800 attend rally in Oliver to fight blight

January 14, 2004|By Reginald Fields | Reginald Fields,SUN STAFF

About 800 people, some from as far as New York, filled Zion Baptist Church in Oliver yesterday to take part in a rally urging federal government officials to do more to redevelop the East Baltimore neighborhood and others like it along the East Coast.

The rally was sponsored by the Industrial Areas Foundation-East, made up of 12 citizens groups from Boston to Washington, including BUILD, Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development.

"We've come from far away to shed a public light on a problem in our cities," said the Rev. Darrell Macklin, pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church in Washington and co-chairman of the event.

IAF-East used the rally to start a campaign urging the federal government to take a more active role in erasing blighted conditions in urban neighborhoods.

The group called on the federal government to offer $2 for every dollar local governments spend on redeveloping blighted neighborhoods and asked that all public housing be cleaned to improve indoor air quality.

IAF-East chose Oliver because nearly 44 percent of the neighborhood's 2,300 properties are abandoned, and pest and rodent problems are widespread. It also has a high number of children with asthma and other ailments believed to be brought on by their homes' dilapidated conditions.

BUILD organizer Arnie Graf called Oliver the "poster child for blight for the entire East Coast."

IAF-East has taken a role in redeveloping neighborhoods in Philadelphia and New York City and hopes to do the same in Baltimore.

The theme of yesterday's rally was "We know ..." -- with organizers suggesting that the federal government had knowingly neglected inner-city neighborhoods.

Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, city Health Commissioner Dr. Peter L. Beilenson, a school principal and pastors from New York and Washington made speeches and presentations.

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