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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chaunceyetta Mize pointed to the collapsing ceiling in her bedroom, covered with a plastic tarp, so water wouldn’t flow onto the bed when it rained.  

But the tarp kept coming loose.

“It’s water everywhere,” Mize described.

She has lived in the same townhouse at Parade Park Homes for nearly 60 years.

She told FOX4 Problem Solvers she’s been complaining to Parade Park management for nearly a year about the holes in her roof that have damaged her ceiling. The only repair that Parade Park made was sticking a tarp over the roof, she said.

But that tarp blew away months ago.

“I just can’t live like this,” said 79-year-old Mize. “You see that stagnant water? I’m on a breathing machine in here. I’ve got congestive heart failure. I had COVID the first of the year. We made it through all that to be in this.”

That very evening Mize’s sagging ceiling collapsed, showing the bedroom with water, drywall and insulation.

Mize is one of several seniors stuck in bad conditions at Parade Park Homes near 18th and Vine in Kansas City. Many have lived here since the 1960s when the segregationist policy of “Red Lining” meant Parade Park was as far west as a black family could live.

“I remember when it really looked nice,” said Bobby Pearson, a Parade Park resident. “I remember when the black baseball players lived down here, lawyers and doctors. That’s who started this place because we couldn’t live past 27th Street.”

Parade Park was one of the first African American co-ops in the country. People living there were part owners in the non-profit corporation that owned their town homes. A board, comprised of residents, was in charge and oversaw repairs and improvements.

But many living in Parade Park now say there hasn’t been a functioning board in years. They believe they’ve become pawns in a multi-million dollar redevelopment project that has yet to get off the ground.

“I personally believe that they’re letting Parade Park fall apart purposely to get residents to move out, and to just make it so bad that it’s determined blighted,” said Brian Hullaby, who grew up in Parade Park and then moved back as an adult.

Some estimated that about half the units now sit empty. Residents complain that they are treated not like owners, but renters. Those who have fallen behind on payments are even evicted by Cohen Esrey, the company hired by the board to manage the property.

Twice when FOX4 Problem Solvers visited to talk to people living at Parade Park, we were told by the Cohen Esrey manager to leave the property. When we asked her what was being done to improve conditions at Parade Park, she wouldn’t answer us. We learned later that she called police, complaining that we were trespassing.

Residents told us that when they complain about living conditions to management, they are told to contact the co-op board for help. But Hullaby said it’s impossible to find out who exactly is on the board or when they meet.

He said he has made repeated requests for board minutes and financial documents, but has never received any.

“We want transparency,” Hullaby said. “That is in the bylaws that we are allowed to have. They have to show us their finances. They have to show us how many people live in Parade Park. They refuse to do that. We’re completely in the dark regarding what’s happening to our neighborhood.“

Problem Solvers contacted the two Kansas City council members representing Parade Park. Melissa Robinson never called us back, but Brandon Ellington met across the street from the development.

“What I’ve been doing is trying to not only encourage the folks to use their legal recourse, but to have them understand that legal recourse,” said Ellington, who has met multiple times with Parade Park residents.

Legal recourse doesn’t mean much if you can’t afford an attorney, which many at Parade Park can’t. But Ellington said there’s nothing the city can do since Parade Park is supposedly still a co-op and not rental property, which the city does regulate.

Minutes after Problem Solvers met with Ellington, we received an email from Cohen Esrey, stating it was writing us on behalf of the Parade Park board. It urged us not to run a story on problems at Parade Park, saying McCormack Baron Salazar, a St. Louis company, was redeveloping the property and any story could jeopardize the company’s attempt to get funding.

But those living here complain that the re-development project has been in the works for years with still nothing to show for it. They want help now.

The good news is that weeks after we started investigating problems at Parade Park, Mize finally got the help she’d been seeking. Cohen Esrey is in the process of moving her to a better town home.

The other encouraging news is that the Parade Park board actually held a public meeting in November that residents were given notice of and were able to attend. An election for new board members is supposed to be held in April.