Seniors, Resident Leaders Ask HUD to Postpone Demolition Review
(APN) ATLANTA — Resident leaders at Palmer House senior highrise and the citywide Resident Advisory Board for public housing have sent emails, letters, and resolutions to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development requesting a delay in their consideration of demolition applications currently under review, until residents and association leaders have a chance to review the demolition applications, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.
“Atlanta Housing Authority submitted to you demolition applications for several communities on February 4, 2008, without letting resident leaders and officers see or review the applications for comments before the were submitted. I would think that since they want to demolish our home that we should have been included in what they were doing to us,” Eleanor Rayton, President of the Palmer House senior highrise, wrote in a letter to Ainars Rodins, director of HUD’s Special Application Center, dated March 30, 2008.
“We want a chance to review the application! We are senior citizens and we will need more time at least two or three months to review the application. It’s a very thick book and it will take some time for me to read all of it, and my officers want to read it also, we want to know how and why they justify their plans, what are their plans, and why didn’t they speak with us about their plans to see if we want to move or stay,” Rayton wrote.
“I have a lot of seniors that are going through a lot of emotional changes about this moving, some of them are afraid that they will be homeless, and have had to up on nerve medication, they are seniors and they are afraid,” Rayton wrote.
“We support Ms. Rayton’s request for a 60-90 day extension on HUD’s review of demo applications so residents have a chance to review them and respond,” leaders of the RAB Board, wrote in a resolution dated March 23, 2008, which was also mailed to HUD.
Rayton has not received written replies to either her email or letter to Mr. Rodins, she says, and she has also left him several voice messages which have not been returned.
“Please do not shut us out of this process; this is our Home and the seniors want to have a voice, they’re afraid. Let’s be honest and truthful with our seniors, most of the seniors have lost their confidence in AHA. They don’t trust them, they come to me daily wanting to know they are being truthful with [sic], and will they end up homeless,” Rayton wrote.
SENIORS ADAMANT THEY DO NOT WANT TO MOVE
“My residents are still saying they don’t want to move. They don’t want to go anywhere. We’re going to stay right here,” Rayton said.
“Me and several of my residents talked today, including my Vice and we were talking about it. We think it’s really wrong how they doing us, how they wanting us to move. We stayed here during the time it was so bad you couldn’t walk the streets. Why can’t we be here to enjoy the beautiful location of Techwood now?” Rayton said.
Palmer and Roosevelt House are located near Centennial Park, where Techwood/Clark Howell was demolished by AHA in the 1990s under HOPE VI and was replaced with Centennial Place.
“We went through all that bad times here and now they want us to move and it’s just not right. We want to enjoy all this beautification. It’s for the rich people. Either for like the people that have to drive maybe 50 to 60 miles to get to work, the people that live out in the suburbs and they don’t to spend all that time coming down to Atlanta, that’s what we feel like,” Rayton said.
PALMER HOUSE BUILDING IN GOOD CONDITION
Atlanta Progressive News reviewed the architectural report for Palmer House by Praxis 3 architectural firm for the Palmer House demolition application.
The report shows Palmer House, like Hollywood Court and possibly other communities, is “structurally sound.” APN has only had time to review Hollywood Courts’s full application [around 1000 pages] and only portions of other applications thus far. Palmer House is reported by Praxis 3 to be in good physical condition.
The only two physical issues with Palmer House are that discoloration on the roof suggests standing water, which can be fixed for $7500; and that refurbishment is needed for the glazing on the exterior walls, which can be fixed for $75,000. Thus, the total refurbishment cost is $82,500 to address physical issues listed in the report.
However, AHA has apparently made a fraudulent claim to HUD that Palmer House, like Hollywood Courts, is physically obsolete, a claim not even supported by the architectural reports they commissioned.
RESIDENTS SCARED BY AHA RELOCATION TEAMS
Relocation teams have been approaching senior citizens at Palmer House and Roosevelt House since February 2008, resident leaders say.
“The first time when they came out here I did not know they was coming. They were on the floor and some of the residents had called me saying they had signed a letter and people wanted their social security numbers,” Rayton told Atlanta Progressive News.
“I said who are these people? Where are they from? They said they’re from Housing. I said, do they have a business card to give y’all? They said no they didn’t want to tell us their name. I said this wasn’t right. I was in a lot of pain that day,” Rayton said.
“I went to a couple of seniors’ apartments and looked at the paper. I talked to my Vice and said I can’t go door to door. So I went on the intercom. I said people who say they’re from AHA are here, I don’t know who they are. And I don’t know where they come from. I said those papers, you might be signing your life away or you might be signing yourself outdoors. So don’t sign any more papers,” Rayton recalled.
“The people got mad and came to the management office and wanted to know who said that,” Rayton said.
“I went down trying to block them by the water fountain as people got on the elevator,” Rayton said.
“One lady she said I’m not going to sign this. I said y’all don’t sign anything til I go out and find out what’s going on. [AHA’s] Mr. .Simms called my office and my VP said I wasn’t there,” Rayton said.
“He called downstairs to management. I asked them, did they have any business cards and they said they didn’t. I said we’ll just wait until we find out about you all,” Rayton said.
“Mr. Simms called management to come get me to the phone. He tried to explain what was going on. I said that wasn’t right because we didn’t know what was going on. And he should come down here himself,” Rayton said.
RAYTON’S VISIT TO LOCAL HUD
Determined to find answers, Rayton visited federal HUD’s Atlanta office on Marietta Street.
“I went down to HUD to find out. Down on Marietta Street. I spoke with [Onri Harvey]. She was somebody on staff. We went up and I sat and talked with her. We took the papers and asked was those papers correct? She said yes. They had to do that now because last year they had a lot of drama with AHA coming and saying to move in 90 days, and that’s not enough time for us to be able to move,” Rayton said.
From the way the letters are described, they are likely letters which were included the various demolition applications. The letters let residents know that applications have been submitted to HUD and that if they are approved, then the residents will be displaced.
“They said it’s for us to sign to receive them so we can’t say you only gave us 60 days.”
Rayton asked Harvey why her building was proposed for demolition, she said.
“She told us it was gonna have to go because it’s so old and they can’t keep putting money into it and fix it up the way they should be fixed up for us to live in here. But my residents don’t want to go,” Rayton said.
When told in recent days by APN that Palmer House is not physically obsolete and can be refurbished with funds AHA has already set aside for relocation: “Well I think what they said was wrong. They just lied,” Rayton said.
“I wanted a copy of the developers. She told me they don’t have a copy of that because they don’t have any developers,” Rayton said.
Rayton also asked HUD for a copy of the demolition application.
“She said they don’t have a copy of it. She told us we couldn’t get one,” Rayton said.
RAYTON’S EMAIL TO AHA AND HUD
When local HUD would not provide Rayton a copy of the demolition application, after AHA never provided Rayton a copy, she emailed AHA director Renee Glover and carbon copied HUD officials in Chicago.
“I’ve ask [sic] several times for a copu [sic] of the demolition application, I would like to also know what will be did with this building and will some of the residents get to move back it they want to, I would like to know who are the developers that will get this building,” Rayton wrote in an email dated March 10, 2008.
“I’m the resident president of the palmer house senior high rise and we’re very concern that AHA didn’t send us a copy of the demolition application before they submited [sic] it to HUD, we have serious concerns and questions about the demolition application that was submited to HUD on February 1, 2008 we feel that we be included in everthing [sic] that has to do with the Palmer House Senior High Rise because this is our home, this is where we live, we never had a chance to see the copy of the demolition application, my residents are asking me to see it and I don’t have it to show them,” Rayton wrote.
AHA’s Barney Simms responded to Rayton’s email on March 12, 2008.
“Ms. Glover forwarded to me your e-mail dated March 9, 2008 in which you requested a copy of the demolition application for Palmer House,” Simms wrote, according to an email obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.
“I was not aware that you had requested a copy of the application before; however, I think it would be great for you and other Palmer House residents to have access to the application. Therefore, I will make sure that you receive a hand delivered copy of the application before the close of business on Friday of this week. I will also make another copy available so that it can be kept in the property management office so other Palmer House residents will have access to it,” Simms wrote.
“In fact, I think your idea to provide the applications to the residents is such a wonderful idea that I will make available copies of the demolition applications for each affected community. One copy will be provided to the resident association president and another will be made available for residents’ access within the property management office of the community,” Simms wrote.
Rayton received her copy Friday of that week, she said.
Rayton believes it is unfair AHA did not involve the resident association in their planning.
AHA claims it has held over 20 meetings with the various resident associations, but these meetings typically involve AHA telling residents their plans.
“They made the plan by themselves. We didn’t know anything about it. We really should have. If they didn’t want to include the residents, I think the officers should have been included. When they did HOPE VI for Techwood/Clark Howell, they gave them the plans and everything. They sat down and talked with them about it,” Rayton said.
Rayton is currently hopeful she will hear back from Mr. Rodins regarding her request. She is actively seeking support from various community leaders for her request as well, APN can report.
Rayton, along with other RAB Board members, has requested a sit-down meeting with HUD in Chicago and is waiting to see if HUD is willing.
“I would just like to ask them, could they just come back, reevaluate this building and let us stay here? This is our home. This is where we want to stay. We don’t want to move out of Atlanta. We don’t want to move out of Downtown Atlanta. We want to stay here. And if there’s anything wrong with the building, could they just repair it and let us continue to live here? We have some residents live here 30 something years and they don’t want to go anywhere,” Rayton said.
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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