Where Did All Those Central Park Residents Go?

Over 1,000 men, women and children living in 483 apartments — where did all those Central Park residents go?

That’s the central questions of last week’s Urban Explorer. Using records obtained from the Tampa Housing Authority, I tracked down a handful of former tenants of the notorious housing project in downtown Tampa to see where they were living now.

The results? The vast majority of Central Park residents are now interspersed throughout the poorest neighborhoods of Tampa, including Sulphur Springs, “Suitcase City” near USF and Ybor City.

Dr. Susan Greenbaum, USF professor of anthropology, is not surprised.

“It wasn’t a very broad pattern of dispersion,” says Greenbaum, who helped organize a graduate project a few years ago to assist the THA in developing a plan for relocating the residents. “It was in the same places that people had been located to in the past.”

Back in the late 90s, Greenbaum studied the earlier public housing relocations of College Hill Homes and Ponce de Leon Courts.

“You can’t cure poverty by moving people around” was her conclusion from that study, she says. “In a lot of ways you make it more difficult for them.”

She notes the loss of “communal ties” and the hidden costs of moving.

“Remember the last time you moved and how much you enjoyed that?” she says. “Multiply that by 400 and suddenly take away all the resources that you had to buy new curtains and cleaning supplies.”

Interestingly, the handful of former Central Park residents I spoke with had few complaints about moving. In their words, any place was better than Central Park Village.

Actual housing may be better, Greenbaum acknowledges, but an improved quality of life is a much harder shift.

“It’s like going from terrible to bad,” she says.