GIFFORD — The once thriving Gifford Gardens Apartments is now a blight on the community and must be demolished, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People President Tony Brown said Thursday.
Brown spoke during a Health Department site visit to underscore the blight the now vacant former public housing unit has become as a haven for drug addicts, the homeless, gangs and prostitutes.
“The place is a cesspool,” Brown said. “It is a breeding ground for crime and it is getting worse. They need to bulldoze this and start new.”
The visit was conducted by Julianne Price of the Florida Department of Health, who has made it a mission to get the 3 1-2 acre property condemned. She has been monitoring conditions at the housing project since 2004.
“The condition of the foreclosed property is a very serious public health threat due to the fact there are rodents, transient persons occupying the units, human feces and what appears to be blood observed in the units,” she said. “(There are) odors, solid waste accumulation, mold, and the worst cockroach infestation I have ever observed, among other issues.”
Vandals have stripped most of the apartments of wiring, air conditioning units and any other metal or household items they could scrap or sell. Aside from the obvious health issues one of the most dangerous features is every section of railing has been removed from the stairs leading to the second floor along with the second floor railings leaving the walkway an open invitation for an accident.
The Gifford Garden Apartments was once a jewel in Gifford when it first opened in 1961. It contained five buildings and 55 one-, two-, and three-bedroom low income apartments and maintained a family-friendly environment up to the 1990s. But the property was eventually sold to a private investor and each subsequent owner has let the complex suffer from more and more disrepair.
It is currently in foreclosure as City National Bank in Los Angeles attempts to take ownership of the property from A to Z Home Management, LLC, which lists its headquarters in Stamford, Conn.
The county Building Department condemned the property in July and removed the last three residents . Aaron Raymond of City National Bank informed Health Department Attorney Suzanne Vitunac that it believes the property can be rehabilitated and the bank’s stake in the property would be “significantly diminished by demolition of the Bank’s collateral.”
Raymond also informed Vitunac that the bank expected to take ownership of Gifford Gardens by the end of the year and that it has “already received offers from interested parties wishing to acquire this property.”
For Brown it is just more of the same.
“It’s just a game the bank plays,” he said. “They do whatever they can until they find another clown who says he can fix it and then he walks away when he finds out everything needs to be replaced.”
Price makes regular visits to the property and is working with Gifford residents to turn the property into what it once was.
“It is a cancer on the community now,” she said.