West Side housing, 1997 E. R. N. Reed redevelop his dilapidated parish. With the help of Congressman Maury Maverick and an energized board of health, Tranchese finally convinced Washington of his people’s plight. After numerous delays, thirty acres of “debasing corrals” finally were razed to make way for the Alazan-Apache Courts; on the city’s south and east sides other courts were built for white and black citizens. The Alazan-Apache Courts, containing more than a thousand apartments, were completed in 1942, and each unit had a private bathrooman ordinary amenity that was in fact a luxury in this part of town. Little wonder that Tranchese would be dubbed the “rumpled angel of the slums.” CLEARING SLUMS OR CITIZENS? Tranchese’s efforts had been miraculous, and, if this were a fairy tale, his impact would have rippled outward, turning the West Side proper into a clean, well-lighted place. Such was not to be. The next cycle of clearance did not occur for more than a decade. The West Side slums evocatively known as “The Death Triangle” \(because of their skyrocketing rate of infant mortalThe intense war effort initially delayed such efforts, and then, in the immediate post-war years, private-home developers complained that any increase in the construction of public housing would undercut their market. These rear-guard actions led to an amendment to the city’s charter stipulating that “no lands cleared by city slum clearance activities could be sold or used by any public housing agency.” Plowing under the corrals meant forcing the people into the streets: Catch-22. It caught on. When the pro-business power from the Democratic machine in the early 1950s, it determined that federal funds would be better utilized refurbishing the downtown core and constructing a series of expressways linking the commercial district to the emerging and northern suburbs. Tearing down substandard housing became a priority only insofar as it facilitated the expansion of the central business district or opened up a path for the new highways. Some, but by no means all, of the former tenants were relocated to new projectsin rigorously segregated neighborhoods. These relocations helped reinforce already established land use patterns that were cut along rigid lines of class, ethnicity, race, and age. Consider, for example, the Villa Tranchese, a 1967 concrete high-rise development for the elderly, built beside the IH-10 and IH-35 interchange, and in a bitter joke, named for the angelic “father of public housing.” Freeway overlook: not exactly the elevated status Tranchese had hoped new housing initiatives would bring to the community’s poor. Nor could he have expected that such buildings would create a new group of dispossessed: men, women, and children who were evicted from their homes and left to fend for themselves. Their tenuous situation worried Marie McGuire, Executive Director of the duties in 1949, she had warned that “any slum clearance program that does not…provide decent housing for the unhoused families would be a perversion.” Perverted it was. By the late 1950s, for 10 THE TEXAS OBSERVER .APRIL 11, 1997
You May Also Like
Texas Professor Leonard N. Moore’s “Teaching Black History to White People” is a memoir, history lesson, and instructional manual.