Home­owner forced to re­lo­cate due to Pur­ple Line plans

The Enquire-Gazette - - News - By BRIT­TANY BRITTO Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

RIVERDALE — Wise Van Lamp­kin’s home sits on Riverdale Road, tucked be­tween the mem­o­ries of two neigh­bors. To the east, there is only a va­cant lot, sprin­kled with straw. To the west, the house is stripped of its sid­ing, win­dows shat­tered.

Lamp­kin’s, a wel­com­ing yel­low house with wooden shut­ters, will be va­cant soon.

His home, which he bought in April 1995, be­longs to the Mary­land State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion, to make way for the state’s new­est tran­sit project, the Pur­ple Line.

The Pur­ple Line will be a 16.2-mile dou­ble track light rail with 21 stops run­ning from Bethesda in Mont­gomery County to New Car­roll­ton in Prince Ge­orge’s County.

The $5.6 bil­lion tran­sit project will con­nect to the red, green and or­ange Metro lines, as well as all three MARC Train lines and Am­trak, and is pro­jected to cre­ate more than 23,000 jobs within the state over six years, ac­cord­ing to Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. The state tran­sit ad­min­is­tra­tion plans for trains to be­gin run­ning in the spring of 2022.

But in the process, more than 150 homes will be im­pacted.

Ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Au­gust 2013 Pur­ple Line im­pact state­ment, a to­tal of 25 sin­gle-fam­ily homes in Mary­land are be­ing fully ac­quired by the State High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion to make way for the light rail line, mean­ing res­i­dents in the area will have to re­lo­cate and look for new places to live.

More than 120 res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing apart­ment units, will un­dergo par­tial ac­qui­si­tions, mean­ing por­tions of the prop­er­ties, such as front yards, can be taken — per­ma­nently or tem­po­rar­ily — for con­struc­tion pur­poses.

Riverdale will be one of the hard­est hit.

Twenty-two homes in the Riverdale area will be fully ac­quired be­fore pre­lim­i­nary con­struc­tion is set to be­gin later this year to make way for the line, which will lead to a new sta­tion — Riverdale Park. More than half are al­ready sold and va­cant, and some have al­ready been de­mol­ished, mak­ing way for ma­jor con­struc­tion that will most likely be­gin later this year, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion.

At least 20 own­ers in Riverdale have al­ready set­tled with the state — in­clud­ing Wise Lamp­kin. West of Lamp­kin’s home, the owner set­tled in Jan­uary 2015 for around $155,000, ac­cord­ing to state prop­erty tax records. To the east, the owner of the neigh­bor­ing home set­tled in Au­gust 2014 for $149,000.

In mid-Oc­to­ber, Wise Lamp­kin signed over his prop­erty for $131,000. The sale was fi­nal­ized in Novem­ber, ac­cord­ing to prop­erty records, but it was not with­out a strug­gle.

The 84-year-old has lived on Riverdale Road for two decades.

His home was the base for hol­i­days and events for him and his fam­ily of 12 — in­clud­ing his wife, eight daugh­ters and two sons. It was a safe haven for his nephew and two daugh­ters who once lived there. It was the rea­son he and his wife stayed to­gether, Lamp­kin said.

Now, Lamp­kin lives alone. His wife died 2011. His 10 chil­dren, the youngest one now in her 40s, have all grown up.

The two-bed­room, one-bath­room home is mod­est in size, but it was something he wanted to pass on to his chil­dren.

“I want them to have something we had,” Lamp­kin said be­fore the set­tle­ment was made.

The se­nior cit­i­zen, who works at a nearby car deal­er­ship as a lot at­ten­dant, said he has been pour­ing him­self into the home since he bought it in 1995.

“I’ve been spend­ing money on this house,” Wise Lamp­kin said, point­ing to the pave­ment, which he in­stalled him­self years ago with a pick and shovel — “the old-fash­ioned way.”

It would hurt him to move, he said, “but they’re go­ing to do what they got to do.”

If worse comes to worst he will move in with his daugh­ter Betty Lamp­kin, he said. She takes care of him.

The 59-year-old, who lives in Wash­ing­ton, is the old­est of Wise Lamp­kin’s eight daugh­ters and acts as his care­taker.

Late last year, she sat out­side the Riverdale home in a sil­ver car, out of earshot of her fa­ther, who she said gets vis­i­bly upset when­ever any­one brings up the Pur­ple Line and his home.

“It just tore him down men­tally. He’s so dis­com­bob­u­lated. It’s just sick­en­ing,” Betty Lamp­kin said of her fa­ther, who in his old age, is for­get­ful and dis­plays early symp­toms of de­men­tia.

Betty Lamp­kin, who vis­its her fa­ther reg­u­larly, ini­tially had no idea that her fa­ther’s house was in jeop­ardy. She hadn’t seen the many en­velopes that had been ar­riv­ing at the house, and her fa­ther wasn’t read­ing them.

“He didn’t think about half the mail – he wasn’t look­ing at it. He wasn’t open­ing it. That should have told [the Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion], ‘OK, we’re not get­ting a re­sponse from this per­son. We need to do more re­search.’ They didn’t do any re­search. They just kept send­ing cor­re­spon­dence and not get­ting any an­swer. That should’ve raised a red flag,” Betty Lamp­kin said.

Had they came to see him, Betty Lamp­kin said, her fa­ther would have called her and she could have jumped in a long time ago. She only learned about the tran­sit plans in sum­mer of 2014 through her nephew who found the en­velopes. Since then, the process since has been an in­con­ve­nience, she said.

Busy with a fam­ily of her own and search­ing for steady em­ploy­ment, Betty Lamp­kin is work­ing to fin­ish her as­so­ciate’s de­gree, a feat she nearly gave up on after her mother’s death in 2011.

On top of it all, Betty Lamp­kin has never owned a home.

“I’m in school, and I can’t get my stuff done be­cause I’m work­ing on this. This is new,” Betty Lamp­kin said of this tran­si­tion with her fa­ther and the home. “I don’t know how to do this. It’s like hav­ing a new­born baby.”

There were sev­eral pa­pers to sign and the op­tion to go to court to ap­peal and re­quest more money in the set­tle­ment, but ul­ti­mately, Betty Lamp­kin said, she and her fa­ther had no choice. They were told they would have to give up the prop­erty vol­un­tar­ily or in­vol­un­tar­ily.

“There was no com­pas­sion at all,” Betty Lamp­kin said.

After set­tling in Oc­to­ber, the fam­ily ini­tially had un­til mid-Jan­uary to move out, but yet to find a home, Betty Lamp­kin pro­longed her fa­ther’s stay, hop­ing to keep him un­til the last minute pos­si­ble. In De­cem­ber, Betty Lamp­kin said, she was given 30 days no­tice, but in Jan­uary, she still wasn’t ready. She com­mu­ni­cated with the tran­sit ad­min­is­tra­tion and set a March dead­line for her­self. But now April is here, and Betty is still look­ing for a new home for her and her fa­ther.

“I don’t have any place for him to sleep, and they’re push­ing me hard,” Betty Lamp­kin said.

But the Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion rec­og­nizes that prop­erty ac­qui­si­tions put pres­sure on busi­nesses and home­own­ers. It is of­ten a part of any im­por­tant state project in­volv­ing con­struc­tion, Sandy Ar­nette, Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion spokes­woman, said.

“Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion care­fully fol­lows all fed­eral and state laws and of­fers fair mar­ket val­ues dur­ing prop­erty ac­qui­si­tions. We also work closely with all prop­erty own­ers to en­sure they are treated in a fair and eq­ui­table man­ner,” Ar­nette said.

Betty Lamp­kin tried to do what she could to fight for the house. She hired an at­tor­ney — a friend of a friend — but she said it wasn’t worth it; not only be­cause the house would be lost to the state re­gard­less, but be­cause the at­tor­ney dis­ap­peared.

“I called and left her mes­sages, and she never re­turned my mes­sages,” Betty Lamp­kin said.

To get her fa­ther to sign the pa­pers to re­lin­quish the prop­erty was one of the most dif­fi­cult things she ever had to do, Betty Lamp­kin said.

“To take him out of his en­vi­ron­ment and re­vamp his whole life, it has been an emo­tional roller­coaster ride for me, and es­pe­cially for him,” Betty Lamp­kin said. “He just felt like he was be­ing taken ad­van­tage of.”

“‘My wife is gone. My house is gone. Now I don’t have any­thing’,” he would say to her.

“That’s all he knows since my mother was liv­ing there,” Betty Lamp­kin said.

Mindy Fullilove, a psy­chi­a­trist and pro­fes­sor of clin­i­cal psy­chi­a­try at Columbia Univer­sity’s school of pub­lic health, said that the sense of loss that a fam­ily feels when be­ing forced to move is more than just grief and pain.

Moves like Wise Lamp­kin’s can shake up core psy­cho­log­i­cal pro­cesses for the home­own­ers.

Fullilove has stud­ied the ef­fects of mov­ing and ur­ban re­newal for the past 20 years and said she be­lieves that though pub­lic tran­sit is a le­git­i­mate pub­lic tak­ing for the greater good, gov­ern­ments should be more mind­ful of the emi­nent do­main process and how mov­ing af­fects res­i­dents in the long term.

For peo­ple like Wise Lamp­kin, a house is not just a house — it’s a way of life, Fullilove said.

“A house is lo­cated in a neigh­bor­hood and city. The peo­ple you know are con­nected to a house. All of those things are in­ter­con­nected … In a way, when you lose a space that you lived in with a [sig­nif­i­cant other], you lose the mem­o­ries,” Fullilove said.

Many peo­ple, es­pe­cially those older in age, feel es­pe­cially dis­ori­ented after be­ing re­lo­cated, said Fullilove, re­fer­ring to this process as a part of ori­en­ta­tion psy­chol­ogy.

“It’s a process where we know where we are in a space. We know where things are that we need, both in the house and neigh­bor­hood. It shakes you up and ev­ery­thing you think you know about the world,” said Fullilove.

A home closely re­lates to a per­son’s iden­tity, and that sense of be­long­ing and ori­en­ta­tion for a healthy life is not op­tional, Fullilove said.

The Mary­land Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion has spent $19.3 mil­lion on prop­erty ac­qui­si­tion for the Pur­ple Line through Oc­to­ber 2015, ac­cord­ing to Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion. An es­ti­mated to­tal of $263.5 mil­lion has been bud­geted for prop­erty ac­qui­si­tions be­tween the 2016 and 2021 fis­cal years.

The Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion has de­clined to com­ment on ne­go­ti­a­tions that are still in process, but a re­lo­ca­tion as­sis­tance pro­gram doc­u­ment pro­vided by the Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion said that the owner of a home may be el­i­gi­ble to re­ceive pay­ments to help pur­chase a re­place­ment home as well as as­sis­tance with any mov­ing costs or in­creases in mort­gage pay­ments if asked to re­lo­cate.

Betty Lamp­kin has said that the state has of­fered to pay off Wise Lamp­kin’s home loan along with his mov­ing costs and stor­age for up to two years.

And though Betty Lamp­kin can put some of the set­tle­ment money to­ward a house, she said, her fa­ther still wants his space and in­de­pen- dence.

“He wants this house — that’s it. He doesn’t want to move with any­body.”

But nei­ther of them have a choice, Betty Lamp­kin said.

Wise Lamp­kin cur­rently pays around $800 a month for his home, a deal Betty Lamp­kin said would be hard to find else­where. But now, he is liv­ing on a ghost street of va­cant homes.

Ac­cord­ing to Betty Lamp­kin, the tran­sit ad­min­is­tra­tion has ex­pressed con­cerns about her fa­ther be­ing alone on the block, since he is one of the last res­i­dents left on Riverdale Road, and his home is sur­rounded by va­cant prop­er­ties.

“They think they are do­ing peo­ple a fa­vor by mak­ing sure he’s in a safe en­vi­ron­ment,” Betty Lamp­kin said, but re­ally, the Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion is putting her un­der im­mense amounts of stress.

The fi­nal de­ci­sion for the Pur­ple Line was made April 6 at the state Board of Pub­lic Works meet­ing where the $5.6 bil­lion con­tract was ap­proved.

“It’s putting pres­sure on my fam­ily to up­root my home and his, be­cause I don’t have the space. They just care about putting the [Pur­ple Line] in there,” said Betty Lamp­kin, not­ing that mov­ing out this month is not prac­ti­cal. She will be putting it off as long as she can to buy time, she said.

Betty Lamp­kin still has to find a home. She has to choose the stor­age unit for her fa­ther and send the bill to the tran­sit ad­min­is­tra­tion. She has to get es­ti­mates from at least two mov­ing com­pa­nies, and then she has to wait for the state, which will make the fi­nal de­ci­sion. Only then can she and her fa­ther pack up the house and the mem­o­ries and start anew.

“I’ll be glad when it’s over,” Betty Lamp­kin said.

PHOTOS COUR­TESY OF CAP­I­TAL NEWS SER­VICE/BRIT­TANY BRITTO

Wise Lamp­kin, 84, of Riverdale re­ceived a no­tice in the mail from the Mary­land Tran­sit Ad­min­is­tra­tion about a year ago. The let­ter told him that his prop­erty would be taken by the state to make way for a pub­lic tran­sit project, the Pur­ple Line. The state bought the home in Novem­ber, in­tend­ing to de­mol­ish it. Lamp­kin was still liv­ing there in April and doesn’t want to leave.

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