City revokes license of troubled apartments

Baltimore's housing department has revoked the license of a publicly subsidized Reservoir Hill apartment complex, a move that could lead to residents of the 200 units being forced out.

In their ruling, housing officials cited a deeply entrenched drug network and a history of violence at the Madison Park North Apartments.

The owners of the North Avenue complex "knew or should have known that the premises were being used … for drug-trafficking and failed to prevent them from being so used," officials wrote.

Larry Caplan, a lawyer for owners Tricap Management, said the company disputes the allegations and will likely file an appeal in Baltimore Circuit Court.

"We believe criminal activity at Madison Park is not worse than in many other communities in the city," Caplan said. "Its existence is not the result of a failure of the owners of Madison Park, but the result of other factors."

Tabinda Riaz, a Legal Aid Bureau lawyer who represents the tenants' association, said that residents are anxious because they have not been told what will happen next.

"We need the Baltimore City housing department to sit down with us and tell us how this is going to work," Riaz said.

Neither the city nor the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which currently subsidizes rent for the tenants, has agreed to pay for moving costs, she said.

HUD would likely terminate payments to Tricap following the city's ruling and issue Section 8 vouchers for tenants to use in other housing.

A call to Mary Ann Henderson, a local HUD representative who has been working on the Madison Park case, was not immediately returned.

Residents are uncertain they will be able to find other apartments large enough to accommodate their families or find landlords who are willing to accept Section 8 vouchers, Riaz said.

Deputy Housing Commissioner Michael Braverman said that the next steps would be determined by the building's owners. Tricap would likely ask a judge to stay the revocation order until an appeal is settled.

"No one is rushing the tenants off the property at this time," said Braverman. But if and when the revocation is finalized, the landlords would shoulder the primary responsibility to "undertake an orderly and responsible process to relocate the tenants," he said.

Housing officials would be available to help residents "at every juncture," he said.

The housing department's opinion, written by Joseph H. Kershner, who was designated by Commissioner Paul T. Graziano to adjudicate the case, cites police testimony regarding drugs and violence at the complex, known to neighbors as "Murder Mall."

Three people were shot and two killed in attacks directly related to the building this year, police testified at a hearing last month.

Caplan, the attorney for Tricap, noted the complex's location makes it "very attractive for other uses."

"It is a location that is kind of unique in that's it's very centralized and it's around the corner from the Maryland Institute College of Art, which has been expanding," he said.