NEWPORT NEWS — The city and the Newport News Redevelopment and Housing Authority were recently awarded a $30 million grant from the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development. The money will be used for the Marshall-Ridley neighborhood of the southeast community and other projects outlined in the city’s Transformational plan.
While the plan includes neighborhood changes like demolishing and rebuilding Ridley Circle apartments and adding other amenities to the area, community members and residents at Ridley Circle have their own ideas about what the city should do with the money.
“They need to dig it up,” Eddie Perry, a deacon at the United House of Prayer for All People, said in regards to the Ridley Circle public housing development. “I think they’re overdue.”
Perry, who has been a deacon at the church for 25 years, noted no one from the community has talked to him about the recent grant. The church is off Ivy Avenue, across the street from the Ridley Apartments and is surrounded by trimmed grass, a black fence a little over 5-feet tall with two lion statues at the locked front gate.
Most of the apartments are light blue and have red doors. Some apartments also have screen doors, while others have wht appeared to be bullet holes. The windows are boarded up with blinds, tapestry and other fabrics and in the backyard, clothes hang out to dry for other residents to see.
Michael Bird, 34, has lived in Ridley Apartments on and off for most of his life.
A former Ridley resident, he now works for the Veterans Affairs department as a health care assisted living professional, cleans buildings at night and in his spare time, visits his family who still live in the public housing complex.
Bird said he feels the grant money should be used to open up more community centers and provide after-school activities such as Big Brother programs.
“The bad kids get all the activities,” Bird said. “The good kids don’t get nothing ––– they forget about them.”
Tashauna Williams, 25, is originally from Hampton and works in the Smithfield Packing plant. She moved to Ridley on May 16 with her daughter and feels the neighborhood needs a place for the kids to play.
“I would like the community to have security,” she said, suggesting making the apartment complex a gated community. “Not anyone can get in and ID checks and stuff.”
Williams said after the grant was awarded to the city, people from the HRCAP handed out flyers giving residents a “heads up” about the proposed changes to Ridley, mainly the apartments. But she, along with other residents, aren’t sure when the construction will start and where they will stay once the buildings get demolished.
Another resident, Erica Williams, 38, agrees, saying her son comes out and plays in the dirt. Currently unemployed, Williams lived in Ridley from 2001-2009 and because of unforeseen circumstances, ended up back in public housing in February of this year. She wants the city to give kids something to do.
“With $30 million you could put a massive playground,” Williams said. “You could do a a massive pool with lifeguards.”
In addition, Williams said adding a YMCA nearby or a Boys and Girls Club like Marshall Courts, which is connected to the rental office, would be beneficial for the children since they offer services like tutoring.
“My son can count to 60,” Williams said. “I see a lot of kids who can’t count to 5.”