Owners of Gary home demolished by city still fighting for settlement
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent December 25, 2012 3:36PM
Terri Martin (right) and her mother Jacqueline Martin stand on the spot that used to be the front porch of Jacqueline's house at 2632 Polk Street in Gary, Ind. Friday December 7, 2012. The Martin house was mistakenly demolished in December 2008 and they are looking for a new lawyer ahead of their trial date in March. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 25, 2012 7:06PM
GARY — Terri Martin and her mother, Jacqueline, spent Christmas four years ago trying to determine who tore down Jacqueline’s house and why.
Four years later, the women still do not know the whole story behind the demolition of the city’s Midtown section, red-brick building, nor have they received what Terri Martin considers “a reasonable settlement” from Gary.
Instead, the case is mired in a Lake Superior civil court.
“People are always asking for updates, and they just cannot believe between two (mayoral) administrations, nothing has been done,” said Terri Martin, the long-time director of the Gary Community Health Foundation.
A Gary city spokesperson declined to comment on the case because it is pending litigation.
The house in question was at 2632 Polk St., a house Jacqueline inherited from a family member. Terri Martin said the two used the house for storage. Jacqueline Martin also owns the house at 2628 Polk St., just two lots to the north.
Terri Martin said the women visited the 2632 Polk St. property regularly, until they discovered it had been razed to the ground on Dec. 18, 2008. What is almost as bad, said the younger Martin, is neighborhood people raided the ruins and took her belongings and ran with them.
The house needed some work, but Jacqueline Martin saw to the repairs, earning a satisfactory status from Cedric Kuykendall in 2000, Terri Martin said.
For its part, city officials, under then-Mayor Rudy Clay, denied any wrongdoing, claiming they actually tore down 2636 Polk St., a property the city claimed was then owned by CR Works Inc., a not-for-profit corporation that was looking to build a shelter on the narrow lot.
Terri Martin said no one on the block received hearing notices required before the city demolishes an unsafe building. The case also went to the zoning board but it was deferred.
The Martins hired attorney Trent McCain and sued the city in 2009. However, as the trial was set to begin this past June, McCain withdrew due to a new conflict of interest.
McCain confirmed his withdrawal, explaining a lawyer in his firm was retained by Gary’s Redevelopment Department, the department responsible for much of the city’s federally funded demolition work.
Terri Martin said she and her mother are “in between lawyers right now,” adding they are scheduled to go before Lake Superior Court Judge Diana Kavadias-Schneider for trial next March.
Terri Martin said her frustration at the lack of action under Clay has been made worse by a lack of action under current Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson. No “reasonable settlement offer” has been made to avoid taking the case to court, she said.
“There’s been nothing in writing we hold a torch to,” said Terri Martin, a lifelong Gary resident. “It’s ironic. I’m constantly giving back to my community, and my community is ignoring my concerns.”