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Across the street from her home was an old Black church, which residents say was at least half a century old. She is sitting in the living room of her year-old home, where she lives with her husband and two children, aged four and A television plays muted footage of Black Lives Matter protests in the city; book-lined shelves add cosiness to the room decorated with framed family portraits on the blue walls.
I thought how incredible it was that I got to wake up and listen to this every Sunday morning. But the scene she describes bears no resemblance to the cookie-cutter suburban houses that now sit across the street, where the old church once stood. The pews were moved out onto the lawn, from where they were sold, one by one. Washington watched as the church was demolished and residential homes were built in its place. It was not an unusual sight in a neighbourhood where at least every other home has been sold off, renovated or demolished and replaced with a larger, more expensive house.
The newcomers trickling into Peoplestown to settle in these properties are more affluent, and often whiter, than the mostly working-class residents who lived in the neighbourhood for many decades. The people are different. Peoplestown is one of the last historically Black neighbourhoods to be targeted for gentrification in Atlanta, which has one of highest rates of income inequality in the US and was the fourth-fastest gentrifying city in the country between and But while it arrived later than in other parts of the city, when gentrification came, it came with force.
InAtlanta became the first major southern city to elect an African American mayor, and every mayor since has been African American. At least six homes were damaged. But residents say the city did not finish all the repairs and in response several residents sued. About a year later, inthe city offered to buy the damaged homes as part of a settlement with the families and in order to construct a pond on the location of the overspill to mitigate flooding in the neighbourhood.
Inthe other families on the block received letters from the city informing them it would need to acquire their properties. Residents who settled with the city were made to non-disclosure agreements banning them from sharing the amount they had agreed on with other residents. There is still no pond or park in Peoplestown, but the planned project has already Free big house in Atlanta for any girl the neighbourhood.
How do you go from wanting to buy a few homes to suddenly needing to take an entire block? She suspected the city was abusing eminent domain to drive private investment in the neighbourhood so, along with a handful of other residents, she decided to challenge it. Decades of discrimination, racial injustice, and systematic neglect of low-income and Black neighbourhoods may have sealed the fate of Peoplestown long before the flood, but the residents of these four homes are determined to stay put. But when terror campaigns and pleas to public officials failed, white residents packed up, sold their homes and deserted the city entirely.
By the s, white people, with the help of government homeowner schemes that were denied to African Americans, had abandoned the inner cities en masse and established communities in the suburbs, with the aim of maintaining all-white neighbourhoods. Inthe net worth of a typical white family was nearly 10 times greater than that of a Black family, according to the Brookings Institution, an American think-tank.
So when white people left the inner cities, capital quickly followed. Austerity policies were then rolled out in the latter part of the s and accelerated in the s when former US President Ronald Reagan slashed federal aid to cities; this resulted in dramatic cutbacks to social programmes that scores of already marginalised communities relied on and exacerbated social and economic issues in the cities. But as has become clear to some residents of Peoplestown, urban development and economic progress often begets displacement, dispossession, and increased violence for Black and low-income city residents.
When city officials wanted to link downtown Atlanta to the expanding white suburbs in the s, three major interstates were constructed in Peoplestown, Summerhill and Mechanicsville, ripping through the heart of these long-established communities and separating the sister neighbourhoods from each other.
Inthe city conceived of another urban renewal plan and bought up about acres of land in portions of Summerhill, Mechanicsville, and Peoplestown, removing thousands of Black residents and closing more than Black-owned businesses in order to make room for housing, businesses, schools and parks that would attract middle-income — largely white — families.
Keating says the plan was likely envisaged to thwart community proposals to use the land for building public housing for low-income Black residents. The trumpets of urban renewal and economic growth once again reverberated through the city while more Black residents saw their homes demolished for extra parking spaces around the stadium.
Inthe body of Harold Prather, an unarmed Black man, collapsed along with the homes, after a white police officer shot and killed the year-old in Summerhill. Prather was stopped on a traffic violation and informed of an open warrant for his arrest. The young man ran from the police, who responded by shooting him in the hip and side.
Frustrations in the neighbourhood, which was settled in by formerly enslaved African Americans, had Free big house in Atlanta for any girl their boiling point and days-long protests and rioting erupted. When Mayor Allen attempted to pacify the protests by standing atop a police patrol car and speaking to the angry crowd through a megaphone, he was met with bricks, stones and bottles.
White devil! Following the same trend, in the s, as Atlanta prepared to host the Olympic Games, the city once again took to bulldozers and demolished its public housing. Atlanta was the first American city to introduce public housing in and by it was also the first to have demolished all of it.
But stringent screening processes, which barred low-income residents from returning if someone in their household had a criminal record or they did not have full employment, made it so very few displaced residents were permitted to return. Others received Section 8 vouchers, which subsidise costs in the private housing market; but which also limit the areas recipients can live in depending on which landlords accept the vouchers. Many former public housing residents who were not eligible to return were made homeless.
Free big house in Atlanta for any girl to Troutman, some parts of Atlanta where public housing once stood are now gentrified and are the most expensive parts of the city, while other areas still remain completely vacant since the housing was demolished. At the same time, roughly 30, low-income residents were evicted or displaced from the city. The city allocated more land for the construction of the Centennial Olympic Stadium, located adjacent to the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, adding more displaced Black residents to the thousands who were expelled decades earlier.
According to Haythem Shata, an Atlanta-based civil engineer, the area where the Olympic Stadium — now called Turner Field — was to be built was plagued by historic flooding, documented from at least the s, as the location was the site of a stream through which a large amount of run-off drainage passed.
According to Eisenhauer and residents who lived in the neighbourhood at the time, before constructing the culverts to reroute the streams to Peoplestown, the Georgia Department of Transportation had assured the communities that a relief trunk line would be constructed from the junction box in Peoplestown, through Grant Park — a wealthier and predominantly white community located about two miles from Peoplestown, and into the nearby combined sewer overflow basin — in order to relieve the pressure on the combined sewer and water system in Peoplestown.
But the relief trunk was never built. Despite the dramatic increase of water flow into the junction box, the city did not build additional stormwater storage capacity upstream from Peoplestown or add the relief trunk, Eisenhauer explains, causing the system to get overwhelmed during storms — the pressure of which in the lids of the junction box and manholes popping off and sewage spilling out into the neighbourhood. Since Peoplestown sits on a low basin, the more the city was built up after the Olympics, the more Peoplestown was inundated with stormwater runoffs from the concrete that smothers the ground of the city.
But nothing came of it, likely because the construction of the trunk line would be too costly, Eisenhauer says. According to residents, the city also fails to adequately clean the drains, which has compounded the problem. His living room is blanketed in a patchwork of framed photographs of his children and grandchildren; it feels like walking inside a family photo album. His home is also located walking distance from the Greater Christ Temple Holiness Church, where he has attended service since and where he met and fell in love with Bertha.
Their home was one of the houses damaged in the flooding in Sixty-five-year-old Bertha immediately feared that forcible displacement might follow. The Dardens, along with the rest of Peoplestown, have watched as neighbourhoods around them have transformed over the last decade and a half; each following the same trend: Black and low-income residents pushed out while wealthier and mostly white residents replaced them.
The multibillion-dollar megaproject will ultimately connect 45 neighbourhoods to a mile km loop of multi-use trails, parks and eventual street cars that follow abandoned railroad tracks that loop around the perimeter and throughout the core of Atlanta. The canopies of trees along the BeltLine shade the winding trails that slither through parks, upscale residential neighbourhoods and commercial areas lined with craft breweries, restaurants, and luxury apartments; city residents can bike to work or around the city on the trail.
The project has painted a picturesque and charming image for the young and affluent professionals the city wants to attract. But it has brought another wave of displacement for surrounding low-income and largely Black communities, triggering sharp increases in home values — pushing out low-income renters who cannot afford the jump in rent and homeowners who cannot afford the increased property taxes.
Like other neighbourhoods around the BeltLine, the Black population in Old Fourth Ward has steadily declined, while the white population continues to increase. In76 percent of the 12, residents in the neighbourhood were Black and just 16 percent were white. Inhowever, the population had increased to 14, people, but the Black population had shrunk to Peoplestown is also located on the south end of the BeltLine.
According to Troutman, the housing market collapse in added gasoline to the fire that was already ripping through Atlanta. The city, which has a strong legacy of Black homeownership, was hit hard. About a quarter of a million residents lost their homes to foreclosures and many others were targeted by private investors who swooped in to take advantage of the crisis. It almost seemed like everyone was just coming together for the sole purpose of kicking people out the neighbourhood. Many of the residents of the contested block in Peoplestown had initially vowed to stick together and fight the city, Bertha says.
But afterresidents buckled, one by one, settled with the city and moved out. Residents continue to receive phone calls several times a week, regular s and even real estate postcards that display pictures of their own houses, urging them to sell. Private realtors will then flip the properties, selling them for sometimes double or triple the amount, residents say.
They had no reason to believe they would have a chance at winning and challenging the city would inevitably cause financial and mental hardships during what were supposed to be their golden years. They prayed for direction. God had spoken to us and we were told clearly not to move. And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore Criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward. So why would I ever consider selling my house now?
He speaks in a low, matter-of-fact tone. My father is already rich in houses and land. Thousands upon thousands of hills belong to Him. Their money means nothing to me. The decision to stay and fight the city has not been easy for the Dardens. Inthe city sued the residents and condemned three of the homes. The perpetual anxiety of possibly being evicted and having their most cherished possession taken from them at any moment has weighed heavily on the couple.
After being visited by code inspectors several times, Robert posted an officially stamped letter confirming their house had already passed a city code inspection onto the front door — in the hope of warding off future inspectors. The city also sent a company to both the houses to shut their gas off to prepare for demolitions. I look at it as a positive — like wow, now we got the police protecting us. Washington and the Dardens are also continuing to make payments on their mortgages even though their names have been removed from Free big house in Atlanta for any girl title deed and replaced by the city of Atlanta.
Tanya Washington holds a photo of one of the real estate postcards that private realtors send to residents in Peoplestown. Their protest reaches far beyond the structure of their home, and interweaves with their ancestors who made the decision to fight before them.
I remember growing up as in Georgia and at that time segregation was normal. God is always in control. The generation before led us and now we have to lead the generation behind us. Inthe residents on the block obtained s they say prove their suspicions that the city was abusing eminent domain to further a green infrastructure project that was outside the scope of assuaging flooding in the neighbourhood.
Scott, the author of the s, tells Al Jazeera that in the late s, a federal judge issued consent decrees for combined sewage and sanitary sewer overflows after Atlanta was sued by a watchdog over pollution in the river and its tributaries owing to the lack of maintenance of its sewer system.
According to Scott, who had worked as an engineer for the city since and managed and deed several projects in response to federal consent decrees, the pond was being planned in Peoplestown in response to these consent decrees before the flooding as part of a multiphased project to mitigate flooding in and around the neighbourhood, which included the construction of permeable pavers and a stormwater detention vault.
Scott became the manager of the Peoplestown project after the flooding. Scott tells Al Jazeera the pond was only supposed to be constructed around the junction box, which is the source of the overspills, and would have necessitated taking about four homes on the block.
But before they were able to finalise the data, the footprint of the project was expanded to include the entirety of the now contested block. Scott says she tried to sound an alarm over the project. But in when she took her concerns to Macrina, her superior, she was swiftly fired. Two weeks later, the city pushed through the eminent domain ordinance.
Macrina, meanwhile, has recently been charged with bribery, conspiring to commit bribery, and aiding and abetting the preparation of false income tax returns in an ongoing federal corruption investigation at city hall. According to Gary Spencer, the lawyer for the Dardens and Washington, the s were obtained through discovery, but the city did not provide them until three days after the judge ruled in favour of the city, and buried them within tens of thousands of unrelated and jumbled documents. They deliberately withheld information and tried to stifle the lawsuit every step of the way.
After the discovery inthe residents thought the worst was over and the city would inevitably settle with them so they could stay in their homes. We were just the first ones that fought long enough to piece things together. Even if they come and bulldoze our homes and put us out on the streets, everyone will know that this was all done based on a lie. Al Jazeera also requested a comment from three lawyers representing the city, but they did not reply.
But the legal defence has still not been provided with this modelling, despite requesting these documents in discovery, House says. Al Jazeera also requested several times over the course of two months for the city to share its engineering modelling, but was not provided with these documents. The streets of Peoplestown are lined with blooming crepe myrtles; the trees arch over the neatly paved ro, providing a partial umbrella for cars slowly cruising past colourful, multi-storey homes; the purplish petals fall off the branches and sprinkle the sidewalks. For the new residents, these blossoming trees are likely a beautiful component of a neighbourhood that is promised to produce more attractive scenery once those four homes, still lingering and persistent, are finally demolished and the much-awaited pond and park constructed in their place.
Her house is on Ormond Street, running parallel to Atlanta Avenue, on the other side of Free big house in Atlanta for any girl contested block, which up until a few years ago was considered part of the Summerhill neighbourhood. At just 14, she began what would become a lifelong commitment to community engagement and activism when she went door-to-door around Summerhill and collected money from residents to get them access to indoor plumbing and electricity.
It was in Barcelona where she got the idea to beautify the streets of Peoplestown and the surrounding neighbourhoods by planting crepe myrtle trees up and down the pavements. When the city moved to take the block, Jackson stood tall with her neighbours and ed them in fighting the city — and continued to do so until she took her last breath.Free big house in Atlanta for any girl
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