By DAVID SKOLNICK
Mayor Jay Williams is vowing that 25 vacant houses, suspected of being havens for criminals, on the city’s South Side near St. Dominic Church will be demolished by the end of the year.
Calling the project “Operation Redemption,” Williams said most of the houses are on Lucius and Auburndale avenues and Southern Boulevard.
Williams made the announcement outside the church on East Lucius Avenue during a Saturday prayer vigil planned as a response to a series of recent violent crimes.
Thomas J. Repchic was murdered, and his wife, Jacqueline, was seriously injured during a Sept. 25 shooting. The couple were leaving St. Dominic’s when hit by gunfire in their car in what police say was a case of mistaken identity.
Also, real-estate agent Vivian Martin was murdered Sept. 20 on the city’s East Side.
The vigil was also for Angeline Fimognari, an elderly St. Dominic parishioner who was murdered in January in the church parking lot after attending Mass.
The Rev. Gregory Maturi, St. Dominic’s pastor, had a list of 20 houses.
“We’ve got to tear down the houses as part of the city’s revitalization,” he said. “They are blighted, dilapidated, nuisance houses; places for drugs and other criminal behavior. They are places for gangs to hang out and for them to go to after committing a crime.”
In addition to those 20, Williams said he and Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, whose ward includes the church and the surrounding streets, found five other houses that are also “trouble spots” in the area.
All of the houses are on the city’s demolition list, but not all were supposed to be knocked down this year, Williams said.
That has changed with the murders, he said.
Some will be taken down by the city’s street department. Money for the rest will come from a federal grant the city received to stabilize neighborhoods and from people who have agreed to donate for this particular purpose, Williams said.
“These houses are such a plague on this community,” he said. “St. Dom’s is raising money to expand its parish center, and they shouldn’t have to deal with these houses.”
Once the demolitions are done, the area will be converted to green space, Williams said.
“They could be used to help revitalize the neighborhood,” he said.