Collapsing home near Fairgrounds has people raising safety concerns

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 12, 2014 at 10:34 PM

Updated Monday, May 12 at 11:00 PM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: mhernandez@wwltv.com | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - Carolyn Jackson has lived in the 1600 block of North Dupre Street for over three decades. But she said a decaying house next door is destroying her quality of life.

“My fear is that it’s going to fall on my property,” said Jackson.

Jackson also fears for the kids who pass the blighted house on the way to Stallings Playground, which is two doors down.

“I've caught several teenagers running in and out [of the property],” said Jackson. “There's the constant passing of children, it's just unsafe.”

Neighbors say the house has been neglected since before Hurricane Katrina. It has been issued multiple blight violations. And in August 2013, the city found the owner, Russell Kelly, guilty of public nuisance blight.

Nearly seven months later, on Mardi Gras day, the house caught on fire. The next day the city posted signs on the building, which said it is in imminent danger of collapse and will be demolished or removed immediately.

More than two months later, the home still stands.

Kelly is a former city contractor who dealt with fighting blight. Now, he blames the city for his property’s condition.

Kelly said because his city contract was not renewed last July, he doesn't have the money to fix the house. But neighbors say the property was blighted long before that.

Kelly claims he could not fix his property because he was not making enough money as a minority contractor and certified disadvantaged business enterprise, or DBE.

“The reason why I didn't have the funds to rehabilitate my prop the way I wanted to, because basically as a DBE, financially I was enslaved so I couldn't afford to do it,” said Kelly. Since the city must accept the lowest bid by law, Kelly said he would do everything he could to make sure his bids were low.

“I don't understand how he could be underpaid if he puts in a bid for something,” said Jackson.

The expiration of Kelly's city contract is a separate issue from his blighted property, said city spokesman Tyler Gamble. Gamble said the city opted not to renew Kelly’s contract as a cost-saving measure, because they now do the same administrative work in-house, rather than through contractors.

Meanwhile, neighbors like Jackson said they just want one thing.

“I hope the city knocks it down,” she said.

Jackson may get her wish. The property is slated to be torn down in the next 10 days, said Gamble.

The property was originally supposed to go up for a sheriff's sale, but that changed when it was damaged in the fire.

 

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