Living in a Detroit neighborhood where a burned-out car languishes for days

The city has let this burned car for the scrappers.
The city has let this burned car for the scrappers. Steve Neavling/MCM

A woman with a broken broom stick walked toward me with caution and curiosity.

“You from the insurance company?” she asked Wednesday.

Superior & ElmwooD
This apartment burned. Steve Neavling/MCM

“No,” I responded, holding a camera. “Just documenting damage from some recent fires.”

That’s when she told me the story of the burned-out car on her lonely stretch of road on Detroit’s east side. At 1:20 a.m. Sunday morning, she heard yelling and looked down her dark block at the intersection of Superior and Elmwood. Two men were dousing a car with gas, and one of them lit it afire. They walked across the street and dumped the rest of the gas in an abandoned apartment building before igniting it, she said.

The charred sedan hasn’t moved since then. Over the past several days, people scavenged everything of remote value.

The car sits as a symbol of selective city neglect. In some neighborhoods, the city is quick to respond to problems. But in others, burned cars, fallen trees and litter are left to languish.

Earlier this month, we wrote about an ugly car accident scene that may remained untouched for a month or more on the west side.

But when the historic First Unitarian Church on Woodward was gutted by a suspicious fire across the street from the new Red Wings arena near downtown in May, the building was quickly demolished, and the owner was ordered to clean up the debris.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.