JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Pastor Mark Griffin, of Wayman Ministries, whose organization is located across the street from the Eureka Gardens apartment complex on the Westside called Thursday for the Housing and Urban Development to replace the management of the troubled complex by Monday.
Repeated phone calls to HUD's field office director Thursday were not returned.
Surrounded by residents of the complex, Griffin said he is pleased with the mayor, City Council and city employees, and others who have shown concern about the condition of the troubled complex, but is frustrated with the pace of change and is worried about the safety of those living there.
"Whether it's instant death as a result of one bullet or a slow death as a result of poor living conditions, I could not be silent any longer," Griffin said. "We believe that people have been and are dying slow deaths in Eureka because of living conditions that I consider to be absolutely criminal."
As spokesman for the tenants, Griffin said that most are ready to move out. He said they would rather suffer the temporary inconvenience than suffer the long-term health effects. He said personal health isn't the only worry at Eureka Gardens; so is public safety."
"If a fire breaks out in an apartment, some of the stairs would not be able to support the weight of various firefighters with their gears fire hoses and other tools," Griffin said. "The entire staircase could collapse under such weight."
Griffin said he wants the health department to check every child who lives in Eureka Gardens for long-term exposure to gas and carbon monoxide. Griffin is also encouraging the City Council to find a way to revoke the property tax exemption status of the property owner, Global Ministries Foundation.
"Jacksonville will not allow people to set up shop in our city, take advantage of our resources, utilize public services, not invest back into their own properties, and on top of all that, not pay property taxes," Griffin said.
Resident Darlene Ball said she just got out of the hospital for the third time in the past few months. She says her most recent visit was the result of the accidental carbon dioxide gas release into every apartment on Tuesday night.
"All the time I'm dealing with, the mold, the mildew, the gas, and it got to a point where I don't want to stay in my apartment," Ball said.
Griffin is calling for a city-wide rally at Eureka Gardens at 6 p.m. Monday to show support for the residents of Jacksonville's subsidized housing complexes.
"This is Jacksonville. This is not a place where slumlords are welcome," Griffin said.
Legal Aid was at Wayman Ministries Thursday helping residents fill out forms so they can find out what kind of damage is in each apartment.
A two-day sweep of the complex by city code inspectors earlier this month found violations in 163 out of 400 units at Eureka Gardens.
After months of News4Jax reports about conditions at Eureka Gardens that city officials ultimately called deplorable, HUD rescinded its August inspection that awarded the complex an 85 score on a scale of 100 and ordered a fresh inspection.
Crumbling stairs with rust and holes were found as a major problem throughout the complex. Windows that weren't in working order in case of an emergency, carbon monoxide concerns and a collapsed ceiling in one unit were all absent from the HUD report
City inspectors spotted many exterior issues, including a column detached from a building, leaking air conditioning units dripping from window after window, a broken gas line, and exposed wires all over the property just steps from where children play.