Residents call emergency meeting on vacants

Posted at 6:24 PM, Apr 05, 2016

Buildings have been coming down in West Baltimore but it hasn't all been by the city's hand, the wind helped to bring down some vacant homes over the weekend. 

And with rows of boarded up houses, residents in the Matthew Henson neighborhood are concerned the next collapse could result in serious injuries.

Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, president of the Matthew A. Henson Neighborhood Association is calling an emergency meeting with city officials to make sure something is done before someone else gets hurt.

“We knew we had boarded up houses but it wasn't until this Sunday event that neighbors started calling and saying we have a house in this block and we have a house in this block and I'm saying golly gee, so that's when we decided let's ask the city how many do we have,” said Cheatham.

Baltimore Housing responded to his inquiry.

“Within just our neighborhood the city has given us a document and we have over 325 vacant boarded up houses,” said Cheatham. “We have about 1,000 houses in our neighborhood, and one third of them are in this condition.”

He called the number unacceptable. A man was killed in his Cadillac after a vacant building in the 900 block of North Payson fell on him. The city conducted three emergency demolitions on 1609 Mosher St. and 1701 and 1703 North Fulton Ave. after the wind caused partial collapses. 1036 Arlington and 1625 N. Payson were also taken down Monday. Chunks of debris from the building on North Payson were blown into the street on Sunday, which is located directly across from Matthew Henson Elementary School.

“My grandson goes to school across the street every day and I'm scared it might fall on him,” said Myra Dockins.

Dockins is one of many neighbors that share the same concern. Cheatham is now orchestrating an emergency meeting to see that the vacant homes that pose a risk to public safety are being addressed.

“We want the city, all the city agencies that have anything to do with vacant houses to meet with us. We're optimistic it's going to happen between now and next week,” said Cheatham.

They want to know the conditions of the homes and when the city plans to start tearing the dilapidated ones down.

“Some of the neighbors were basically saying to me you know we had a light show this past weekend. Our neighborhood is literally falling down and we're celebrating lights,” Cheatham said.

According to the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, no city funds were used to pay for Light City Baltimore. In any case, Cheatham said he just wants to see that the safety of his neighborhood is made a priority.

“This neighborhood continues to be neglected and you know my job as president is to wave the red flag and we need help,” he said.

ABC2 News reached out to Baltimore Housing for more information on their plans to address unstable vacant buildings in West Baltimore. In a statement they said in part, "We are thankful for the Mayor and Governor for their commitment to demolition. We now have additional funding that will allow us to do more targeted demolitions and take prudent actions."

They added that they have been proactively inspecting vacant and abandoned buildings and "any property deemed to be an imminent danger will be demolished immediately. Outside of those, all vacant, blighted structures that are not likely to be rehabilitated in the foreseeable future will be evaluated annually for demolition to the extent of the budget in any year."