Sinking neighborhood: Original Windsor Park residents prepare to finally say goodbye
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - They have been called a forgotten community. A historically Black neighborhood in North Las Vegas has been sinking into the ground for decades. Homes quietly falling apart. Now, $37 million is going to the people of Windsor Park thanks to a new state law championed by a Democratic State Senator and signed off on by Nevada’s Republican Governor. FOX5 visited the homes of some of the original residents who after more than five decades will finally be moving out.
“When I first come here, this was all desert. Wasn’t nothing out here,” recalled Annie Walker while sitting on her front porch. Walker can still vividly recall moving to a booming Las Vegas in the 50s. The city was still segregated. Strip hotels not allowing African Americans in casinos.
“You weren’t treated the best even on Fremont Street. If a white person was in there, they waited on them before they waited on you,” Walker recounted. African Americans could only live in certain areas like the Westside and North Las Vegas.
Windsor Park was built to house Black families. Originally comprised of 241 homes, now only 90 remain.
“The homes literally started to fall, the streets started to crack,” explained State Senator Dina Neal whose Clark County district includes the North Las Vegas neighborhood. Proper studies of the land weren’t done before building began. Decades later the results were catastrophic.
“Groundwater started to be removed from this neighborhood in the 80s…because of the fault lines that exists, it caused the homes to sink,” Neal explained. The entire neighborhood has been slowly sinking ever since. Inside Walker’s home, walls are separating from the ceiling.
“You can see the crack right there on her foundation,” Neal pointed out to FOX5′s Kim Passoth outside Walker’s home. Over the last four years, Neal has come to know nearly every family still in the neighborhood.
“These are actual neighbors, taxpayers, families, nephews, grandmothers who have held on waiting for some kind of justice,” Neal contended. That wait began when it was discovered the neighborhood was unstable.
“In 1989 state and city found out it and…their home insurance was arbitrarily canceled for all homeowners,” Neal stated. In the 90s, the City of North Las Vegas secured more than $14 million from the federal government to move people out. Today, foundations remain in dirt lots where homes once stood.
“After the movement out, I think the last home was 97′, this is pretty much what it looked like…it looks downtrodden and desolate. I considered it a neighborhood that’s been in a state of suspension,” Neal said.
“We moved into this home May 15, 1966…this was our dream, my husband’s dream,” said Barbara Carter, also an original Windsor Park Resident. Living in the home for most of her life, she has decades of memories there: Christmas, birthday parties, nightly family dinners. While she’s seen so many good times, the problems are glaring. Cracks are everywhere. There are gaps under ill-fitting doors and the side of her home separated from her driveway. Carter says after years of asking for help, she’d lost hope.
“The City of North Las Vegas like had turned their backs on us…They would hear our complaints, they would hear our concerns, but it never went any further than that. It was like a lost community,” Carter contended.
As Senator Neal introduced her bill this legislative session to finally fully fund relocating and building new homes for the people of Windsor Park, she argued the government had failed them for far too long.
“I’ve been real nice. I’ve let you slide on all of these omissions, but I am not going to let you do it anymore,” Neal remarked during a Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development hearing.
While the City of North Las Vegas expressed a desire to help the people of Windsor Park, they opposed Neal’s bill saying it would shift the fiscal burden historically born by the federal government to the state and the city.
“The City of North Las Vegas in 2013 was in fiscal receivership. We didn’t have the money to do anything…Our bonding was junk bond,” testified Jared Luke with the City of North Las Vegas.
City of North Las Vegas Public Information Officer Kathleen Richards says the city actively supported the second draft of the bill and collaborated closely with the State to facilitate its passage.
Under the new state law, North Las Vegas will be on the hook for $12 million. The money will initially come from a state housing fund that the city will be expected to repay. Another $25 million will come from COVID-19 relief dollars.
Now those who have been living in the slowly crumbling homes will get brand new ones in the near future. The goal: to move everyone out including those who have been there since the beginning.
“To me, it will be a celebration. I give them my key and they give me a key to another house. I don’t know if I will be able to walk into it, I will probably be in such shock. Do I dare walk in this house? Is this my home?” fantasized Walker. Unlike the home where she lives now, it is something Carter can proudly pass on.
“I will have a home that my granddaughter and my daughter will be able to enjoy,” Carter said.
Senator Neal says they are still working to buy land within North Las Vegas to build the new homes. Homes will be the same size. Mortgages will be paid off and $50,000 given in restitution to cover taxes, insurance, and moving expenses.
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