New Albany’s plan gets personal

New Albany, let’s talk.

I’m a Louisvillian by birth, and my heart still lives in the River City, but I sleep in New Albany because I married a Hoosier. I love much about this hamlet; and I am excited to see it growing and changing.

What doesn’t excite me is a questionable plan coming out of Mayor Jeff Gahan’s office over a housing project proposal that will affect 1,500 or more New Albany residents, including one of my oldest and dearest friends, Gloria Nelly, 46. We’ve been friends for over 30 years.

You see, Gloria, lives in Parkview Terrace with her sons. It is important to me that she and her family have a place to sleep, be warm and celebrate their holidays.

In March 2017, the News and Tribune reported that the Housing Authority of New Albany, under the thumb of Gahan, plans to destroy 635 of its 1,100 public housing units. Gahan’s idea is to reduce the number of public dwellings held by the city. The problem is — there is no plan for rebuilding or relocating residents. They claim there will be plans, but nothing solid has been made available. At least not one I can easily locate.

I did call the city, and I’m waiting for a response.

According to the article, only some housing will be rehabilitated, and the other unlucky residents will be wandering the wilds of New Albany’s very limited housing to find a new home. This could leave families homeless or forced out of the city to find a place to live. Certainly, this sounds great for the local economy.

Gahan made the claim to the News and Tribune that “we went down this road to improve residency for everyone.”

Look, Jeff — destroying my best friend’s home, isn’t improving anything for me. Keeping her safe and housed would. The mayor could not be reached for comment before publication.

When I talked to Gloria, she was trying not to worry. “Originally, I had heard that they would move us out during demolition, and we would be offered to come back first,” she said.

It wasn’t until she was interviewed by the newspaper that she found out the city’s real plans didn’t include moving back in. The city apparently only has figured out a plan to demolish, but none to replace, relocate or rebuild.

“I have lived here 13 years (way longer than ever planned). Where will I move? I have no idea. I don’t know much. I have not heard of any offers to displaced families.”

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Residents are rightfully pissed off.

They’ve partnered with a bipartisan group called Hoosier Action and formed We Are New Albany to help shine a light on this issue.

One resident, Candace Brewer, is a grandmother raising two young girls. She wants the kids to remain in secure housing and to have the structure of knowing where they will sleep and where they will go to school.

“I don’t want to put them in a homeless shelter again,” she said in a video on Hoosier Action’s We Are New Albany website. According to Courier Journal, she and the girls had lived in a shelter before finding housing.

She said that the vouchers being offered to relocate residents are fewer than the residents need for relocation. The Housing Authority director of New Albany, David Duggins, claimed there are 500 vouchers. But residents will need more help finding enough affordable housing, according to activists.

The whole debacle stinks. It is rank with insensitivity, but more than that, it is rank with unsavory characters and the absence of concrete information.

Let’s look at the timeline.

The plan was announced in January. In March some details were released to the News and Tribune. In April, the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners approved the plan. In May, the Housing Authority Director, Bob Lane was fired because “his vision differed” from the board and the mayor. That’s according to his fellow commissioner, Bob Norwood, who also said, “Statements by the director made it evident we were not in agreement as to the direction we need to proceed.”

Former City Councilman John Gonder called the firing evidence of a “hostile takeover” by Gahan. In June, the director of Finance and Compliance resigned and accused the board of knowingly violating internal policy and a HUD order. According to a letter from June 9, HUD has placed the Housing Authority under a “zero threshold” rule which means that any personnel changes, expenditures over $1 and other agency business must get approval first from the HUD office in Indianapolis.

New Albany’s government is being reckless and disorganized. Gahan’s power grabs are not much different from those of Governor Selfie in Kentucky.

He is being reckless with the lives of people who need help the most. He is being reckless with the life of one of my best friends and her children, and that’s a big no from me.

Thumbs down, Gahan.

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