Confusion about who should deal with issues of blight in alleyway

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Imagine walking into your backyard to find loads of trash, weeds, and down power lines.

A Memphis man says that’s what he’s had to live with for more than 3 years, although the property where the blight is doesn’t belong to him.

Joseph Gordan has three properties on Beach Street that have been in his family for more than 150 years. He says for as long as he can remember, there have been issues with blight, down power lines, and weeds in an alleyway behind his home.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood for over 50 years. I was born here. The city started neglecting it. I would say they haven’t done anything here in 25 years. I’ve tried to report it, but the city tells me the county owns the property. The county says the city owns it. Then they tell me that MLGW is responsible to keep it clear because of the power lines. MLGW says they only cut trees. They don’t cut bushes,” said Gordan.

He says it presents hazards for his grandchildren when they’re visiting.

“I’ve seen possums back here. I’ve seen raccoons going up and down the alleyway. For me to be in the center of the city, I shouldn’t have to see this. I have the Stax museum just up the street.”

Over the years, he’s tried to take matters into his own hands.

“Being disabled and only being able to use one hand, it might take me 4 hours just to get a small section cut because I can’t stand too long, and I can’t get a good grip on the tool. There’s certain tools I can’t use.”

Gordan was disabled after being shot 5 times with a shotgun in 1995 when he tried to stop an intruder from robbing his mother’s home. He’s had difficulties walking and using his right arm ever since. He’s hoping the owner of the property can come to clear the blight.

“I figure if I’m paying my tax dollars for my property. I figure the property behind my home should be cleared,” said Gordan.

We’ve reached out to the city and ran into the same circles. The city did an investigation and sent us a statement saying the alleyway is not an alley maintained by the city.

Shelby County Government also denies ownership of the alleyway.

The City of Memphis sent FOX13 the following statement:

This location is not an alley maintained by the City. City alleys are evaluated for maintenance using a criteria. The criteria are as follows, maintenance is needed in order to deliver City services (for example solid waste collections services). This ally doesn’t meet either criteria and therefore is not maintained by the City.