Federal judge’s ruling prompts destruction of Hollman area housing

Max Rust

A federal judge handed down a decision Thursday blocking the NAACP’s motion to stop the destruction of more than 200 housing units in a section of the city known as the Hollman area.
The NAACP filed a motion last week to stop the city from demolishing 300 units in the Glenwood and Lyndale housing projects. The NAACP had previously agreed with the city Sept. 2 to preserve 70 of the Lyndale housing units and continue demolishing the Glenwood projects but decided Sept. 20 not to affirm the agreement. Instead, the NAACP filed the motion to keep 140 of the units.
Now, none of the units will be spared. Bill Patterson, a spokesman for the Minneapolis Housing Authority, said the city will continue demolishing all the projects in the Hollman area at a yet to be determined date.
In his 19-page decision, Judge James Rosenbaum stated that the court does not have the authority to change the terms of the original settlement, known as the Hollman consent decree, unless both parties agree to the change.
The 1995 settlement is named after Lucy Hollman, a plaintiff in a 1992 lawsuit aimed at decentralizing the city’s poor.
The 1992 suit was filed by the NAACP and the Legal Aid Society against local, state and federal government agencies. The suit charged the government with concentrating poverty in Minneapolis’ north side by constructing several public housing projects close to each other.
The settlement provided $118 million for the demolition and replacement of 770 public housing units. About 180 of those replacement units would comprise a quarter of all units in a new mixed-use development for the Hollman area. The latest plans for the development would have another one-fourth of the units reserved for low-income people, and the remaining units would be market rate.
Of the remaining 770 replacement units, most would be distributed throughout the suburbs, and 88 would be placed in city neighborhoods.
Critics of the settlement’s terms say the units are not being replaced fast enough. For the 422 units demolished so far, only 54 have been replaced. The city has also been criticized for trying to push poor people out of the north side and not allowing local residents to take part in the redevelopment process.
This summer, a group now known as the Hollman 14 was arrested for trying to block the demolition of the Glenwood and Lyndale projects. This prompted Mayor Sharon Sayles Belton to stop the destruction so that parties for and against the project could agree on how it will be carried out.
The Reverend Curtis Herron of the Zion Baptist Church on the north side was one of the Hollman 14 and still continues to be a vocal opponent of destroying the homes while poor people are in shelters and on the street.
He said he is saddened by Thursday’s decision.
“What we were asking the city to do was right. We were trying to be a voice, and the NAACP was trying to be a voice for the poor people of this city, and the city is clearly saying ‘We don’t want poor people here.'”
City Council President Jackie Cherryhomes, who represents the area, said she is pleased by the decision, which will allow the city to “move forward with a very important redevelopment issue.”
Cherryhomes also addressed a claim made in the NAACP’s motion to stop the demolition, which stated: “It makes no sense to demolish the Glenwood and Lyndale units when so many people are homeless and there are so few homes for these families to live in.”
“This isn’t about public housing,” Cherryhomes said in response, explaining that the Hollman settlement is a separate issue from Minneapolis’ housing shortage.
In a prepared statement, NAACP Minneapolis Branch President Rickie Campbell said that although the organization disagrees with Thursday’s decision, they will continue to monitor the implementation of the settlement and will “take whatever measures are appropriate to address the needs and concerns of the community.”
Robert Woods is a member of the Northside Neighbors for Justice, a group that has been fighting for more public housing and the inclusion of north-side residents in the Hollman redevelopment process. Woods said the group will now focus on making sure the city replaces the housing it demolishes as quickly as possible.
He said the city needs help to make the 2001 deadline of replacing the units.
“Given that the city does need help, will they allow public housing residents and north Minneapolis people to participate in making this thing go faster?” he asked.
Herron said the Northside Pastors, a group he co-chairs, and the Northside Neighbors will now get together to discuss their next plan of action to address the demolition and housing needs.
“We always wanted to believe that Minneapolis was a little better than other places,” he said. “It’s not.”

Max Rust covers communities and welcomes comments at [email protected]