Clarke spending night in public housing

January 23, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke said she will spend tonight in an apartment in the crime-plagued and rundown Lexington Terrace public housing complex in West Baltimore, where residents have voted a rent strike beginning Feb. 1.

On Thursday, Ms. Clarke accepted an invitation from tenants to move in for a night to witness first-hand the unsafe and unsanitary living conditions that prompted the rent strike voted by the tenants' council and residents of two high-rise buildings. She said two aides have volunteered to accompany her.

"I want to prowl around and see the people," Mrs. Clarke said yesterday. "This is not a media event, these are people's homes. They need a chance to get at their elected officials. I need to get a sense of what they really want."

Also yesterday, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke promised to spend a night at Lexington Terrace although he did not specify a date.

Mr. Schmoke, who said he had spoken by telephone yesterday with many residents who live in Lexington Terrace high-rise units -- 580 units in five buildings -- called for a six-month "partnership" between the Housing Authority of Baltimore City and all residents of the city's 18 high-rise buildings to solve problems.

"Those buildings are almost impossible to manage," Mr. Schmoke said. "We have severe maintenance problems. There is an understandable level of frustration we have to work through to get everybody working together as a partnership."

Lexington Terrace residents are alarmed over a 25 percent vacancy rate in the five high-rise buildings and the crime and vandalism.

At meeting on Thursday, the residents insisted that Mr. Schmoke, Ms. Clarke and Housing Authority Executive Director Robert W. Hearn stay in their high-rise building overnight to get a first-hand look at conditions.

Mr. Hearn toured Lexington Terrace on Jan. 8 and days later released a plan to close the rundown high-rise at 734 W. Fayette St. and move its 69 families into another blighted high-rise at 770 W. Saratoga St.

That plan drew sharp criticism from the residents who insisted they did not want to move into another high-rise.

Mr. Schmoke said the residents' protests have pressured the Housing Authority into revising the plan and offering "more options" to the residents who are to be moved out of the high-rise targeted for closing.

He said the revised plan that is expected to be unveiled next week may offer some residents low-rise apartments, which are usually safer than the high-rises, or they may be offered accommodations in row houses.

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