HUD team to revisit troubled complex

Kingsley Park apartments first inspected Monday

Tenants complained to Mikulski

October 08, 2003|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

A team of inspectors from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is scheduled to return today to the troubled Kingsley Park apartment complex in eastern Baltimore County, where tenants have complained of substandard housing conditions.

Today's inspections, along with ones held Monday, came after angry tenants contacted Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. The senator contacted HUD Secretary Mel Martinez Thursday, and the agency's inspectors were at Kingsley Park on Monday morning.

"We are conducting extensive inspections at Kingsley Park apartments," said Donna White, a HUD spokeswoman in Washington, breaking a one-day silence by the department on the probe.

White said the inspectors "want to determine the extent of the problems in the units" at the World War II-era complex.

Initially, she said, HUD wants to address issues of health and safety, then living conditions. A report on the inspection findings will be available next week.

"Our first priority is to help protect the residents," White said.

Asked what prompted the follow-up visit by HUD inspectors, White declined to comment.

Numerous visits to Kingsley Park by The Sun and accounts related by tenants uncovered many problems with housing standards and safety. They include missing interior walls, rodent and insect infestation, unrepaired stoves and refrigerators, broken plumbing and damaged windows.

Residents who reside in the two-story brick buildings have also voiced fears about continuing intimidation by heroin and crack-cocaine dealers.

David Anshel, president of the Kingsley Park tenants association, said that residents "have to contend with the drug dealers on a daily basis. The weekends are like a madhouse, that's why older folks feel like prisoners in their apartments."

Kingsley Park is owned by Baltimore-based Landex Corp., whose president, Judith S. Siegel, has been negotiating with Baltimore County officials about possibly redeveloping the 312 units into a mixed-use complex and demolishing many of the dilapidated buildings.

To do so, Siegel is expected to submit a plan to the county by Nov. 30, a deadline set by County Executive James T. Smith Jr. She would also need a refinancing plan approved by HUD.

Leslie M. Pittler, a Towson attorney representing Siegel, said yesterday he would seek a response from his client on the HUD inspections at Kingsley Park.

County officials, dating to the previous administration of now-Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersburger, have grown frustrated in their dealings with Siegel. Recently, officials said, Siegel threatened to drop any redevelopment proposal and reapply to HUD to retain Kingsley Park in its current condition under a new 20- or 30-year mortgage.

The complex is located in the center of the county's east-side revitalization zone, where more than $800 million in state and county funds have been spent to rehabilitate the Essex-Middle River rust belt.

The county also wants to eliminate project-based housing at Kingsley Park, a system that dictates where tenants will live. Instead, Smith wants housing choice vouchers for residents that would allow them to move to any HUD-financed apartment or home.

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