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Blight Blitz Underway In Southwest Detroit

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An abandoned Detroit building is torn down. (WWJ Photo/Florence Walton)

An abandoned Detroit building is torn down. (WWJ Photo/Florence Walton)

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Neighbors stood out in the rain Thursday, taking pictures as demolition crews set to work swiftly tearing down four vacant apartment buildings on Mason Place and Elsmere in southwest Detroit.

The buildings, earlier gutted by fire, are among nearly 160 in the area targeted for demolition in the latest blitz, and were identified with help from community residents.

Local homeowner Ed McCoy told WWJ Newsradio 950’s Florence Walton he’s been calling the city and his state representative for years complaining about the abandoned, dangerous structures.

“I think it’s the best thing that’s happen in probably 15 years,” said McCoy. “Selling drugs and prostitution working out of ‘em. Finally them set them on fire, they moved out and then the strippers come in, took all the metal out of ‘em and then they just catch ‘em on fire every other week.”

“The two across the street were the same way. They finally blew up, actually fire-bombed them, here about three weeks ago,” McCoy said.  “They get this all torn down … to beautify this neighborhood is gonna mean a lot to us.  But we’ve been here all along.  I grew up in this house.”

Domas Acosta, who lives down the street from the abandoned buildings, said he doesn’t know why the buildings have been allowed to stay this long.

“It’s just somewhere for a little girl to get hurt, or something. Anybody could get hurt in there, even a little kid — not knowing what’s going on — he could just walk up in there and fall in a hole or something,” Acosta said. “It’s just bad for the whole neighborhood.”

A state plan to tear down vacant buildings, make the paths to and from schools safer for students and improve social services in Detroit is moving ahead, with the legislature allocating $10 million for blight elimination efforts in the city, officials said.

The state was awarded a $97 million share of a national settlement with banks for faulty foreclosure processes. Of that, $25 million – including the funds for Detroit – was set aside for anti-blight efforts in legislation passed Wednesday, according to the state attorney general’s office.

“It will allow us to tear down even more homes, so we’re very pleased,” said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

Bing’s comments came as he helped kick off a previously announced city effort to tear down 1,500 dangerous and abandoned structures by the end of September. The campaign is part of his goal to demolish 10,000 vacant structures by the time his four-year term ends in December 2013.

The Ford Motor Company Fund is giving $10,000 to The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit, that plans to beautify the lots left behind by the apartment demolitions.

Additional details of the state’s plan are expected to be released in the coming weeks. The state is working with Detroit Public Schools, the city and the private sector on the plan, which would build on existing efforts and involve state police, housing and human services officials.

The legislation passed Wednesday lists how the state will spend its share of the settlement with banks. That includes $20 million for foreclosure counseling for homeowners, $15 million in assistance to homebuyers and $10 million to help improve Michigan’s lowest performing schools.

The office of Gov. Rick Snyder said he’s expected to sign the legislation.

“The legislation will provide some critical relief to families and communities in a number of essential areas,” Sara Wurfel, a Snyder spokeswoman, said in an email.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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