by Ken Davidson
The Topic was to be abandoned homes and what to do about them, but when the question and answer session began, one term was used repeatedly: forgotten neighborhoods. Several Gary residents, from nearly all sections of the City, got up and referred to their area as forgotten. The descriptions that followed detailed a complete breakdown in the provision of city services.
One resident stated she was a lifelong Gary resident and had no desire to move. She stated she had bought several other properties near her Ralston Avenue home because they were abandoned and she just wanted to maintain them. “I don’t know how much more I can do” she stated with frustration after describing sidewalks that children could not walk down because of overgrown weeds.
The problems were echoed by residents from Tarrytown, Glen Park, West Side, Aetna, Small Farms, Black Oak and Horace Mann. A Glen Park woman described how nice her neighborhood once was. She described a block of abandoned homes and overgrown vacant lots.
But there was no buck stopping anywhere near Earline Rogers or Karen Freeman-Wilson. The politicians pointed fingers everywhere but at themselves. Earline Rogers said only two sentences; in one she referred to Indianapolis as the “Hoosier Holyland.” Mayor Freeman-Wilson pointed to the foreclosure crisis, out-of-state landlords, and general economic conditions as root causes of the problems in Gary. Although selective code enforcement was cited as a tool to be utilized to gain title to the abandoned homes which are not owned by the City, no one was willing to address the numerous complaints of lack of basic city services including code enforcement and police protection. The Mayor did state that they know where all of the abandoned homes are located.
To his credit, Lake County Treasurer John Petalas was the only County official to show at the meeting. The County Treasurer and Auditor’s office have as much to do with the abandoned housing crisis in Gary as anyone else. That folks, is the teaser for the next article.
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