled housing officials and consultants with questions including:

How many buildings would be razed?

How much would rent be after the renovations?

Where would residents be relocated?

Along Clay Street yesterday, fluorescent green, yellow and orange signs critical of the proposal had been posted: "Emergency Warning. You are about to be evicted from Obery Court and College Creek Terrace. Housing Authority Waiting List -- 1,200. Where will you go?"

The project cannot proceed without the community's approval, said Patricia H. Croslan, executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority.

The deadline to file a grant application with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is June 29.

"I am very disappointed by this reaction," Croslan said. "I knew that there was fear and misgivings, but I didn't realize how deep. We haven't even applied for the grant yet, and the opposition is incredible. I don't think people understand what an amazing opportunity this truly is."

Baltimore has gotten millions of dollars for its redevelopment of the Lafayette Courts, Lexington Terrace and Hollander Ridge public housing projects.

The idea, Annapolis housing officials say, is to improve the physical look of the neighborhood and family life.

The officials said aging, dangerous and decrepit projects will be knocked down and replaced by townhouse communities with stronger security, tougher screening of residents and on-site training in computers, telecommunications and job skills.

The proposed Clay Street project also could involve buying several privately owned houses for renovation.

Residents will meet today to decide the fate of the HOPE VI project.

Pub Date: 5/28/98

Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad