Blighted Baltimore homes are razed, along with some memories.
A dilapidated block of homes in Baltimore has been demolished as part of a $94million project to tear down a chunk of the 17,000 abandoned homes in the neighborhood.
More than 800 crumbling homes have already been razed and this section of Herbert Street in West Baltimore is the latest to be reduced to rubble.
The homes – many of which are riddled with asbestos and lead paint – have come to symbolize the deep social divide in Baltimore.
Roofs have caved in on the abandoned rowhomes, boards are fastened to the doors and window frames and the streets are littered with garbage.
Salim Sadiki, 71, grew up on Herbert Street and he visited his childhood neighborhood before it was recently torn down.
Sitting on a crumbling stoop, Sadiki said the block looked nothing like it did when he was a boy. His father’s old home was filled with debris, trash from squatters, and peeling paint.
‘I don’t see the broken windows and the sagging porches, I see it the way it was,’ Sadiki said.
‘Once these buildings are gone, it’ll be a huge erasure of my history. This whole thing, seeing it erased like this, really saddens me. But nothing lasts forever, it had to go sometime.’
He watched on as the home where he lived with his mother and the house just three doors down where his father moved when his parents split up was demolished.
Some of the homes still had bathtubs, mirrors, furniture and crosses nailed to the wall.
Sadiki, who was sentimental, said he understood the power of a clean slate.
Three years ago, he was released from prison after nearly four decades behind bars. He was one of more than 100 prisoners freed because of faulty jury instructions. He had been convicted of rape at 37.
Returning to the block where he came of age was a bucket-list item he thought he’d never check off.
‘I’m not sure I’ve grown or evolved exactly the way I would have liked,’ he said. ‘But the person I am now, I’m satisfied. I’ve outlived a whole lot of people and I did have the opportunity to retrace my footsteps back into my boyhood, and that is important.’
For now, the area where he once lived will be turned into green space. But the lot could someday be a laundry, a supermarket, a community center for neighborhood children.
The street is part of Project CORE – a $94million initiative to raze a chunk of the 17,000 vacant houses.
Republican Maryland Governor Larry Hogan unveiled the project in 2016 – eight months after Freddie Gray’s death in police custody thrust the city into chaos.
The young black man’s death prompted protests and civil unrest over the treatment of African Americans by police here.
Swaths of West Baltimore, pocked with the vacant, crumbling homes, burned.
A US Justice Department investigation found discriminatory and abusive policing practices, and resulted in an agreement enforced by a federal judge to overhaul the department.
The unrest also shed light on systemic failures that go beyond the police: inadequate access to quality education and job training, racially segregated neighborhoods.
‘Fixing what is broken in Baltimore requires that we address the sea of abandoned, dilapidated buildings infecting entire neighborhoods,’ Hogan said.
Grassy spaces have already opened in West Baltimore where some of the dilapidated buildings used to be.