Board defers request to move $250,000 out of Westport

Jack Young says he will demand answers from the housing department

young jack

“I want to know why the money can’t be used in the Westport community,” Jack Young said today.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

The Board of Estimates deferred action this morning on a request by the city housing department to remove $250,000 promised to the Westport community after board president Bernard C. “Jack” Young said he was never briefed on the plan.

“I was unaware of the fund transfer,” Young said. “I want to know why the funds can’t be used in the Westport community. I have asked the housing department for answers.”

The Brew reported last night of the plan to remove the funds from Westport and allocate the money to a citywide demolition account. Last year, the housing department tried to remove the same funds to pay the Living Classrooms Foundation for its costs in rehabbing a building in East Baltimore.

Item was Obscured on Board Agenda

Young complained that the Westport item was obscured on today’s board’s agenda. “The agency had a number of transfers on page 70, which I carefully reviewed. I just didn’t see the [Westport] item,” Young said. The Westport transfer was a five-line entry at the bottom of page 71.

Young said Councilman Ed Reisinger, who represents the impoverished community south of M&T Stadium, also was not briefed on the matter.

Last year, housing officials Stacy Freed (left) Peter Engel toured a building on Annapolis Road that some Westport residents wanted turned into a community center. The city never followed up on the plan and the dilapidated building is now owned by the city. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Last year, housing officials Stacy Freed (left) and Peter Engel toured a building that some residents wanted to turn into a community center. The city never followed up, residents say. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Reisinger has not responded to requests for comment. He did not attend today’s board meeting.

Ruth Sherrill, president of the Westport Improvement Association, expressed shock when The Brew informed her of the proposed fund transfer.

She later wrote a letter of protest to Young, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Comptroller Joan Pratt and other board members.

City Won’t Help Us, Leader Says

“For years,” Sherrill wrote in the letter, “we have asked the City for help to renovate buildings for a community service center in Westport and were told by high ranking officials that we would never be able to get any help from the City.

“This was an action between a developer and politicians and has proven to be true. When funding was found, the City attempted to give it to another neighborhood and now the same thing is happening again.”

The letter refers to a 2009 agreement to allocate $250,000 to the Westport Affordable Housing Fund to help developer Pat Turner pay for low-income housing in the community. The $250,000 was to be leveraged with city TIF bonds to rehab 70 vacant houses in the community.

Turner’s elaborate waterfront project has since collapsed, but the funds were retained in a reserve account by the housing department. Deputy Housing Commissioner Peter Engel has not responded to questions by The Brew about the funds.

Stacy Freed, director of planning and programs, referred questions to the agency’s communications office, which has not yet responded. Last year, Freed wrote to Sherrill that her office wanted “to begin discussing ways in which we might spend these funds in Westport.”

Freed and Engel met with community members, but attempts to secure some of the funds for a community center never materialized, according to Sherrill.

“What do we hear from the city? Nothing,” she said.

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  • KnowNothingParty

    If Westport had any hope of being gentrified private sector developers would be in there fixing the neighborhood up.

    • Gerald Neily

      Speculators bought up many Westport houses when the big Turner development was being hyped, and now they’re sitting on them with the aid of the city’s low tax assessments for crumbling houses. There is no incentive for upkeep or gentrification. A recent study found Baltimore was ranked America’s third least gentrifying city, ahead of only Detroit and Tulsa. Baltimore’s economic development strategy is to push the most favored areas like Harbor Point, and let places like Westport rot until the right moment.

      • Aaron Mirenzi

        hey Gerry can you link that gentrification study?

        • Gerald Neily

          Gladly, Aaron. The study was conducted by the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank of the 55 largest metropolitan statistical areas – – and determined the proportion of census tracks overall and with low housing prices that gentrified in the time between 2000 and 2007 (leaving the Great Recession out of it).

          Baltimore ranked third to last, ahead of only the worst of the Rust Belt (Detroit) and the Dust Belt (Tulsa). So what does that make Bmore? The Bust Belt? The Fussed Belt? The Lust Belt? Maybe just the Just Belt.

          Baltimore also ranked first in the nation in the proportion of low priced census tracks which are located in the central city, at 95%.

          The study also looked at the impact of gentrification on the credit scores of existing residents and found them to be positive, both for those who stayed and those who moved out.

          Our Mark Reutter says he will try to inquire to the study’s author sometime after the new year to reveal something more in depth about Baltimore’s place among other cities.

          Try not to be confused by Citybizlist’s take on this study, which was confusingly headlined, “Baltimore Among Most Gentrified Metros” –

          Of course, there are negative effects of gentrification too, like higher beer prices and fewer empty parking spaces, which the study did not examine.

          • Tom Gregory

            $RB Money Belt

      • River Mud

        Could not have said it better myself.

  • Patti Banks

    You have to pity the residents who bought the fairy tale stories told to them by candidate Bill Ferguson (fresh out of Montgomery County) who strutted around Westport and Curtis Bay in the summer of 2009 talking about how he would “revitalize” Westport and clean up the air in Curtis Bay. During his campaign, funded in large part by Patrick Turner and his numerous blackballed contractors (“give Ferguson money or you’ll never work in Baltimore again”).
    Ferguson & Turner accused then Senator Della, of not doing enough for the environment in Curtis Bay and further accused him of standing in the way of Westport’s economic development. Three years later, the promises made by team Turner & Ferguson go unmet. Patrick Turner is bankrupt, Westport is a dead dog and their sharp-tongued elected representative flexes only a feeble arm in the Maryland State Senate. Curtis Bay residents wheeze in the street, facing in all likelihood, the construction of a brand-spanking new smoke-billowing trash incinerator.
    But wait! Can’t you just hear SRB and the local and
    state pols espousing the newly created jobs at the incinerator? How’s that for economic development.

  • Matthew Riesner

    It’s sad because this is one of the least connected neighborhoods but has one of the closest proximity to downtown. A prime example is how Comcast has redlined the neighborhood from internet service (I think this is the only neighborhood in Baltimore without access to cable internet). It’s sad because it could truly be an attractive place to live due to its proximity to everything.

  • trueheart4life

    “Young complained that the Westport item was obscured on today’s board’s agenda.” Will someone please tell the Council President that he must read every line of text, on every page of the weekly agenda, which according to the City Charter is published as the “President’s Agenda” each week. Hum? || Maybe they’re talking about some other President, I guess??? Wow … so sad!!!

  • trueheart4life

    The Board of Estimates agenda for January 8, 2014 has the deferred $250K transfer from 3 weeks ago on it again … page 33, item #1.

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