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A sign oriented toward North Avenue traffic hails a Madison Park’s unique residential and business community. After decades of high crime and violence, the City has announced the imminent closing and razing of the troubled housing complex.

Last June, residents of the Madison Park North apartment complex were told the housing development would be closing, and that they would have to find new places to live. The housing authority would be providing residents receiving a public housing benefit, new housing vouchers and additional assistance for relocating.

Three families and the pastor of a church that reside on the premises of the Madison Park North complex have agreed to keep the AFRO updated on their progress as they await their new vouchers and undertake the process of finding a new place to live. Residents tell us they have been asked to leave within four to five months.

The Madison Park North complex sits on North Avenue just west of the Jones Falls Expressway, occupying part of Reservoir Hill’s southernmost border. It is a mix of predominantly housing units with commercial rental space. According to Carl Cleary, housing coordinator for the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, the development is home to approximately 180 households who must now find new housing.

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Yolanda Pulley is president of the Madison Park North Apartments tenant’s association.

Yolanda Pulley is the president of the tenant’s association at Madison Park and has lived on the site for 23 years, currently residing in her fourth unit. She is also the lead plaintiff in a recently filed lawsuit against the Madison Park North Apartments Limited Partnership (MPNALP), the entity that owns the complex, and All-County Security Agency, the company contracted to provide security at the development, for failure to provide adequate living conditions as well as violating the civil rights of the tenants.

Pulley tells the AFRO that the apartment complex was a difficult place to raise her four children, who live with her at Madison Park.

“Basically, I sheltered my children in the house because of the area that we lived in,” said Pulley. “It was bad, it was real bad. When I first moved around here it was just bodies dropping all over the place.”

Pulley says that the complex is no longer as afflicted by violence, but that issues with violence and drug trafficking are nonetheless recurring. One benefit the development did offer, however, was convenience, with easy access to the bus stops and cabs on North Avenue, a lifeline to someone who, like Pulley, does not own a car.

Pulley would like to find something with similar access to public modes of transportation as she begins her search for a new home and says she would like to remain in Baltimore.  The City’s Housing Authority, organized under Baltimore Housing, has committed to assisting not only with new vouchers, but with various other expenses related to applying for housing as well as costs of moving.

“That’s what we fought for and they basically gave us what we wanted,” said Pulley.

The next step is to sit for an interview to determine her eligibility for a voucher.  Interviews for all residents of Madison Park begin Aug. 25.

Ashley Smith has lived at the complex with her mother for the past eight years. She tells the AFRO that she does not spend much time out in the complex, preferring to be indoors at home instead.

Smith is not particularly concerned with the safety of the complex, but far more troubled by the lack of responsive maintenance management and leaking roof she has had to tolerate while living in Madison Park.

Smith’s only request of the City is a simple one.

“Help me move. That’s all I want from them, just to help me move,” said Smith.

Smith says that her ideal landing place is Edmondson Village, but otherwise just wants something that will be her own, as she will now look for housing independent of her mother.

Brittany Jones has lived at Madison Park for approximately six years. She had previously lived there with her mother but for the last five months has rented her own unit, where she lives with her younger brother.

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The apartments at Madison Park

“Not happy with the neighborhood,” said Jones of her impressions of the development.  “There’s a lot of drug activity. And when I first moved around here, the first couple of months, there were shootings in broad daylight.  I was so scared.”

Jones says that Madison Park feels safer now, but that there is still drug activity occurring out of some units.

Otherwise, her biggest complaints were the pest problems suffered in the apartments.

“Water bugs. Spiders. Too much for me,” said Jones.

Jones says that she would like the City to pick up the pace a bit as they seek to assist residents with the transition. Otherwise, Jones says, “I just want to find a nice neighborhood for me and my little brother.”

Madison Park is not only home to its residents, there are also businesses and non-profits residing in the complex. Among them is a church, Love and Liberty Family Ministries,  that has to suddenly find a new home, after having moved in just last December.

“We wanted to add a bright, vibrant space to the community, something that the children could come to. And if you bring children and help children you’ll eventually help their parents,” explained Bishop Mark-Anthony Wilson of what he and Love and Liberty’s three other trustees had envisioned for the space which they renovated and painted.  “We’ve put a lot of money into it for a one year old church,” said Wilson.  “A lot of out of pocket expenses from myself and my trustees”

Love and Liberty is not receiving any assistance, financial or otherwise, from any source to assist with its relocation. Wilson says he has inquired of the leasing office as to why he was not told about the impending closing when he signed a lease late last year, only to be told it was none of his business. Love and Liberty is now scrambling for a new location, and funds with which to secure it, hoping to avoid having to suddenly shut down the young ministry.

Wilson, though he no longer lives there, grew up in Madison Park and had hoped his church would become a permanent fixture in the community.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Wilson. “I’ve grown up here, I’ve been here all my life. To see it go, of course, there will be a lot of memories that go with it, but I’m very excited for the possibility that it brings for the residents. It’s an opportunity for a fresh start, it’s an opportunity for a new beginning.”

Wilson recently received a letter from management ordering the church to vacate by Aug. 27. He says that as a commercial tenant, he was not informed of the plans to close down the complex by management, but from parishioners who are also residents at Madison Park.

Wilson, along with Pulley, Smith and Jones, has agreed to keep the AFRO updated as they search for a new home. In September, we will report on how the residents’ respective eligibility interviews went and how their searches are progressing.

Roberto Alejandro

Special to the AFRO