Tuesday, February 5, is the day when up to 11 of Billy Abraham’s derelict properties are scheduled to go up for auction according to recent press.
City leaders have long been playing a fool’s game with ex-con and downtown investor and slumlord Billy Abraham when it comes to his derelict properties. They’ve never been interested in enforcing his code violations with any backbone until now and it’s my guess this is just another game the City is playing for appearances sake.
I could be wrong but it’s my guess that none of his derelict buildings will be sold at either the foreclosure or Sheriff’s auction. Just another empty threat to a man than has always played his cheating cards right.
With the fight between Barrio Duranguito and the City’s desire for a sports arena having reached critical mass, city leaders had been scrambling to find ways to force Abraham’s hand.
His Chinese Laundry building located in the hotly contested Duranguito neighborhood was the ace card that filled out his royal flush, forcing the City to fold and cave in to his demands.
He used that building as leverage to get himself a whole lot of taxpayer dollars at our expense.
How did he do that?
Well, knowing that the City desperately needs his building so they can proceed with the destruction of Barrio Duranguito to make way for their “sports arena”, he threatened to have it researched for historical significance.
A designation for his building given by the Texas Historical Commission as a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark would have made it politically difficult for the City to demolish the building. It also could have added months to their plans for pushing ahead with the arena.
It is my theory that Abraham expertly played El Paso’s historical community against the City. He got what he wanted and then some while turning his back on El Paso’s Chinese community, and endangering our culture, history and heritage.
The City of El Paso recently paid Abraham $855,000 for his building which was 5 times what the Central Appraisal District had it valued at.
This means the building was either woefully undervalued by CAD and the City was shorting itself of fair and due taxes or it paid him 5 times what it was worth. I tend to believe the City paid much more in order to expedite the deal and acquire another property without the obstacles Abraham was threatening to place in their way.
Last year he owed $11,000 in back taxes on the Chinese Laundry.
The City swings him a deal where it vastly overpays him AND sweetens the pot with an additional $19,000 in unexplainable relocation costs. That gets him to drop his threat to have it designated as a historical landmark, giving him all the money he needs to pay his back taxes thereby consummating the City’s deal with the devil.
I hear he still holds the title to the property.
One could say our City continues to cut it’s nose off to spite it’s face.
And we’re all paying for the nose job.
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Built in 1900, the Chinese Laundry building is the last remaining example of 15 original laundries owned by Chinese immigrants in El Paso, four which were close to or in the arena footprint. One of the last architectural touchstones with a direct connection to El Paso’s Chinese community, now threatened by a $180,000,000 arena that will almost certainly be a financial disaster for the taxpaying public.
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