Hope for Clay Street Anne Arundel: Public housing residents should not allow past problems to deter improvements.


RESIDENTS OF Annapolis' impoverished Clay Street community have an opportunity to better their neighborhood. They should not let fears from the past stymie their efforts to help the city's Housing Authority pursue a major federal grant. The HOPE VI project could bring new townhouses and job training to two public housing communities.

The fears of tenants who live in Obery Court and College Terrace are rooted in history. Three decades ago, African-American communities were bulldozed downtown in the name of urban renewal.

Residents were moved to the fringes of the state capital, where many still live. The Clay Street residents fear that this HOPE project is the latest incarnation of past "urban removal" practices.

They must realize, though, that public policy has changed considerably since the heyday of urban renewal. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development no longer encourages displacing large numbers of people in the name of removing blight. The aim now is to improve conditions for public housing residents and rebuild, rather than destroy, communities.

If Clay Street residents need evidence, they might take a drive to Pleasant View Gardens, formerly Lafayette Courts, in Baltimore.

Beautiful townhouses have replaced crime-ridden high-rise and garden apartments. A community health and senior center has been built. Residents have easy access to education and job training. Some have been able to buy their homes outright.

Patricia H. Croslan, new executive director of the Annapolis Housing Authority, says community support is necessary to win approval from Washington. Even if the HOPE application is filed by the deadline a month from today, Annapolis will be up against scores of housing authorities.

Alternative plans need to be developed. Failure to submit a proposal or to think about other renewal strategies guarantees no improvement in conditions on Clay Street.

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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