Baltimore is getting a new housing commissioner, but Michael E. Braverman is no stranger to the agency that Mayor Catherine Pugh has appointed him to lead.
During his 17 years as Paul Graziano’s deputy commissioner and director of code enforcement, Braverman pioneered “a new emergency demolition protocol,” according to his resume, “using emergent technologies to assess Baltimore’s long-term vacant rowhouses and to implement updated engineering standards.”
So why can’t the agency and its favorite contractor, Pless Jones, tear down a 14–by-40-foot vacant building next to Henry Anderson’s house in West Baltimore without damaging his property? And why have they left behind an exposed, unstable and unsightly party wall?
We’ll let Anderson tell you the story in his own words.
Dear Mr. Braverman,
For 35 years, I have lived in Sandtown-Winchester. And for 25 of those years, I’ve had to endure a dump of a building next door.
Once a nice corner store, it became a place where people threw their trash down in the basement and where dope fiends came and went without the police, or anybody, stopping them.
During those years that you ran code enforcement, my late wife and I called the inspection office many times and said, please, tear this building down.
You sure took your time, but I was so glad when a wrecking crew from Pless Jones/P&J Contracting came to this block about six months ago.
For a day and a half, his men tore the building down. At first, they did a good job. Then they dislodged and broke off some of the corner bricks of my home. Then their crane cracked up the city sidewalk and broke up my front steps. I told them they needed to fix this.
They didn’t fix anything.
“I Haven’t Seen Them Since”
Instead, they dumped a load of dirt to backfill the basement and started building a retaining wall to prop up the party wall with the house next door. After laying a few rows of cinderblocks, they up and left. I haven’t seen them since.
I took photographs and gave them to my landlord. I told him, ‘You got to get in touch with the city because they aren’t doing their job.’
I’ve called your office and they promised to send out an inspector. I haven’t seen anyone yet, and I’m home almost every day.
Mr. Braverman, I’m not a prejudiced man, but I have to think that if this was a white section of Baltimore, your office wouldn’t allow this to go on for months and months.
I believe in this city, but I don’t believe that such an exposed party wall and piles of rubble would be tolerated anywhere downtown or in Bolton Hill.
I’m 74 years old, and I know what I’m talking about.
1117 Winchester Street