The abandoned house at 4406 Brooklyn Ave. has been a blight on the Ivanhoe neighborhood for years.
On Wednesday, Kansas City Mayor Sly James, wearing a bow tie, a blue hard hat and an orange safety vest, climbed into the cab of an idling excavator and pulled a lever that unleashed the steel claw poised over the roof.
Wham ! Crackle! Whoosh.
Up from the smashed bungalow that someone once called home rose a cloud of plaster dust that choked onlookers, but James just grinned.
“It was a hoot,” he said later. “I loved it.”
James thinks the neighbors of that decaying hulk and 1,000 others just like it will love City Hall, too, when he makes good on his pledge to demolish or deconstruct all those houses and commercial buildings in the next 24 months.
Voters passed a half-cent sales tax in August that will produce millions of dollars to fund parks and public works improvements. But a side benefit is an accompanying use tax on out-of-state sales that will provide the city with a stream of income — up to $5 million a year — to get rid of the backlog of unsafe and unsightly buildings that depress neighbors’ property values.
Until now, the city has had only enough money in the budget to remove 130 houses a year. The new income stream will ramp up the pace nearly sevenfold, according to the mayor’s office.
The house James flattened is the first of 157 to come down between now and March, he said.
“This is just tear the sucker down,” James said, “and haul it away.”
Others will in some cases be taken apart carefully to salvage materials, with the work being carried out by inner-city residents who’ve been trained for the task by the Green Impact Zone.