Downtown Detroit being readied for invasion of well-to-do whites
As Griswold tenants pushed out, living conditions deteriorate
Public tax dollars doled out to new owners to “renovate” Capitol Park
Catholic Church betrays residents; plans to lease part of 1212 Griswold
By Diane Bukowski
March 1, 2014
DETROIT – “I feel as if we’ve been raped,” Griswold Apartments tenant Jacqueline McCoy told the Detroit City Council during a committee meeting Feb. 20. “The owners of 1214 Griswold have done absolutely nothing they said they would do. We have to pack our own things, we have forfeited our security deposits, and we are woken up every morning at 7:30 a.m. by loud construction noises.”
McCoy referred to an agreement between 1214 Griswold Apartments, LLC, possibly a front for real estate magnate Dan Gilbert, and the Neighborhood Service Organization (NSO), with United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC) as a partner. Click on 1214 Griswold MOU 2 to read the agreement, which calls in part for the new owner to “provide reasonable costs of packing assistance for the tenants.”
Unfortunately, the agreement says the owner will pay security deposits at new placements but will retain security deposits from the current building. Those are not subject to a limitation of 30 percent of the resident’s income under Section 8 HUD regulations, as are rents. The Griswold tenants are predominantly low-income seniors, disabled and people of color.
“The [council] report this week was supposed to include an agreement that the owner would go down in rent, with HUD approval,” James McNeal, another resident, said. “That’s not in there. The owners knew they agreed to allow 10 residents to remain, but once the agreement was signed and they got their tax abatement, they started changing everything.”
MSHDA, one of multipe public agencies funding the re-development of Capitol Park using public funds, refused earlier to grant “enhanced” Section 8 vouchers for the 10 tenants as promised in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the owners and NSO.
NSO has not appeared at a single Council hearing on the matter, while Ted Phillips of UCHC spoke at two previous meetings, claiming to represent the tenants.
Phillips was not at this meeting, but Claudia Sanford, UCHC’s coordinator of the organization’s “Tenant Resource Network,” funded by a $481,000 HUD grant, was there in the audience. During McCoy’s and McNeal’s comments she stood behind them talking to a non-tenant in the audience, and refrained from any comment to the Council.
Meanwhile, Griswold tenants are circulating a petition demanding among other items that Gilbert “or the owner of 1214 Griswold” use the proceeds from the tax abatement to allow at least 30 residents to remain at their current rental rates, cleaning of harmful chemicals from the air ducts and other areas of the building, and cessation of renovation until all that choose to move are gone.
The Detroit Buildings and Safety Engineering Department posted a “Stop Work” order on the front of the building, after they were alerted by Griswold tenant Will Griffin that Sachse Construction, which Gilbert uses to renovate his other downtown Detroit properties, had pulled no city permits for the work.
Griffin said he has collected soot from the air vents in the building and other dirt and debris left by Sachse for analysis. Tenants have complained that they wake up every morning when the heat is turned on, coughing from the air flowing through the vents.
A BS&E supervisor told VOD that 1212 Griswold, next door to the apartment building, has permits, so work is continuing there, including the loud night-time dumping of objects through a chute in the alley which covers the surrounding area with white soot of unknown composition. Griswold tenants say they have called Detroit Police several times to complain about violation of the city’s noise ordinance, but it is continuing.
1212 Griswold is now owned by Richard Karp & Associates of Lansing, who beat out Gilbert and Mike Illitch in a bid sponsored by the Downtown Development Authority. The Archdiocese of Detroit (the Catholic Church), has announced that it plans to lease five floors of the building, becoming an “anchor” for Capitol Park development plans. The building originally housed United Way.
The DDA, a public front for the private Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the State of Michigan’s Land Bank Authority, Invest Detroit, The Wayne County Land Bank, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Michigan State Housing Development are spending millions of public money on re-developing Capitol Park and displacing its current low-income tents.
Gilbert currently owns several other buildings on Capitol Park as well, through his Bedrock Real Estate firm.
Griffin met with Atty. Margaret Brown, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center of Metropolitan Detroit, Feb. 28 regarding huge ads with drawings depicting all-white new residents displayed on the front of the building. The ads violate the Federal Fair Housing Act, according to Brown, and numerous lawsuits against such ads have been upheld in court.
An update from that meeting has not yet been received. Griffin told VOD, however, that he and other vocal residents were barred from a meeting held earlier in the week between Phillips, a nurse from St. Aloysius Church, and representatives of the owners regarding conditions in the building. He said the only tenant allowed there was the head of the Tenants Council. The nurse denied Griffin was barred and said she would call him, but he said she has not done so yet. She would not give any details of the meeting to VOD. St. Aloysius is a Catholic parish where Griffin has helped out for 10 years delivering food to the homeless in downtown Detroit. Considering the Archdiocese’s involvement in the Capitol Park development, however, the nurse’s refusal to comment is not surprising.
Griffin said another meeting held later in the week by UCHC revealed that numerous tenants have not yet received new placements, although the deadline for their move-out is March 31. UCHC has been working with the tenants since May of 2013.
http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140220/BIZ/302200028 (Downtown Detroit squeeze forces out long-time tenants)