Fate of Reservoir Hill housing complex discussed at hearing

Public housing complex beset by crime, police say

September 22, 2010|By Julie Scharper, The Baltimore Sun

Neighbors know it as "Murder Mall." Police say the Reservoir Hill housing complex and its surroundings have seen three shootings and two homicides so far this year.

"No other area in my district has seen this kind of violence," police Maj. Dennis Smith of the Central District said of the Madison Park North complex.

In recent months, Smith said, drug dealers shot a man they thought was stealing from narcotics stashes. Another man was stabbed 90 times after an altercation at a birthday party.

At least three drug rings operate out of the building, Smith said; dealers seek refuge from police in stairwells and apartments.

Smith testified during a lengthy hearing Wednesday on the fate of the property, with housing officials serving as both prosecutor and judge. Lawyers for the property's owner, Los Angeles-based TriCap Management Inc., are expected to call witnesses as the hearing continues today.

In an announcement last month, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said they hoped to revoke the building's multifamily dwelling license because of high crime rates. If that occurs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would likely cut funding to the building and issue vouchers to help the residents to find homes elsewhere.

More than two dozen residents of the 202-unit complex gathered for the hearing Wednesday. Tenants said they were worried that they would be unable to find comparable housing, or afford the move.

"I don't think the city is realizing that this could result in mass homelessness," said Tabinda Riaz, an attorney with the Legal Aid Bureau who is representing the tenants association. "The voucher doesn't come with any guarantee for moving expenses, deposits or utility hookups."

Residents "have been left out of the process," Riaz said.

Representatives of several nearby community associations issued letters requesting that the city assist Madison Park North residents who wish to stay in Reservoir Hill.

The Reservoir Hill Improvement Council also asked that any redevelopment plans for the site — which comprises 44 buildings on North Avenue, just west of Park Avenue — include mixed- and low-income housing.

Neighbors said mayhem within the complex often spills out into the surrounding streets and detracts from their enjoyment of their homes.

Victoria Day, a retiree who lives in the 2200 block of Brookfield Ave., said neighbors stopped tending a community garden after it was vandalized repeatedly and an elderly man was pelted with stones.

"We've committed so much time and effort to this community, and I've had enough," Day said.

Jawauna "Jo" Greene, a neighbor of Day's, said she drives her teenage children even short distances because she does not think they are safe walking through the neighborhood. Her daughter was mugged when she was 11 by young residents of the complex, she said, and her son was attacked when he was 14.

julie.scharper@baltsun.com

twitter.com/juliemore

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