FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Durham CAN Objects to City’s Lack of Community Engagement and Transparency in DHA Redevelopment Process
DURHAM, North Carolina, APRIL 13, 2020 -- In order to proceed with the proposed demolition and redevelopment of the 519 Main St. and Liberty St. apartments, the City of Durham is required by federal law to conduct an Environmental Review, but because the public comment process was not transparent, nor was it properly conducted in accordance with federal guidelines, the ERR’s findings may be incorrect. Thus, on April 6, 2021, Durham Congregations, Associations, and Neighborhoods (CAN), submitted public comments in opposition to the Durham Housing Authority (DHA) and Community Development Department (CDD)’s finding that the project will have “no significant impact” on the human environment.
Durham CAN objected to the Environmental Review process for two main reasons: (1) The City of Durham failed to consult the parties directly impacted by the project and (2) the city did not provide transparent documentation of the review process. Per the federal Environmental Review process, affected parties of development projects must be advised of potential adverse effects of the project-- which, in this case, includes toxic substance exposure. Yet neither of the two parties most affected by the project-- residents of the 519 Main Street and Liberty St apartments and the Environmental Affairs Board (EAB)-- were properly informed or consulted. While the city’s report provides a timeline of public “outreach,” not a single resident was present at any project-specific meeting, calling into question the efficacy of the community engagement practices. Additionally, the city’s choice not to utilize local city planners with community connections is another indication of its apathy toward community engagement. Failure to properly engage residents and other affected parties not only contradicts federal Environmental Review guidelines, but also perpetuates systemic racism and environmental injustice. Furthermore, even if residents and other impacted parties were properly consulted, it would have been difficult for them to provide feedback due to a lack of transparent documentation; external links in the ERR were improperly formatted or led to restricted-access sites, and conflicting comment deadlines were posted online. The resulting finding of “no adverse effect” have been generated by third-party consultants with no community connections, and signed off hastily without sufficient public engagement.
Read Durham CAN’s specific comments and concerns here.
DHA and CDD’s decision to approve the Environmental Assessment resulting from this flawed process suggests an apathy for community engagement and transparency that is becoming a pattern. Public housing is located on public land, funded by public tax dollars, and administered by public agencies, yet the public was left out of the decision-making process. This apathy not only has consequences for residents at 519 Main Street and Liberty St. Apartments, but our neighbors facing long-standing disrepair and neglect issues at other DHA properties; the 800 DHA families at risk for eviction at the end of June; and members of the Durham Community at large.
Mr. Ajax Woolley, Durham CAN Housing Team
Grant St. Community
(919) 257-7555 | [email protected]
Ms. Regina Mays, Durham CAN Housing Team
Monument of Faith Church, Franklin Village Resident
(984) 206-9427 | [email protected]