YOUNGSTOWN Brier Hill eyesores will go down

A yearlong wait to take down the eyesores should end soon.
YOUNGSTOWN -- It wasn't too long ago that older Italian ladies still swept the pavement in front of their Brier Hill neighborhood homes.
"It was a typical Italian neighborhood. It was immaculate," said Irene John of Poland, who lived on Milan Street for a time before moving in 1992.
Those homes remained in good shape -- until a year ago.
That's when the Ohio Department of Transportation started buying up the houses on Milan and along Bennington and Craven streets. Bennington becomes Craven where the road bends.
Highway project: Those streets will become part of the 711 Connector highway project. Const ruction is to start next year.
In late 2000, ODOT started buying homes including four on Milan and four or five more each on Bennington and Craven.
Once the residents sold and left, the vandals came.
Today, this is what John sees when she drives past the old neighborhood:
Aluminum siding has been ripped from the homes. Wooden strips for mounting the siding are all that remain. Shreds of silver-colored insulation blow in the wind. Inside, the copper and cast iron pipes are gone.
Some homes have no doors or windows. Garages are wide open. Properties are littered with discarded pieces of the homes, tires and other trash.
"Why don't they just tear them down ... instead of letting them go downhill like that?" John asked. "To buy up houses and leave them in that condition ... just demolish them."
Fortunately, the wait should end soon.
Permission to begin: The state recently gave its contractor, A.P. O'Horo of Liberty, permission to start leveling 25 of 65 structures in the area, said Jennifer Richmond, an ODOT spokeswoman.
That includes the homes on Milan, Bennington and Craven streets. Work could start as soon as Wednesday, she said.
Other structures will come down once asbestos is removed.
ODOT posted "no trespassing" signs, put locks on the doors and boarded up any missing windows or doors when it bought the homes, Richmond said.
The agency didn't know about the vandalism until about four months ago, she said. Once complaints came in, the agency notified city police and started the emergency demolition process, she said.
It takes about two months each to get asbestos cleared out and to seek bids and award demolition contracts, Richmond said. "We moved as quickly as we could," he said.
Not heaven: It hasn't been easy living near the eyesores the past year, said Monsignor John H. DeMarinis of nearby St. Anthony Church.
The dilapidated properties have meant vandals are frequenting the neighborhood, which makes residents uncomfortable, Monsignor DeMarinis said.
"They [the homes] are creating a nest for undesirables. It's constant. It's not a conducive thing," he said.
Police patrol often and do what they can, he said. But the temptation of an empty house -- a magnet for vandals --is too much for anyone to control, Monsignor DeMarinis said.
"It would be great if they would just knock them down," he said.
Good news: Irene John is glad to hear demolition is scheduled. That doesn't change the fact, however, that the neighborhood got out of hand, she said. She is thinking about what faces neighborhoods involved with future highway projects.
"Do they do that on the next project, too?" John asked.

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