Elderly cry for help over East West Link as cracks appear

The Age: Elderly cry for help over East West Link as cracks appear. March 7, 2014. Aisha Dow

Residents, including Effie Angelopoulos (red skirt) and Keith Fitzgerald (black shirt, arms folded), in Collingwood. Photo: Justin McManus

Collingwood pensioner Effie Angelopoulos points with a wavering hand to the monstrous cracks in her walls and says ”please help me, please help me”.

Things were already bad for the 76-year-old.

Her husband John, 80, is ”very sick” with cancer and he is no longer strong enough to patch up the ominous gaps in the plaster.

Now a new freeway project is thundering towards them and Mrs Angelopoulos worries their Victorian cottage on Alexander Street will fall down in a heap when the drilling starts.

The couple who emigrated from Greece in 1956 have already lived through the construction of the Eastern Freeway in the 1970s. The construction of the East West Link will be the second time a freeway will rattle their lives, if it is seen through.

And they are not alone. Other retired and elderly residents in this corner of Collingwood still talk of the long-term damage to their homes blamed on the construction of the first big road project, which sits metres away behind a wall separating the thoroughfare from suburbia.

Keith Fitzgerald, 70, has become the unofficial spokesman for a group of older people who have all vowed to stay on during construction of the East West Link, even if they are given help to temporarily relocate.

Mr Fitzgerald is expecting to officially have his house acquired soon and said he would be fighting the loss of his Bendigo Street home ”all the way”.

In the meantime, he worries the stress and uncertainty will kill his elderly neighbours in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

”It will be too much for them, people like Effie and John and Leo Stone, who is 91,” he said.

”I just feel like [the government are] not concerned about the area. They want it to fall over so they can develop it into an annex of the CBD.”

On Thursday, Mrs Angelopoulos conducted a teary and desperate tour of her family home of 55 years, showing cracks big enough to fit fingers into and the place where the frame of a fireplace is splintering off a wall.

The couple do not have enough money for the repairs and believe their home has already lost $100,000 to $200,000 in value with the threat of the new East West Link interchange close by.

”It’s very, very bad,” Mrs Angelopoulos said. ”Every day I cry. Please help me.”

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