MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The City of Memphis could face a multi-billion-dollar lawsuit if it moves forward with a community development plan.
The Memphis 3.0 plan calls for land use and growth over the next few decades, but some groups say the near 500-page plan leaves out historically black neighborhoods.
Neighbors in New Chicago deal with different issues every day.
“It’s just a nuisance. Snakes, rats, everything over there. It’s bad,” said neighbor Billy Sledge about an overgrown lot near his home. “It’s been like that for years. We can’t get nobody to help us.”
“Some of the houses are dilapidated, boarded up [and] falling down,” said Zachary Johnston who works in the area. “There’s a lot of illegal activity going on in the neighborhood and stuff. The community is just impoverished in general.”
A city plan that’s been in the works since 2016 aims to address some issues in the North Memphis neighborhood, like lack of greenspace and trails.
“That would be lovely, real lovely for over here in this area. Bring it up some more,” said Sledge.
However, activists say that’s not enough when you look at the plan in its entirety.
“We just want equal treatment and justice for our community. We love our community just like anyone else would love their community,” said Dr. Carnita Atwater with the New Chicago Community Partnership Revitalization Team.
Dr. Atwater said the Memphis 3.0 plan doesn’t offer legacy African American communities the same assets as predominant white neighborhoods, such as funding, micro loans and tax incentives for businesses.
She says the New Chicago Community Partnership Revitalization team went to Memphis 3.0 meetings and submitted their own ideas, but aren’t seeing results.
“All we want is the opportunity to develop and own our community,” she said.
Dr. Atwater says since the plan doesn’t address racial equity or targeted gentrification, her organization plans to sue the city of Memphis for $10 billion.
“The lawsuit is dealing with our human and civil rights that have been violated when you disinvest communities that are already living in poverty.”
The plan was supposed to have its first reading at council on Tuesday but was delayed for 30 days.
WREG spoke with multiple councilmembers who said they won’t support the plan until they can meet with the residents in district seven to make sure it’s equal and inclusive.
A city spokesperson said they’re not aware any suit has been filed and don’t have a comment since it’s a pending legal matter.