HOUSTON – For five years the city has selected a day in May when dangerous and dilapidated buildings are torn down all across town.
This year the day coincided with Mayor Annise Parker’s 58th birthday.
Long before she was born, houses in Independence Heights were built. But in the community near Interstate 45 and North Main more than a few of them have become dangerous dens for crime.
“I could only call 311 so many times in one day,” said community leader Billie Rose Gray, recalling how often she complained about blight in her neighborhood.
A few residents had some complaints, however, about the city’s demolition program.
“While we applaud the efforts of the mayor to demolish blight in our community, what we would like to see is money put aside in a fund to help preserve historic properties in neighborhoods,” said Independence Heights Redevelopment Councilmember Tanya Debose.
A city spokesperson said it costs anywhere from $7,000 to $14,000 to bulldoze each blighted home.
Some residents said the money could be used to preserve Independence Heights’ history.
“This is the first incorporated African-American community in Texas and that is the heart of its, its pride and joy,” said resident Loraine Perkins.
“Our first priority is public safety,” said Parker. She also pointed out that the city has financially supported the development of new homes in Independence Heights.
The mayor said she can appreciate the viewpoint of those concerned about building new homes and preserving historic ones but those efforts don’t do much good if there are old homes and buildings where crime can take up residence.