Rental housing stock depleted by Hurricane Sandy damage is making it difficult for South Inlet residents facing eviction to find acceptable replacement housing, community members told the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority on Tuesday.
The individuals who spoke out about the hardship involved in relocating people from about 60 housing units for a CRDA redevelopment project asked the authority to delay its plans to displace residents. Ninety-day eviction notices sent out in April would give many residents until mid-July to leave, although officials have said there is some flexibility to the timeline.
“You’re not facing the fact of what you’re doing to the people. I’m not saying I won’t move, but give me something I can go to. I want to show you these apartments that don’t have floors,” said South Inlet resident Sandra Taliaferro, describing the conditions of other available rentals in the city. “You’ll go home, and you’ll turn your keys and you’ll be all right, but you’re not right.”
The CRDA began meeting with residents of the Vermont and Metropolitan low-rises last year amid plans for a $50 million redevelopment project including new housing, restaurants and shops in place of the existing housing. Originally dependent on financing leveraged through Revel, the project was delayed as Revel produced disappointing revenue results. The CRDA opted to move forward with acquiring the land, devoting $9.8 million so far to the project, although financing for new development has not yet been found.
Those who spoke out Tuesday likened the authority’s plan to gentrification.
CRDA Executive Director John Palmieri said he would be ashamed to find that anyone from the authority was forcing residents to consider substandard conditions, and he didn’t believe that was the case. Instead, he said, the authority is offering more generous relocation packages than required by state guidelines in the hope that residents will find comparable or upgraded housing.
“We’ve been very deliberate and careful,” he said.
Linda Steele, president of the Atlantic City chapter of the NAACP, said residents being affected are struggling and don’t want to move into the options they’ve been given. Those options include Stanley Holmes Village and places in the city’s Back Maryland section, where police recently conducted raids of the alleged 800 Blok drug-trafficking gang.
“You cannot leave out the residents who have continued to be here in good times and bad,” Steele said. “We have torn down a lot of different things for the sake of progress and we still have a lot of vacant property.”
Steele, Taliaferro and former Atlantic City Housing Authority Board Chairman Warren Massey have organized a community meeting for the affected residents from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the New Shiloh Baptist Church. Representatives of the housing-rights organizations will be at the meeting. The city and the CRDA also have been invited to attend.
“I don’t know how we got to a point where displacing people became improvement,” Massey said. “Stop this division. Stop drawing this line down the middle of Atlantic City.”
CRDA Board Vice Chairman Robert Mulcahy said the board has a responsibility and obligation to make sure that the housing the residents move to is comparable. The authority may need to do better in working with the residents, he said, stressing that the intention has never been to create artificial lines in the city.
“We will work with you, and we will solve this problem,” he said.
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