OldHouseNewHouse/NewCityOldCity full transcript

Virginia The hub of this community was the elementary school. We had two large churches here. All kinds of restaurants. And we had five movie houses. People could stay right here because we had everything. And we lived all together and nobody looked at anybody as if to say we are better than the next person.

2-b Charles’ friend We had a Laundromat out there, a Coney Island joint. The restaurant, the shoeshine, the hat cleaning place, the hardware [store] that was up there. All you had to walk off three, four blocks and you could get anything you wanted.

3-c Virginia The population at that time, in this neighborhood, was probably four thousand or more families, and there was a house on every single lot.

4-b Charles It was a boarding house. I paid twenty-five dollars a week. Shit. And everybody shared one bathroom. It was my first house. First of my own, that I lived in. You understand?

5-c Virginia Right now, there are seven families left in the eighty-three acres [here].

6-b Charles This right here was a school [Kennedy Elementary School]. Right here was the entrance, right here. Check that out, "No parking on school days, 8 to 4 PM." And it's still there, incredible huh?

7-c Virginia
In 1997, there was a meeting with city officials. We went to this meeting and the city officials said, “This is going to be a redevelopment area, and by the way, you are not going to be part of this, we're going to buy your property. And if you don't sell us your house, then we will declare eminent domain, and we will take your house.” So that was the beginning of the end of this neighborhood.

8-b Charles
This is where I lived with my mama and daddy before they divorced, right here. That's where the house was.

9-c Virginia
The city council had voted to take this [land] and declare eminent domain, and that was it.

10-b Charles
That ain't what we've got now. That's a lot of [empty] land here too, ain't it?

11-c Virginia I told the city at the meeting that I will not go, [and] that is my home, [and] this is my community. I've been here for forty-six years; I'm going nowhere. And the only time I'm going to move is when I decide to move.

12-b Charles We are the richest country in the world right? We should have health care, automatic, by law, [and] free! [A] motherfucker gets sick, [then] go to the motherfucking doctor! And none of us should pay for that shit. Y'all sending motherfucking billions of dollars over to those motherfuckers who got oil. That's some crazy shit!

13-c Virginia The day they came to tear down the church, I asked them if they could please leave those trees. [But] they cut this big huge tree down. That tree was 137 years old. You destroy the whole community, [and] you destroy people’s homes, but the least you could do is leave the tree that's been here for one hundred plus years.

14-b Charles There was a store on that corner right there. They still got the phone booth up! Ain't that something? The phone [booth] is [still] there but the building is gone. Ain't that something?

15-c Virginia This is my home, and I intend to stay in this home until I get ready to go to my final home. And that's going to be of my choosing and the Lord's choosing, not the city.

Mario I feel very much at home, I feel very safe here.

John Safety, quality of life here. Scott Having that comfort and having that camaraderie between the families, and [in] this community we watch out for each other.

17-d Charles Growing up around the same people, I know all the people in the neighborhood, they [all] know me.
Randy I always felt safe.
Jane I could count on the neighbors, and they were more willing to help than [my] family was.

Scott Better suited for our lifestyle and has everything we could possibly want in a home.
Audra It’s an American dream, to have a good life and have money.
Randy Cause its quieter, you know. Peaceful.

Cassandra It was tree-lined, it was so green and pretty.
Mario Everybody's lawn was manicured, there was pride in their property.
Randy A great neighborhood, I'm telling you, like one in a million.

John People wanted lower taxes, [and] wanted more space.

Michelle A dream home . . . a house that is perfect, [and] that has everything you want in it.

Scott And they are developing three or four miles beyond [here], and continuously going where the land is cheaper. They are building larger homes on cheaper land.

John Home ownership has always been a cornerstone of America and why America is so great.

Lorenzo It was a big, big house.

Mario Back in those days when they built a home, they built a home. It was solid.

Cassandra The houses were kept up, and there weren't any empty or vacant spaces like it is now.

Michelle The "main drag" . . . is M-59. It has every single store or restaurant you could ever possibly need, within a mile from my house. Everything is new, the house is new, schools are new, [and] that’s what I like about it.

Jane I have real fond memories of going downtown shopping on the bus as a kid. Randy The riots killed downtown.
Gary The cops started the riots.

Randy Was I scared out of my mind. I saw the burning buildings, people going in and out [of burnt stores]. It was unbelievable.

Mario Well my folks left [Detroit] right after the riot.

Larry Yeah, we live in the outskirts of metropolitan Detroit. We are [way] out here.

Mario I hear they [are] moving more out here than [moving] down there.

Audra The whole street was selling their houses. [And] everybody moving in was black.

Randy A mile down my street, there was probably fifty to sixty for [house for] sale signs.

Jane Well, our neighborhood changed considerably, and everyone kind of moved to the outer edges of Detroit or into the suburbs.

Cassandra It just seemed like the neighborhoods [in Detroit] just went down.

Michelle We moved out here [to the suburb] for financial [reasons].

Cassandra The drugs came in.

Charles They had dope going all up and down the street.

Ronnie Which lead to my addiction for crack [and] cocaine. I felt helpless; felt betrayed, and kind of gave up on life.

Michelle We moved out here and paid $50,000 less for this house. It's brand new and so much bigger.

Gary It started up with the cops and it ended up with crack. Cops tore the city up, and brought the crack in. Then you had the guns, the dope and the gun shootings.

Lorenzo It [was] scary to be outside, and it was not a safe place to live.

Michelle We've made a huge return on our house. We'll make $80,000 dollars when we sell this house.

Mario You've got to live with bars on your windows? Come on. Give me a break.

Lorenzo She [my wife] didn't want to move, but I said [it's] time to go.

Scott [It's] a great community, at a great price. We are using the benefit from the original purchase of this home, and . . . purchasing a second home that's larger [and] more valuable.

33-d Michelle I try to avoid going there, even during the day.

Scott You're afraid of getting a flat tire. You're afraid of running out of gas, because she thinks we are gonna get carjacked.

Michelle So we are upgrading to double the size [of our current] house, and we are not going to be paying any more money [for it]. That's why we are staying here.

Mario All the burnt houses, and all the properties and buildings that are just abandoned. Thousands of them. John We had to remove lots of the structures that were not cost effective to restore. They are no longer useful, so they need to be removed.

Michelle But because this area is the way it is, [and] they build [houses] so cheap [here], we're able to [have] our first house, and our second house, [that] most people don’t get until they are forty or fifty.

Audra We drove through and literally there [were] no houses. They have ripped almost every house out.

Cassandra Houses being burnt, [and only] the shells [of them] would just stay there.

Scott+Michelle We had an opportunity to capitalize on [financially]. And that opportunity will arise again because we're basically replaying the same scenario.

Jeff What we have [here] is a lot of open space.

Charles+Gary So every time we have the Devil’s Night, the east side [of Detroit] will burn. So my theory is 'cause it's closest to the water [front]. So [they] want to burn down all them houses over there, so [they can] build up new condominiums, alright? Alright? Buy up all that land, and put up condos 'cause it closest to the water.

40-a Rudy You have a job, you make money and you spend that money. It's a consumer system. It’s about supply and demand. That's America.

41-d Mario Why would you want to go down there [to Detroit]? What kind of incentive do I have to go back to live in that town. There is nothing for me [in Detroit].

42-a Toni There's not that many places to go [here], like there's no museums. There's not many activities within walking distance of your house.

Michelle So if we wanted to do something we would have to go downtown. If I had to drive to do that once a year, that’s fine.

Lorenzo Lot of things to do in downtown. They have the car shows, and we go to football games, and we go to baseball games.

Larry+Cassandra Entertainment for us is [our] family or the church.

Gary They don't worry about us on the other side of town, [on the] other side of the freeway. Two different worlds. You [are] looking at the Hollywood when you in downtown, and at the other side, you are looking at the ghetto.

Cassandra Ah, recreation we just drive around. Larry I love to drive with my family.

47-d Scott Walking, on the sidewalks, [or] down the side of the streets. Not everybody has a car down there [in Detroit]. Out here, everybody has a car. You drive everywhere. In the city you walk.

Jane Here I [feel] kind of secluded and isolated.

Toni I don't know if it is boredom, but it's a lack of stimulation.

Cassandra My kids don't have any friends on our block.

Mickey Quality of life [and] bigger piece of property. Wanted a larger home or a newer home.

Toni There's no central area, just intersections, with strip malls and gas stations.

Mickey Once you had all the highway system, making it easier to get out of the city . . . people just kept moving out to newer areas. 50-a

Larry You know the media portrays Detroit worldwide as [a] really bad place. No, Detroit is not a bad place.

Gary Washington, DC is worse than Detroit. I've been there. Right around the corner from the president's Oval Office.

Rudy In the suburbs everybody go behind their walls and that's it.

Jane People would drive into their garages, close the door and you wouldn't see them get out.

Charles You got to stay real close to the peeps [people], cause we got to keep together.

Audra Families living together, [and] helping each other out.

Charles: You got to get unity. Everything [gotta be] tight.

Jane So isolated. I just felt like "Gosh, we are not part of the world anymore."

Audra Because there isn't that sense of community, I think. 54-a

Randy Urban pioneers. I want to be one of those guys that move back into the city, to an old house, and fix it. You know those old beautiful houses.

Audra Why don't we try to get a real house, a house that has substance to it, a brick house, something that has been around for a long time [and] has a character, to spend our time there, put our love and energy to make it better.

Charles We go out. The Europeans come in. That's the way it is.

Ronnie You see, over the years and months people kept setting [it] on fire. They were selling dope out of here, and then the police kept setting it on fire. I guess [the police] were trying to get it torn down. But people still got to have somewhere to go. It's sad. But you got to do what you got to do, [and] come in here to sleep.

Michelle Welcome! This is a three-bedroom, two-full bath Ranch. This is called the "great room" out here. We expanded it quite a bit from the original floor plan, so we bumped the kitchen out, [and] made it nice and big. I like antiques, so these [table and the buffet] are really, really old.

57-c Ronnie I stayed a winter and a summer here, but I had heaters. Yeah, I had propane heaters, had everything boarded up. I had plastic all over the windows to make sure everything was comfortable, so I wouldn't be too cold.

58-b Michelle He is so proud of his grass. It was all completely dirt when we bought this house. We had a sodding party one day and all of our friends and family came over, and we all threw the grass down.

59-c Ronnie When this apartment was [occupied], a guy died right in that bedroom. Right there. He caught on fire, [and] got burned up right in that room; an older guy. Here is another part where someone sleeps. Someone is sleeping here because they got [the windows] boarded up, [so] they [can] keep the wind off of them or the rain.

60-b Michelle This is my safari bathroom. You know, just cause all the animals, and the African theme. This is my daughter's bedroom. We love lavender. And purple is her favorite color, so everything is purple.

61-c Ronnie A girl got raped in this room and [they] killed her, a "hooker." The guys brought her up here. They molested her; they tied her arms together and strangled her to death right in this room. Right here!

Michelle+Scott None of this used to be here. Lot has changed. Lot of these subdivisions used to be golf courses. Basically, in here, they have Ranches, which are one-level, [and] Colonials, which are two-levels, and the split levels, which is ours, a kind of a combination between a Ranch and a Colonial.

Ronnie Like I said, over the years of the fire damages [it] had, they just discarded the building. The drywalls, all the plaster, and the structure of the building just started to come apart. And the way you keep taking [the] bricks away from it, you [are] taking support away from it. I think what's holding it up is the pilasters outside [and] around the building.

Scott They have different faces of the home called elevations you can choose. And each elevation costs, as you upgrade the elevation obviously the price [goes up]. Some of the things [on the elevations] we didn't find important cause this really doesn't add a lot of value to the home as much as square footage would.

Ronnie They have no respect over there. (A homeless man) No respect! Not at all, not at all. Ronnie Just because a person is down and out on their luck. God said he created everything equal, and . . . that’s why he say "What good a man to gain [in] the world if he loose his soul?" So [the] people [who] got it all, but still be miserable inside. (A homeless man) Hey, no pictures of me!

Scott The master bath; this could be someone's apartment. There is one, two, three, four, five bathroom sinks [in the house]. This will be the kid's room where all of their toys and stuff are, [and] study room as they get older.

Ronnie You see people change their boots and stuff [here]. Hey, these are nice boots, man. So apparently someone is staying up here cause they are covering stuff. So in reality, you have four, five sets of peoples that come in and out and sleep [here].

Scott Oh, I forgot. There's a bathroom downstairs, another half bath.