Councilman Proposes Delaying Peoplestown Retention Pond Project | WABE 90.1 FM

Councilman Proposes Delaying Peoplestown Retention Pond Project

Sep 28, 2015

GSU Law professor Tanya Washington, center, speaks against the installation of a retention pond in the Peoplestown community at a protest on the steps of City Hall in Atlanta on Sept., 21, 2015. She presented a petition with 5,000 signatures for City Council members to look at other options in the neighborhood. Washington lives in one of the affected homes.
Credit Tasnim Shamma / WABE

An Atlanta City councilman wants to put on hold plans to build a stormwater retention pond and park in the Peoplestown neighborhood.

The Department of Watershed Management has been looking to demolish about 30 homes to build the stormwater retention pond to alleviate flooding in the area.  

This is not about an environmental fix, but about gentrification. - State Senator Vincent Fort

Councilman Michael Julian Bond said he didn’t want to be morbid, but one option was to put the project on hold.

Bond said that might allow the city time to buy 93-year-old Mattie Jackson’s home and allow her to live there until she passes away. After that, the city could build the pond.

Mattie Jackson wasn’t at the Sept. 21 City Council meeting. Her neighbor, Georgia State law professor Tanya Washington, teared up during public comments. 

"She had to go to the doctor today because of her anxiety around this issue,” Washington said. “This has been two years of hell for her and the other residents."

Petition To Look At Other Options

Washington presented a petition with 5,000 signatures opposing the new pond and park. The petition asks City Council to go back and look at other sustainable solutions.

An illustration in a city-commissioned report shows plans for a park and pond at Turner Field to alleviate flooding in the Peoplestown neighborhood. The city says it is not a feasible option.
Credit City of Atlanta

“My home’s been standing since 1924, there’s no evidence of flooding and there’s never been a flood,” Washington said. “And they can keep talking about this phantom flood that they’re saving us from. They’re saving us by displacing us!”

The council took no action on Bond’s suggestion of putting the project on hold.  

Ponds At Turner Field? 

State Senator Vincent Fort said the city could build a pond near Turner Field instead, showing off a city-commissioned report that the city of Atlanta has looked into that.

“This engineering report is for all intents and purposes a smoking gun,” Fort said. “For those of us who have said continuously, this is not about an environmental fix but about gentrification.”

Lillian Govus with the city of Atlanta's Department of Watershed Management said the city ruled out that option years ago and said it is not a feasible plan.

“What you see here in terms of displacement, we could simply work with these people to take their homes and demolish it and leave the land vacant,” Govus said. “But what we’re offering instead is an amenity for the community.”

Washington said she’s upset the report was never presented to them during any public meetings and said they would like the city to look at other options.