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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Diane English, May 19, 2006. Interview U-0183. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

English predicts the outcome of the Hope VI initiative

English explains the ties between Piedmont Courts public housing residents and Belmont homeowners. She argues that the city appeased Piedmont Court residents by promising job and educational training with the federally sponsored Hope VI revitalization plan. English rejects the notion that the public housing residents will return to the revitalized community. She asserts that the city used the community's violent crime rate as a red herring in order to push out low-income residents and bring in wealthier homeowners to help revitalize the downtown Charlotte area.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Diane English, May 19, 2006. Interview U-0183. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DIANE ENGLISH:
We used to give them flyers every month. We used to give flyers and crime watch. When I started the crime watch we used to take the flyers in there because a lot of the people—. Oh, the neighborhood people loved the crime watch newsletter because we'd put in there who got caught for what. The first thing they would say, "Oh, I told you I know him. He's been doing drugs." This went on. We were actually get the report from the police department and put it in the newsletter. The people loved it. They thought that was the best thing. "When you all going to do another one of those newsletters?" We used to go down there and talk to them and try to see if we could get them to combine. We felt like they felt like they were separate. It's always been like Piedmont Courts. I'm like, is Piedmont Courts not in Belmont? It always made you feel like it was just Piedmont Courts and then you got Belmont. The same way they got this Hope VI thing now. It feels like there is no Belmont. It's just Hope VI and Piedmont Courts. That's all you hear. Hope VI and Piedmont Courts. Piedmont Courts is a part of Belmont. It's simple. Get over it. Why don't you all include it in the Belmont—? They changing the names of everything. It's like Charlotte Housing Authority has taken over the neighborhood. Basically, to do whatever they see fit and whenever they decide.
SARAH THUESEN:
In working with the folks and getting to know some of the folks who lived over in Piedmont Courts, what sorts of concerns and needs did they discuss with you and were those different from those you heard from people in Belmont outside of Piedmont Courts?
DIANE ENGLISH:
The people that living in Piedmont Courts, they were—. A lot of them didn't have high school diplomas and they was just trying to go back to school to get high school diplomas. They were trying to get job trainings. They were told that they could get job trainings and high school diploma and that would make them ready to relocate back into some of the apartments once the apartments are ready.
SARAH THUESEN:
For the Hope VI you mean?
DIANE ENGLISH:
For something. At that time it wasn't nothing. It was just—.
SARAH THUESEN:
Even before the Hope Six.
DIANE ENGLISH:
They tried it two years before. I think they failed at the grant that they did two years before. The grant that they had previously applied for they didn't get. Then they retired again in 2003. This one, it took them almost a year to get right. I think they had a lot of help from the city.
SARAH THUESEN:
What was Piedmont Courts like in general? Just describe to me—.
DIANE ENGLISH:
Gunshot alley. It was terrible. People shooting, killing. Drugs. Kids running wild. It was awful, almost like—. It was the exact same thing as the neighborhood but it was like it was condensed because it was apartments. It was just like this big old neighborhood. Gunshot alley. It was just condensed. It was more condensed because everybody lived within the Piedmont Courts.
SARAH THUESEN:
So, what would you say to someone then who said, "Well, if there is so much violence then it should be torn down."
DIANE ENGLISH:
To me, that's not a reason to tear down apartments because you got violence, because you got crime. To me, that was a poor excuse for the city and Charlotte Housing Authority to tear down to remodel for condos. That's what I feel. I don't think it's got anything to do with the crime. Then Piedmont Courts had been remodeled a couple of years ago. They started remodeling Piedmont Courts.
SARAH THUESEN:
Oh really?
DIANE ENGLISH:
I had a friend that lived in one of them that had been remodeled.
SARAH THUESEN:
What do you think of it?
DIANE ENGLISH:
It was nice because it went in, they insulated it. She had the sheet rock walls not the brick walls. She had new walls. They redone the banisters, windowsills. It was really nice.
SARAH THUESEN:
They are doing this just a couple of years before it's going to be torn down?
DIANE ENGLISH:
Well, yeah, before I even heard anything about a Hope Six. She was living in one of them. Then all of a sudden you start saying, well they dilapidated. They just didn't take care of them.
SARAH THUESEN:
What do you wish the city had done with Piedmont Courts?
DIANE ENGLISH:
To me, they should have gutted them and remodeled them and left them as is. The city doesn't own them. The Housing Authority owns them so they say. Charlotte Housing Authority they are doing it all over the city. I think they want to get away from public housing which they say they got new ones that they've already put up like Oaklawn on the Park and Arbor Glen. They are real pretty. They are real pretty, pretty, pretty. There are still project people living there. It's not obvious. It just makes it—. I think what they do it they single out a lot of people. There's no way a lot of people can make the income to go back into those apartments. We question what is the income limit. Well, it's a sliding scale, blah, blah, blah, which it is. If they got to compete with just ordinary people they don't have—some of the didn't have high school diplomas. They didn't have job experiences. What make you think they are going to come back and qualify? If they had police, the police mainly visited every apartment there once upon a time. If you got a police record what makes you think they going to qualify to come back. I think they targeted Piedmont Courts because you got an old Fourth Ward up here. I mean, god, you got them old big fancy condos stuck out back there and you look back there and you see old raggedy, gun down, Piedmont Courts. Then you come on up and see the old raggedy, dilapidated houses in Belmont. Naturally, Piedmont Courts had to be the first. They had to go. They had talked about putting a buffer there when we was doing our plan. Put a buffer between—what is that?—Piedmont Courts. Well the freeway, 77, 277 they wanted to put a buffer there.
SARAH THUESEN:
Like a barrier of some sort?
DIANE ENGLISH:
They said trees, a line of trees for a buffer. A buffer for the noise. We knew it was to hide Piedmont Courts really is what it was for. They didn't want people riding past and see the projects.
SARAH THUESEN:
To hide it from view.
DIANE ENGLISH:
Yeah. Because these people down here in Fourth Ward, they looking out their back door. What are they looking at—Piedmont Courts, right? I think that's what it mainly amounted to which is sad.