muckraker report

Mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon a man of the people? He doesn’t live like it

Mayoral candidate Benny Napoleon says he understand the tough realities of living in Detroit’s hardscrabble neighborhoods because he lives in one himself.

Napoleon last week took a shot at his opponent, Mike Duggan, for living in a relatively safe and affluent neighborhood, Palmer Woods.

“Hell no, Palmer Woods is not Detroit,” Napoleon said on the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at New Bethel Baptist Church on Tuesday.

Turns out, Napoleon, who makes more than $100,000 a year, doesn’t exactly live in a poor, hardscrabble neighborhood. His Oakman Boulevard home – nearly 3,000 square feet with a sizable, fenced-in backyard – is surrounded by eight blocks without a single abandoned house, which is an anomaly in Detroit. The neighborhood is clean and well-lit, lined with big homes, healthy trees and a grassy median.

Napoleon lives less than a block north of an affluent neighborhood in Dearborn that rivals areas of Grosse Pointe because of its stately homes.

Compared to the rest of the city, Napoleon’s neighborhood is among the safest and most stable. It lost 10% of its population since 2000; Detroit lost a quarter. In Napoleon’s neighborhood, about 75% of the houses are owned, while half of the city’s homes are rented.

Still, Napoleon insisted he’s a better candidate for struggling Detroiters because he doesn’t live in a comfy place like Palmer Woods.

“They don’t have to deal with drive by shootings or drug houses next-door to them,” Napoleon said on the Craig Fahle Show on WDET. “If you’re not living in that environment certainly you can sympathize and empathize with people who do but it’s not your existence. Your existence is completely different and we need to focus on the existence of those people who are living in these neighborhoods that are experiencing a crime rate that is five times the national average. That is totally and woefully unacceptable.”

Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at sneavling@gmail.com

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.    

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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.

  • Dougster60

    Paula Bridges probably wrote this. isn’t that right, Paula? reads like your work….

  • Charlotte Coachman

    really, you comparing living on Oakman BLVD to living in Palmer Woods, i guess you dont live in the city, Im sorry, but to fellow Detroiter’s that is still the HOOD….im sure his car insurance shows just that. In that area, many people’s homes get broken into, and few blocks up, you better be careful not be walking alone at night. You need to get out more and actually know what your talking about

  • http://Bridges Paula

    What a hypocritical stance to take, blasting Benny Napoleon for his longstanding commitment to the neighborhood where he has lived since the mid-80′s. In the time since he moved there from his childhood home in the Livernois/Davison area, hundreds of thousands of individuals have moved away from the city. Napoleon not only stayed, he communicates with and meets with the residents of the neighborhood to maintain safety and quality of life and he also raised his child from infancy in that very home. His commitment to the community is evident due to the fact he has never left Detroit. While he has seen his neighborhood go through a variety of changes–and yes, there are abandoned or burned out structures within a few blocks–Napoleon has done all he can to maintain the quality of life he and his neighbors work so hard for and deserve, even to the extent he has mowed the section of land splitting the boulevard there when the City would not cut it. So, really, it is a true shame that instead of commending him for maintaining his presence and standing up for the community he loves and has been in for decades, you choose to castigate him, because of all things, he has kept up and improved his investment in the city. Really?

  • Shane

    Palmer Woods has private security.

  • bebow

    Benny is saying he intends to refocus resources on the unserviced neighborhoods, and that’s the issue exciting everyone. More for the neighborhoods means less for those presently basking in law enforcement plenty. There is a massacre taking place in the neighborhoods while this back-and-forth is taking place. The massacre is a law enforcement problem, a distribution of resources problem, and a legacy problem for Dave Bing, who stood idle, jibber-jabbering nonsensical justifications while blood flowed in the streets where the people who put him in office reside. He might just as well openly state that neighborhood people aren’t worthy of service and deserve to be murdered, but then, he is an outwardly timid, passive-aggressive, genuflecting kind of fella.