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Neighbors report difficulty accessing homes, confusion and frustration amid Lee removal

Neighbors report difficulty accessing homes, confusion and frustration amid Lee removal
Posted at 11:05 PM, Sep 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-09 01:07:36-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Two residents who live on West Grace Street near the Lee Statue reported a less than ideal scenario for neighbors as streets were blocked and access to homes limited amid the process of removing the Robert E. Lee statue on Wednesday.

Rex Scudder said he has lived on W. Grace Street for 48 years and was used to activity in the area.

"This neighborhood gets more than its share of its events," said Scudder.

However, Scudder said on Tuesday night, he and his neighbors were surprised to come home to find tape up blocking their street and police telling them they couldn’t walk down the sidewalk.

"They said you need to go to the back, except that my neighbors don’t have any access that they could use. They’re disabled. They can’t go in that back gate," said Scudder. "We were surprised, bewildered, and just total disbelief that they could tell us we can’t walk down the sidewalk."

After about 15 minutes, Scudder said police ultimately let them through. By Wednesday, residents were allowed to walk in and out, but he said there was still a lot of confusion.

"We don't know what’s happening with the trash or the recycling. Both are due tomorrow."

CBS 6 also spoke with a person who came to the street with a package delivery Wednesday, unsure if they could cross the tape.

Scudder said his partner had spent hours on the phone on hold with UPS Wednesday, because she was expecting a phone delivered. He said she was finally able to redirect the package for pickup Thursday.

"We supported removing the monument and we really appreciate the police looking out for us and keeping us safe. But somewhere in this process, communication broke down," Scudder said.

Michael Larkin, a nearby homeowner, echoed that sentiment. He said while he knew based on signs posted Friday that parking would be restricted, he didn't know sidewalks would be taped up and access to pedestrians limited.

"There are a lot of people along this street and all along West Grace Street that are not as able as I am or other people are," said Larkin. "Things like cutting off access to being able to just walk down the street or get transportation down the street impacts them far more than someone like me."

Larkin said that since Governor Northam announced the monument would be removed more than a year ago, he believed city and state leaders had the time to better communicate with residents.

He added that he knew these problems were temporary and was thankful that the statue was coming down and for the work of the police. However, he wished elected and paid officials would have kept them in mind.

"We are your residents so we need your voice to speak up and lookout for people who can’t speak up in the manner that you can," Larkin said.

Larkin said he had been able to speak with Richmond Police Chief, Gerald Smith, about his concerns, and was thankful for that.

CBS 6 reached out to Capitol Police, State Police and Richmond Police on residents' concerns, as well as the Joint Information Center who handled communication for the removal.

A spokesperson for Capitol Police said if there was any confusion Tuesday night they certainly apologized, as there was a lot of moving parts and their intention was not to stop commerce but to keep people safe.

They also added that Richmond Police put up 'no parking signs' Friday, to give residents plenty of notice.

A spokesperson for Richmond Police said they were just assisting in the Commonwealth’s operation and that roads may reopen before Saturday.

The Joint Information Center did not immediately respond to CBS 6's request for comment, but sent out a release Monday to media, detailing the plan for removal, to put fencing up Tuesday, block off streets and clear out pedestrians and vehicles inside the fenced area.

The release did not detail the protocol for residents who lived in the area in terms of how they would be let in and out, and impact on deliveries and trash pick-up.