Wall collapse that injured two termed 'unfortunate' Housing chief says incident demonstrates city housing problems

June 01, 1998|By Greg Garland | Greg Garland,SUN STAFF

The collapse of a vacant North Fulton Avenue rowhouse that injured two people who were hanging out the washing next door was described as "an unfortunate situation" by Baltimore's top housing official yesterday. Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III said the incident illustrates the larger problem of deteriorated, abandoned housing that officials are struggling to address throughout the city.

Henson said Baltimore has 11,000 abandoned houses.

"We'll be demolishing 1,750 houses this year, up from less than 300 two years ago," Henson said. "Our intent is to try to deal with this problem as fast as we can."

He said the collapse was "an unfortunate situation, and we're trying to get to these [houses] as soon as we can."

Henson's comments were in response to an incident Saturday in which Lakisha Dinkins and her brother, Terrence Bonner, were injured when the rear wall collapsed on a long-vacant rowhouse in the 1400 block of N. Fulton Ave., next door to their mother's house.

"This city is a couple hundred years old, and the house you're talking about is probably 100 years old," Henson said. "It was built on a shaky foundation, and the roof structure had gone."

Dinkins said she was on the back stairway of her mother's house about 7: 30 p.m. handing clothes to her brother to hang out to dry when the rear wall of the vacant rowhouse fell with a roar.

Dinkins said the cascading bricks knocked her from the stairway. Her brother, too, was felled by the falling bricks and debris.

Dinkins was on crutches and one of her ankles was bandaged yesterday. "All I [saw] was a bunch of bricks coming my way," Dinkins said. "I got hit in the neck and the back, and some of the bricks came down on my leg. I sprained an ankle and my back. I just thank God I'm still living. The way the bricks were falling, I could have been dead."

Bonner's injuries were less visible, but he said his back, neck and left arm were injured.

Bonner and Dinkins of the 1600 block of Decker St. in Northeast Baltimore said they usually go to the home of their mother, Evonne Bonner, on weekends to help with chores because she works long hours at her job.

They said the rowhouse next door has been vacant the entire five or six years their mother has lived on Fulton Avenue. They said the building harbors rats and drug users, and the back yard fills with rubbish.

"We used to call people with the city about the house all the time, but they never would come out," Dinkins said. "We got tired and stopped calling. We said one day it was going to collapse."

Bonner said he understands from neighbors that the "house has been like that for 15 years." He said that despite numerous complaints, it took nearly a year to get rubbish cleared out of the back yard.

Richard Good, who lives six doors away, said he has raised the issue of the condition of the rowhouse at Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood meetings and was told by city officials that they could not tear it down until they determined who owned it.

Henson said the rowhouse had been condemned and the owners had been notified but failed to take any action. He said the city would raze the building eventually.

Pub Date: 6/01/98

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