Lexington Terrace spruced up before mayor's visit TURNSTILE PURCHASE QUESTIONED

January 28, 1993|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Staff Writer Staff photographer Amy Deputy contributed to this article.

A crew of cleanup workers swept through the blighted Lexington Terrace public housing project in West Baltimore yesterday, two days before the arrival of a special one-night tenant -- Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke.

The mayor is scheduled to visit the project tomorrow evening to speak with tenants about the rundown conditions they live with. But he may not see the worst.

Maintenance crews from the Housing Authority were dispatched the project from other jobs yesterday to haul away tons of trash, board up broken windows and vacant apartments and sweep up dirt, they said.

HTC The work was complicated by an unexpected flood in the 701 Building -- one of five high-rises in the complex off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. A housing authority spokesman said that vandals trying to steal the metal tore apart a water pipe, sending a cascade of water through the ceilings and walls of apartments on lower floors.

Occupants of flooded apartments were piling furniture and valuables on tables, trying to keep their belongings out of the ankle-deep water. flowing across floors and carpets.

The Housing Authority's executive director, Robert W. Hearn, denied that the maintenance crews were at Lexington Terrace because of the impending mayoral visit.

"The purpose was to try and clean up the grounds to get the trash out," said Dr. Hearn, who was scheduled to accompany Mr. Schmoke tomorrow. "It has nothing to do with the mayor."

A woman who lives in the 770 Building and asked not to be named said, "This the first time it's been cleaned out in six years. I was shocked. They're only doing the little patchwork work."

A gardener in a crew that hauled away four dump-truck loads of trash and discarded furniture, said, "We come here periodically anyway -- used to come on rainy days." Then he added, "This is definitely a big push since the news came and the mayor's coming."

The mayor's planned visit will follow by a week an overnight stay by City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who canvassed the complex and took notes about damaged apartments and vandalism in the vacant units -- 25 percent of the Lexington Terrace dwelling units.

Mr. Schmoke hopes to do the same during his visit, he said -- but he may not see the same raw state witnessed by Ms. Clarke.

"They're pouring crews into there," said a worker, who did not want to be named for fear of losing his job.

"They pulled our crew today to go to Lexington Terrace and board up to make it decent enough for the mayor to see. But he needs to go down there and see the guy on the first floor with a gun -- not announce when he's going," he said.

The maintenance worker complained that the crew was ordered to use flimsy materials to board up the vacant units in the rushed job and that a hammer would tear right through the wood.

He faulted the Housing Authority for the high number of vacancies and vandalism, saying, "I don't understand who let these houses go that far. The taxpayers are paying for these things. Some of them have the electricity and the gas on."

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