We were rather disappointed in Bertram de Souza’s portrayal of the City of Youngstown’s Deconstruction Initiative in his July 12 column, “Why pay to strip homes in Y’town?”
Many of our community’s older and historical homes are filled with valuable surface items like leaded glass windows, elaborate fireplace mantels, and decorative hardware and fixtures. As Mr. de Souza pointed out, criminals have become quite adept at stripping vacant homes of these surface valuables. They have even become experts in removing valuable metals contained within the building structure, such as copper piping and wiring.
But are these items the only source of value locked up in an abandoned structure? Is it possible for a community to convert its tremendous blight challenges into an opportunity?
If we hope to emerge as a stable and sustainable community, it is imperative that we explore and develop policies and practices that utilize our city’s resources in an intelligent and effective manner. One such practice that the City of Youngstown has been exploring is that of utilizing deconstruction as a viable tool, along with traditional demolition methods.
Deconstruction is the systematic disassembly of a structure so as to preserve as much of the building materials present as possible. Deconstruction enables the reuse of valuable commodities used in building such as lumber, brick, metal, asphalt shingles, and many other materials. The process has been proven in many parts of the country to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills, aid in workforce development and job skills training, create significantly more jobs than traditional demolition, revitalize neighborhoods, and create environmentally friendly and recycled building materials markets. Deconstruction also offers the possibility of creating a self sustaining blight removal mechanism for the community.
The success of the process is contingent on efficiency and the presence of a market for the salvaged materials. Given these facts, and taking into consideration the current economic climate, the city of Youngstown recognized that it would take time for a deconstruction contractor to achieve economic scale. The city felt that the additional $2,000 paid for the deconstruction of the Brentwood home that Mr. de Souza cites was a worthy investment that will pay dividends in the long term development of a self sustaining blight removal mechanism.
The City of Youngstown is interested in preserving the sustainability of its neighborhoods and in investing in creative economic development projects, like deconstruction, that provide jobs for honest individuals. The city is vehemently opposed to the glorification of criminal activity as an efficient and effective means of providing city services.
WILLIAM D’AVIGNON, Director
Community Development Agency
STEVE NOVOTNY, City Planning Community Development Agency