Newspaper publisher declares city leaders 'don't give a damn' about Cherry Tree Crossing families

Cherry Tree Crossing (WRDW-TV)
Cherry Tree Crossing (WRDW-TV)
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News 12 First at Five / Friday, Oct. 26, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A local publisher is saying Augusta commissioners really don't care about people live at Cherry Tree Crossing. Both sides are now speaking up before the walls come down at Augusta's largest public housing complex.

"You all don't give a damn about these people," said Metro Courier Publisher Barbara Gordon. "Let's just tell it how it is.

"That's not true," replied Commissioner Corey Johnson.

It was standing room only earlier this week when people living in Augusta's Cherry Tree Crossing public housing development learned their homes will soon be demolished.

The plan is to replace the complex with mixed income apartments.

"It started out as a beautiful idea, but it has turned out to be a beautiful lie," Gordon said. "Because it is not about improving the lives of people, it is about the profits of those who are going to buy that complex."

Johnson could not disagree more.

"Overall, it is going to be a good idea," he said. "Because they do have more development coming at the corner of James Brown Boulevard and Wrightsboro Road."

That new development would provide units for seniors. Johnson points to the recent Laney Walker redevelopment as signs of other affordable options around town.

"These are homes are now more than $100,000," Gordon said. "Not only are they moving theses folks out, they are redefining low to moderate income in order to get another set of folks into these houses."

Johnson says residents will be offered vouchers that could promise a new life for Cherry Tree families in places like south Augusta.

"They are quick to say what's wrong. Give me a solution," Johnson said. "You have an option to accept the voucher or if you want to stay in public housing, you can do that. That's your choice."

Gordon says the writing is on the wall.

"Half of these people have jobs, and they have jobs in the inner city." Gordon said. "And when you put them in south Augusta where there are no bus lines, what happens to these folks? The Good Book tells us the poor will always be with us. They are going to be there, but it is incumbent upon us to look out for them."

The Augusta Housing Authority will spend the next 30 to 45 days working on the application for demolition. It should go before HUD in December. Moving could begin as early as next July for the more than 380 families at Cherry Tree.

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