Newtown Florist Club prayer vigil
When: 9:30 a.m. April 16
Where: McDonald and Dunbar streets
Contact: Call executive director Faye Bush at 770-718-1343.
The Newtown Florist Club wants to bring peace to its Gainesville neighborhood.
The environmental justice group, which has fought against nearby industries and noise and air pollution for decades, announced it will hold a prayer vigil to oppose the continued presence of Blaze Recycling near the neighborhood.
During the vigil, club members will pray at the corner of McDonald and Dunbar streets for the plant to relocate.
"What really sparked this was that Blaze won't accept a land swap that will allow them to relocate," said Faye Bush, executive director of the Newtown Florist Club. "We found out about two months ago and have been gathering support. It would have happened earlier, but we had to get a permit to hold the event."
Blaze workers met with Bush and other Newtown members in September, but Bush still isn't satisfied.
"The place has been awful here lately, and it has been so loud with the crushing of big containers and cars and just about everything," she said. "You can hear it way down here at the office on Desota Street, so it's real bad up there where people live next to it."
Gainesville City Council members didn't know many details about the event Wednesday, but council member George Wangemann noted the club's efforts in the past.
"I understand that they're unhappy with Blaze being there, but I don't think they're going away," he said. "I don't know that you can pray away a business."
Blaze officials couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. Gainesville staff have met with Bush and Blaze employees about concerns, but neither side has moved forward with an agreement.
"The city has explored the concept of relocating the Blaze facility, but nothing definitive has been determined," said Angela Sheppard, assistant city manager. "This is a complicated issue because the site, and that area, has been an industrial use since before the city enacted zoning in 1955. The city has and will continue to investigate any complaints from residents in the area."
The homes were built on an old landfill east of Athens Street after the 1936 tornado to serve as the "new town" for black families displaced by the disaster. Industries such as Purina and Cargill moved in during the 1950s and 1960s.
"The Newtown community was here first," Bush said. "Unlike many cases where residents come to the nuisance, this nuisance came to our community, and it is time for it to leave."
Bush has invited church leaders from around the community to speak during the event.
"People are coming from Suches and Lula and all over who have supported us throughout the years," she said. "I hope we get a lot of people and a lot of support on this."