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Up in Smoke PATRICIA MOORE Labor Day march against homelessness in Houston BY PATRICIA MOORE 0 N LABOR DAY, September 2, 500 protesters marched down Main Street to Houston City Hall. The marchers were demanding answers to some extremely serious questions: Why historic black neighborhood in the city’s Fourth Ward? Why has one of the richest cities in the world failed to provide affordable housing for its poor citizens? Most pressing ofall, what has caused the burning of houses in the Fourth Ward over the past few months? Though the protestors didn’t know it, at the very moment they were raising their placards and chanting slogans, their concerns had literally assumed life-and-death proportions. During the Labor Day March for the Homeless, another fire broke out in the Fourth Ward, this time killing a four-year-old girl and injuring three adults. What is behind the deadly conflagrations? City officials attribute them to arson by “crackheads:” But some residents don’t buy that explanation. Big Money, Big Plans As reported in previous issues of the Observer, American General Patricia Moore is a Houston photographer. 12 OCTOBER 4, 1991 Corp. and Cullen Interests, both Houston-based companies who own real estate near the Fourth Ward, hope to gentrify the historic black neighborhood just west of downtown, displacing the nearly 5,000 renters who live there. Originally called Freedmen’s Town, the neighborhood is the oldest and largest original settlement of freed slaves in the Southwest. The developers’ plan for the area is to convert 640 acres one square mile into a “tax increment finance district,” so that any remaining land or homes inside the district could be condemned by the city council, and companies would get the authority to issue bonds backed with the district’s public taxing authority. The development would be called Founders Park. Mayor Kathy Whitmire proposes destroying 80 percent of the public housing units at APV. Area residents have strenuously resisted these efforts. \(See, “Razing History,” TO, the developers to boost the companies’ profits at the expense of the interest advocacy group for the homeless, first appeared in May 1988 before the city council with a list of 45 churches and other groups asking the city to preserve APV and the Fourth Ward. At the Labor Day rally, the group announced it had expanded that list to include 100 groups from across the Houston metropolitan area, with a consensus that the city should restore APV using available federal