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Judge promises quick ruling on demolition

Jordan Park residents worry the housing authority might not provide for them after the complex is razed.

By JAMES HARPER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2000


TAMPA -- Critics of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority shouldn't be allowed to stop the demolition of Jordan Park because no one has been hurt by the redevelopment project, authority lawyers argued in federal court Wednesday.

"Every single family will be placed in (replacement) housing," attorney Scott Forman told U.S. District Judge Henry Lee Adams.

Unless someone can show that residents will be "irreparably harmed," Adams must turn down a request to halt the project, Forman argued.

Adams, who conducted the hearing by telephone from his Jacksonville office while nearly two-dozen Jordan Park residents and authority officials sat in the high-ceiling Tampa courtroom, did not rule immediately. But he promised a quick decision.

Meanwhile, demolition continued on the eastern half of the 25-acre public housing complex. So far, 30 buildings have been torn down, with another 24 to go.

The authority plans to replace Jordan Park with a new, less densely concentrated collection of apartments, duplexes and single-family homes.

Even though fewer people will live in Jordan Park itself, there will be more housing units available for poor people than before, authority officials say.

Because so many people were being displaced from Jordan Park, the authority applied for and received 246 additional rental subsidies from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, deputy executive director Mike Marshall said.

The subsidies, known as Section 8 certificates, can be used in private rental housing all over the city.

The authority also plans to build or buy 50 additional units of public housing away from Jordan Park and to help 140 families become self-sufficient enough to buy new homes. Counting the 237 new units in Jordan Park, that adds up to 673 units, compared with the 446 in the old Jordan Park, the authority says.

But Jonathan Alpert, a lawyer for the residents trying to stop demolition, argued Wednesday that there is good reason to doubt whether those plans actually will happen.

Alpert cited a recent HUD audit of the authority, which said the agency has mismanaged its Section 8 programs for so long that it had to return money to the federal government, even while scores of families went without housing.

Alpert also offered the example of Laurel Park, a public housing complex that was torn down for a parking lot at Tropicana Field. The authority promised to replace it but didn't. Alpert also cited evidence that local officials have threatened and intimidated Jordan Park residents who don't support the authority's plans.

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