Mayor Reed Thankful for Eminent Domain; Peoplestown Residents Fight Back
(APN) ATLANTA — On Monday, November 21, 2016, the Housing Justice League, along with twenty residents from Atlanta’s Peoplestown community, tried to hand deliver a petition with over 6,000 signatures to Mayor Kasim Reed, asking him to stop the eminent domain proceedings that would displace several long-time residents of Peoplestown.
Instead of accepting the petition, though, Mayor Reed chose to lock all the doors to his office; and then to hide and peek around a corner to look at the citizens locked out of his office. He quickly pulled back his head into his privileged bubble like a turtle.
A few hours earlier, the residents and advocates testified and pleaded with Atlanta City Councilmembers to take action to stop the eminent domain lawsuit, which their ordinance, having passed 12 to 0, set in motion.
“Those that voted for that policy – it is problematic at best and shameful at worst… because there is a better alternative and you know about it. This is a pattern of gentrification and displacement going on in this city and that community,” State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) said.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the City of Atlanta financed a study of the flooding problems in Peoplestown, and the engineers plan said that the best place for a retention pond is at Turner Field.
“They took that plan from Turner Field and the parking lot and plopped it in the middle of my neighborhood,” Tanya Washington told the Atlanta City Council.
Her house is about seven blocks from Turner Field, where the flooding originates, and where engineers said a retention pond should go.
Washington has been served with a notice that the City is taking her property by eminent domain, and she has just a few weeks to get out.
She testified before the Atlanta City Council that her 91 year old house has never flooded, nor have five houses next to her flooded.
APN went to Washington’s house; it is on a hill and it is quite clear that water would drain away from it, not flood.
Mayor Reed wants to displace families from a total of 28 homes in a square block between Atlanta Avenue, Ormond Street, Connally Street, and Martin Street.
Twenty homes have already been torn down because the families agreed to sell their properties to the City.
Five families have filed lawsuits to stay in their homes.
Meanwhile, Mattie Jackson, 93, was allowed to stay in her home after public outcry, following extensive reporting by APN.
“If I had competent representation on this Council, instead of Carla Smith, perhaps the ordinance she introduced authorizing the Mayor to exercise eminent domain against me and my neighbors would not have been passed twelve to zero by this Council,” Washington said.
“Eminent domain is about the authority of government to take property for a public necessity… this is not about public necessity, this is about economic development,” Washington explained to the Council.
The City currently says they want to use the land for a park, but Washington believes if she loses her home to the Mayor’s eminent domain plan later, she will hear the City say “Sorry, the park and pond concept did not work out, we have to build condos.”
As previously reported by APN, this bait and switch has historically been used as a tactic to take land for short-lived, public purposes. Many square blocks of working class, Black families were removed for Civic Center, which now the City is getting ready to demolish and sell to a developer. Ditto Turner Field.
“They have chosen to displace one of the most stable blocks in Peoplestown that has a high population of Black residents that can’t afford to buy anything else in Peoplestown,” Tim Franzen, Housing Justice League, told APN.
“I don’t think it is a mistake they are dealing with flooding water now where it has been flooding for 100 years and now for the first time in decades the area is starting to develop economically and they want to put a fancy Japanese park and Koi pond on this block and displace folks,” Franzen said.
“This is gentrification and that fancy park and pond will be surrounded by luxury condos like we see in the Old Fourth Ward, which is now the most expensive places to move to,” Franzen said.
“The City is offering at 50,000 less than what other appraisers come up with for the value of the homes. They are low balling the offers. The City’s offer to me went up 90,000 in nine months. What will it be worth next year?” Washington said at the Council meeting.
“The City wants the property but not the people who live here,” Washington told APN.