El Paso

Historian: Demolition action 'blatant act of cowardice, violation of the law'

Historian Demolition action blatant...

EL PASO, Texas - Nearly half a dozen buildings in the Duranguito neighborhood were "gravely damaged" by a demolition company, said Dr. Max Grossman, a historian involved in the legal fight to preserve the neighborhood where the City plans to build a multi-purpose performance arts center.

Construction crews Tuesday began tearing down walls in some buildings in the Duranguito neighborhood despite a court order postponing demolition. Grossman said his lawyer has filed contempt of court charges and he has requested a court hearing Tuesday.

In a statement emailed to ABC-7, Grossman  stated, "Make no mistake about it. The City of El Paso and the two property owners, Dr. Roberto Assael and Alejo Restrepo, have violated a court order signed by all three judges of the 8th Court of Appeals. The demolition action this morning was a blatant act of cowardice and a violation of the law."

Monday, the 8th Court of Appeals granted an emergency appeal to halt the demolition in the neighborhood, pending a judge's ruling. Tuesday, the order was amended to include an additional property not listed in the original order.

The City of El Paso emailed ABC-7 a statement, saying it is complying with the order issued by the 8th Court of Appeals. The order prohibits the City from taking steps related to the demolition of privately-owned properties within the arena footprint.

The City also says its City Attorney's Office contacted the attorney representing the private property owners to request property owners comply with the order. The City advised property owners should not proceed with the demolition of the properties even though they are not named in the order.

ABC-7 spotted police officers on-site reading orders to the construction company to end demolition immediately.

An attorney for Grossman, Lisa Hobbs, showed up with the court order in hand. Hobbs, who is in town from Austin, said she got the order from the 8th Court of Appeals at 7:57 a.m. as she rode to the Duranguito neighborhood in an Uber ride.

"Unfortunately, by the time I arrived, the demolition company had taken a bite out of almost every building that was covered by the court order," Hobbs said.

Hobbs said the police department assured her any further demolition would not be allowed so that she has time to contact the 8th Court of Appeals.

"If the demolition company's lawyer is confused from what I think is a very clear order, then I will get the court to clarify," Hobbs said.

"They should be held in contempt," Hobbs added.