Demolition Debacle: The day they tore old Dixie down

The day they tore old Dixie down

Be careful what you wish for is especially true in a city of ineptitude, cynicism, and a ‘close-enough-for-government-work’-ethic. Remember that I said that our house was on the Dangerous and Condemned list, and also on the Demolition list, with an Order to Demolish and all Clearances? And that it seemed the whole project was over. . . But that Lawrence Jackson, the B-SEED inspector, said repeatedly that “they’re not going to tear your house down” and that “it’s a slow process, maybe a year, there’s paperwork and letters, and a hearing before they get to that step”? And that the adjacent house, 513 Harmon, WAS slated for a demo hearing on July 28, 2014 at 10 am (last week on Monday), meaning if the owner, Gloria Lowe, was not present or did not respond, that that house was next to go down . . . . Well, the city-contracted demolition crew rolled up to Harmon Street on the evening of July 31 Thurs., parked their backhoe and bulldozer on the vacant lot next door, but the next day, Friday August 1, instead of tearing down 513 Harmon per the July 28 hearing, and properly leveling the above ground first floor and foundation to ground level, and carting off all the debris and fire trash, as the bold orange sticker proclaimed was gonna happen, they instead used their machines to demolish our house down at 519 Harmon.

0803141703b WhOohoojooooopps?

Is this not an egregious case of municipal malpractice? The City took away property without due process, and/or without fair compensation!

Now there are two damaged and dangerous houses side by side, 513 Harmon, still with its orange sticker, and 519 Harmon, now with its orange fencing, but its American flag on the porch nowhere to be seen. Now the site is even more dangerous than before because each house also has a partially exposed basement ten feet below surface, and a pile of steaming and jagged rubble on top – they also razed the perfect little bungalow of a garage.


They fucked up. They (Lisa Jackson in PDD) sold us a house that was already condemned and ordered for demolition, and was not even owned by PDD at the time of the sale and close. It was owned by the Land Bank. But all that administrative debacle aside, instead of giving us a chance to rehabilitate the house or request a deferral from demolition (again what Lawrence Jackson promised was possible) they mistakenly tore the wrong house down. It did not have a orange sticker; it did not have any notice or letter signed by Janice Winfrey, City Clerk. It was just sitting there waiting for Jon to meet it, to see it for the first time.


Which is what happened last night (Sunday Aug. 3, when we drove down to Detroit from Union Lake (Jon had gotten in at 2:30 am that morning, driving x-c from LA) to see our house. I couldn’t wait to show him how Major and I had cleaned it all out, had lovingly excavated the broken glass, busted plaster, mucky insulation, broken boards, bees nests, bird waste, ripped drywall, lead paint chips, asbestos siding, roofing shingles, and fire debris from all its three stories; had cleaned out the garage, had gotten the City Police (Central District—love this people – best cops in the world, esp. Sgt. Irvin and Officer Homic) to haul out the ‘stolen car’ — and had gotten the attention of Councilwoman Mary Sheffield and her staff (esp. the ultra-professional DeAndre Calvert) to take action on 513 Harmon – all good things awaiting more good progress. But no, as Burrell Jackson, my senior neighbor and the ‘Mayor of Harmon Street’ put it, “They just didn’t want you to fix up that house’!

0803141707This is an absurd tragedy, wherein I spent $200 on labor paying Major; $1018 on the house (but still no deed OR compensation for the wrecking crew’s mistake), and still had in the house at the time of demo the following articles: a box of tools (hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, measuring tape, a saw, fasteners, etc. approx. value of $25); yard implements (rakes, brooms, shovels, pruners, shears, etc. approx. value of $100); 3×3 terrazzo floor tiles (12, approx. value of $125); a wooden ladder (approx. value of $50); personal and misc. items (extra clothing, notebook, water jug, flower vase, table cloth, posters, gloves, safety goggles, facemasks, portable grill, work boots, pop, snacks, an historic map of New England, a flag, etc. — approx. value of $100).


Who is going to fix this mistake? I want my money back + damages. I want a replacement house, I want an apology. I want my time, effort, sweat equity, and dream back. I want the City of Detroit to admit that they messed up royally, and that the owe me big-time!

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