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Neighborhoodsby Laura Fay7:03 amAug 19, 20230

Residents hopeful for change after improvements are made at Ruscombe Gardens

Following Brew reporting, the owners of a northwest Baltimore senior apartment building have replaced broken benches and removed dangerous trees

Above: Resident Charles Gross said he’s pleased with the improvements made to the senior apartment building and grounds. (Laura Fay)

Residents of the Ruscombe Gardens apartment complex are finally getting some relief.

A month after The Brew published an article chronicling maintenance issues at the northwest Baltimore apartment building, numerous improvements have been made, including removal of hazardous trees and replacement of broken benches.

“It looks totally different over there,” said resident Curtis Brown, gesturing toward the front courtyard.

The most notable improvement for Brown is the tree removal, something he had long advocated for. Last year, a storm knocked down a large branch that broke a bench near the complex’s front entrance, which sat unfixed and wrapped in caution tape for months.

Trees that surveyors had tagged for removal years ago were finally, in the last two weeks, taken away.

Years of unanswered complaints will catch up to Ruscombe Gardens, residents predict (7/6/23)

Delegate Rosenberg calls on city to investigate conditions at Ruscombe Gardens (7/8/23)

“It’s real good,” exclaims resident Charles Gross, who frequents the building’s designated smoking area in the front courtyard, which was once surrounded by the hazardous trees.

“I’m glad they took a couple of them trees down because I was walking past, and a big tree log came down and almost got me,” he recalled. “If I hadn’t turned around in time, it would’ve hit me in my head.”

Now residents who once avoided the courtyard for fear of falling flora can gather again, sitting on newly repainted benches. The tape-wrapped bench is gone, with just a patch of dead grass left to indicate it was ever there.

Brown credits the building manager with bringing out contractors to fix the exterior issues.

The broken bench is gone, replaced by new ones at the Ruscombe Gardens apartment for seniors in northwest Baltimore. (Laura Fay)

The broken bench is gone, replaced by new ones, at the complex for seniors on Yellowwood Avenue. (Laura Fay)

“Deplorable” Conditions

The list of complaints at the residence, a federally subsidized, 150-unit complex providing low-income housing for elderly and disabled people, was extensive. They ranged from fundamental repair issues to poor sanitation and flooding.

Immediately after The Brew’s article, a state legislator jumped on the issue.

Delegate Sandy Rosenberg (D, 41st), whose district includes Ruscombe Gardens, called the conditions “deplorable” and urged Baltimore’s Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to inspect the property.

“No one in the city and in the state should be living in conditions that violate the housing code,” Rosenberg said at the time.

Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton, whose 6th District includes the property, also raised concerns, saying “this is not the way we want to [hear] about ‘older adult’ public housing problems.”

“No one in the city and in the state should be living in conditions that violate the housing code”  – Del. Sandy Rosenberg.

DHCD spokesperson Tammy Hawley says the agency has followed through on Rosenberg’s request.

“Code Enforcement inspected all common areas from the 1st to the 7th floor,” Hawley wrote in response to The Brew’s inquiry.

“A five-item violation notice was issued with a completion deadline of 30 days. On August 4, a re-inspection was conducted, and the noted violation was observed to be corrected, and the notice was submitted for abatement.”

She said the violations noted included four broken tiles in various common spaces and water damage to the ceiling.

Lingering Problems

The property is owned by Chateau Foghorn LP of Portland, Maine, and is run through its management company, Preservation Management, which operates subsidized housing facilities in 17 states, including three other apartment buildings in Maryland.

Ruscombe Gardens has passed federal inspections up to this point. The most recent inspection, conducted back in 2019, gave the building a score of 97b.

That’s a passing grade, though the “b” designation signals that one or more “non-life-threatening health and safety deficiencies” were observed.

Some residents still report pest infestations, broken appliances and mold.

Despite the recent improvements, some residents still feel their concerns haven’t been fully addressed. Some report pest infestations and ongoing maintenance issues, such as broken appliances and mold.

“My drawer in the kitchen has been down for over eight months,” said resident Raymond Tucker. “And my closet doors have been hanging off. They said they ordered the parts, but that was six months ago.”

DHCD requires resident consent to inspect individual apartments and urges residents to call 311 with any outstanding complaints specific to their units.

“There have been no 311 housing requests submitted [at the property] within the last 30 days,” Hawley reported.

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