With a power shut-off looming at the rundown Riverdale Village apartments in Essex, hundreds of tenants are preparing for their forced migration, which is expected to begin in earnest this weekend.
A combined force of Baltimore County social workers and community organizers has interviewed 281 tenants and is helping many make arrangements to move -- even as absentee landlord Richard Schlesinger's workers try to fill units with new renters.
"I don't understand why they continue to rent. That's hard to take," Nancy Bush, 57, a six-year Riverdale Village resident, said yesterday.
Bush, who plans to move elsewhere in the Essex-Middle River area, worries that the newest residents will be displaced in weeks. "These are poor people. They'll take their money and throw them out again."
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. plans to turn off the power June 11 because Schlesinger owes more than $600,000 in utility bills -- money supposedly covered by the rent tenants paid.
County officials, meanwhile, are preparing to get permission to cut off water and condemn the complex once the electric power is turned off. That would achieve something the county has been trying to do for several years -- close Riverdale in preparation for its demolition.
Yet signs suggest some tenants won't move willingly.
Maureen Robinson, spokeswoman for county social services, said at least 40 families at Riverdale Village have yet to come into the information center that the county opened two weeks ago at nearby Middlesex Elementary School to help people move.
One tenant even bought a generator, she said, adding that he vowed to stay in the World War II-era complex after the power is turned off.
Another problem is the few tenants who have moved in since word of the utility cut-off became public May 12. Some may hope to get rent vouchers or security deposit money the county is using to help residents. But that won't work, Robinson says, because the county isn't helping people who signed leases after the first notice.
Half of the 1,150-unit Riverdale Village, along the 1900 block Eastern Blvd., was emptied last year after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development foreclosed on a long-unpaid mortgage. That section of the complex is fenced off, awaiting the wrecker's ball.
By closing the other half, which is mortgaged to Chase Manhattan bank, county officials hope to remove Schlesinger's only apparent reason for holding on -- rental income.
They hope that will force him to cede ownership to the bank or to Florida-based Capital Asset Research Corp., which recently paid outstanding $211,000 tax bill on the property at the county's annual tax sale.
Still, Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, a Perry Hall Democrat who represents the area, worries that the burden of Riverdale Village will fall mainly on government.
"It's the end of it as a legitimate apartment complex, but it will have to be boarded up," and the burden of keeping vagrants, arsonists and criminals out will fall to the county, he said.
Most of Riverdale Village's residents -- 59 percent -- are the working poor, with only 11 percent on welfare, Robinson says. The rest live on a combination of retirement or Social Security benefits and wages.
Nearly 40 percent of the apartments have only one resident, while 24 percent hold two people, mostly mothers and children.
Bush, a 1992 graduate of Dundalk Community College, says she works two jobs to support herself.
Neighbor Ramona Adams says she and her husband, Michael, a truck mechanic, have worked and raised their two children at Riverdale Village since 1979.
Unless the Adams afford a house, they "didn't want to move our children from school to school," Ramona Adams said. Now, however, moving will be "kind of a relief."
"The last four [to] five years have been pretty bad," she said, adding that her son, now 16, refused to take a shower with the bathroom light on for a year after getting electrical shocks from bathroom outlets.
"You'd argue with them for months," to make repairs, she said of the rental office staff.
She added that when she stopped at the office recently to give notice she is leaving, employees "gave me a big hassle," threatening legal action because she did not give 30 days of notice.
Adams said she doesn't expect to see her $200 security deposit again.
Pub Date: 5/29/97