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[December 27, 2012]
Poindexter asbestos removal halted
Dec 27, 2012 (The Columbus Dispatch - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority has stopped a contractor from removing asbestos from windows at the shuttered Poindexter Village public-housing complex after workers damaged brick while removing windows and sills.
Community leaders thought the housing authority was starting to demolish buildings before a required historic-review process was complete.
But Bryan Brown, CMHA's senior vice president of business development, said demolition has not begun. Crews removed caulk containing asbestos from around windows and began chipping away at the surrounding brick because the caulk had seeped into the mortar, Brown said.
Sills also were removed from four buildings.
"That was not what was supposed to have happened," Brown said. The contractor needed to obtain CMHA's approval to chip away at the bricks behind the window frames, he said. The contractor was supposed to remove the windows to take out the caulk, then put the windows back in and board them up, he said.
CMHA plans to demolish all 35 of the brick buildings in the Near East Side complex. That plan has angered nearby residents and others, because Poindexter Village is a cultural touchstone for many in the city's black community.
A draft of a required review by the city's historic-preservation office proposes studying 10 buildings for possible rehabilitation.
Randy Black, Columbus' historic-preservation officer, said he takes Brown's explanation of what happened "at face value." When residents told him about the damage to the buildings, Black asked Brown to stop the job. He said Brown had offered to do so anyway.
Chief Baba Shongo, a member of the Poindexter Village History Advisory Group and a former Poindexter Village resident, said Brown is responsible if CMHA hired a contractor that made mistakes.
"He's creating an eyesore, friction among the community," Shongo said. When he saw the damage, he "wanted to cry." The Coalition for Responsible and Sustainable Development of the Near East Side has proposed saving and redeveloping more historic buildings through federal tax credits. Jonathan Beard, a coalition leader, said CMHA needs to rebuild trust with the community.
"They have not earned the good will and credit to be able to expect people to believe that it was a mistake," Beard said. "That is unfortunate." Brown said the windows, sills and damaged brick will not be repaired because those buildings were not recommended for preservation.
"We're going to tear them down," he said.
Asbestos removal is required whether the buildings are demolished or preserved, he said, and CMHA "maintains the legal authority to proceed with demolition at any time." The owner of Watson General Contracting of Newark in Licking County was out of town and unavailable to comment yesterday.
Poindexter Village, the city's first public-housing complex, was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940. It was built on the site of the "Blackberry Patch," the African-American neighborhood named for the fruit that grew in the area.
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