You’d think A.S.S. stands for, say, Detroit Police Abandoned Section Squad rather than Abandoned Structure Squad, judging by the reception on the 5900 block of Marlborough on Detroit’s far East Side.
Folks A.S.S. hails on the street are curiously suspicious of outsiders with cameras and questions. One woman waves us away while getting into a car and leaving. “I don’t know nothin’ about no abandoned houses,” she says, when asked about the street.
A group of young adults and teenagers on a porch responds similarly. “This muhfucka look like the law,” one says, an unfriendly eye on our camera.
All present, save for one young woman and a tall, skinny kid, do an about-face, and head inside. The woman says she is only here to get some money from her brother. The skinny kid covers his face with his T-shirt and starts pacing. A quick scan of the house reveals broken windows on the second floor and a sparsely furnished living room downstairs.
Let’s see. People occupy a house with broken windows. They cover their faces. They walk away, openly accusing us of being cops. Hmmmm.
Feeling a little nervous, we execute an about-face of our own.
Doing some research later on several of the vacant homes, we find none has been reported to the city as dangerous. All of them are eyesores even if they aren’t all open to trespass and technically dangerous. They turn the block, located just east of Chalmers and I-94, into a picture of despair.
The house at 5940 Marlborough, for instance, is a decayed Tudor with a garden full of colorful weeds growing in its fenced yard; lower windows are readily open to trespassers.
The house across the street, 5939 Marlborough (pictured above), looks like a better candidate for saving. Its structure seems to be intact, but the tall foliage around it suggests it has been neglected for some time. Tucked behind 5939 is the small home at 5945. It’s a shy one-story, out of place in this neighborhood; city records list 5940 as its tax address.
The city of Detroit lists Verna M. Martin as taxpayer for 5940, while Deborah Lawrence is listed as being responsible for the levy on 5945. Calls made to each by the A.S.S. were not returned.
Trees appear to border old property lines on the street, indicating where homes may have stood. A quick count of lots and standing homes — occupied and vacant — indicates about a dozen homes once crowded either side of the street. Now the place is about half empty lots, and many of the homes remaining are vacant. This place once was a much different community, similar to other East Side communities inhabited by Southern migrants and autoworkers. Now, it’s a home of suspicion and despair.
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