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The Bluff: Atlanta's "forgotten" community, Pt. 2

8:51 AM, Nov 4, 2011   |    comments
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Part Two of our series on a small neighborhood near downtown Atlanta called "The Bluff," which has been devastated by the housing collapse and the crime that moved in to all the empty homes.

ATLANTA -- Abandoned houses breed more than crime. 

Some are potential bio-hazards, infected with black mold and filth from top to bottom.  Multiply a house like that by about 100, and you've got the Bluff, a small neighborhood that sits within the English Avenue community not far from Downtown Atlanta.

RELATED: The Bluff: Atlanta's forgotten community, Pt. 1

What happens to the abandoned houses in the Bluff is a crime. 

They are, for lack of a better word, eviscerated... cut open to the studs by thieves who gut the copper wires and metal pipes to sell for scrap metal.

In a very real sense, the houses are left for dead.

Home-icide, the kind that kills an entire zip code.

The things that people do in those houses would sicken you. And those houses are literally everywhere in the Bluff.

"There's despair in this community," said Atlanta Police Maj. Timothy Quiller. "It needs a lot of help. Probably more than half of these properties are vacant, and what they do is breed crime."

To their credit, Atlanta Police patrol the Bluff non-stop. 11Alive News saw them constantly while we were there shooting this series for over a week.

But the sheer number of empty homes where crime can hide is overwhelming.

And the danger from fire, especially as the weather gets cold and the homeless move in, is ever-present.

"The area is dying... but it's also going to come back to life, because the city is going to do something about it," said Jimmy Gates, who goes to church in the area. "The people that are left here, they're close-knit people. They look out for each other. They have nowhere else to go."

Gates is an unabashed believer that the city will rescue this neighborhood.  As for his friend Robert Lane, well, not so much.

"I have a daughter that lives in this neighborhood," he said. "I'm concerned.  I'm concerned all the time, because she's got activities going on around her. She's learning what she sees.  As kids, we mimic what we see. She sees the drug dealing; she sees the prostitution, the weed smoking. So these are her role models. Something has to change."

The area was once a proud community. Older residents say Gladys Knight went to school there. Martin Luther King raised his family just a minute away. 

But today, such vaunted history is lost to a new legacy of despair.

"This is a forgotten community," said resident Sheila Hall. "I think so, because I don't see nobody over here trying to do nothing. The crime got worse; the drugs got worse; the kids got worse."

On one of our trips to the Bluff, we met the "Bicycle Man" who told us he grew up here.

"496 Lindsay Street," he recalled. "From the time that Kennedy was killed, that's when I came here. I went to the elementary school around the corner, English Avenue."

Today, the apartment building at 496 Lindsay Street is an abandoned relic. And the Bicycle Man is homeless, but not hopeless that positive changes lie ahead for the Bluff.

"What eventually is gonna change it? Time is gonna change it," he said. "It's hard to do something to change something that's been happening for six, seven... 10 years."

Indeed, as bad as things are in the Bluff, few are ready to write off this "forgotten" community.

There are a lot of good people and a lot of good things going on, especially in the part of English Avenue that's rebuilding. 

But residents of the Bluff say they've had enough talk. Now, they want immediate action.

And that's why we brought city officials there to explain what's going on and how they can fix it.

You might be surprised at some of the suggestions. 

More on that Friday in part three of this series.

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