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North Siders: Unfinished demolitions escalating crime, blight



Published: Sat, June 15, 2013 @ 12:01 a.m.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Abandoned, dilapidated houses aren’t unusual on Norwood Avenue in the city’s Brier Hill neighborhood.

But there are two locations on a short stretch of Norwood between Wirt and Margaret streets that are somewhat unique because city officials are not only aware that both have been in dangerous conditions for several weeks, but contractors hired by the city created the problems.

One is wide open on its sides and without a front door, and the other only partially torn down.

“The gripes are legitimate, but it’s an issue facing the city,” said DeMaine Kitchen, the mayor’s chief of staff/secretary who oversees the city’s demolition program. “We have houses in the city that are as bad or worse. We don’t like it any more than the neighbors. That’s the reality of the level of blight we’re dealing with.”

Both will be fully demolished in a couple of weeks, Kitchen said.

The vacant house that once stood at 847 Norwood Ave. was demolished partially about three weeks ago by Mike Pusateri Excavating of East Liverpool.

The concrete foundation remains, virtually untouched, as are large sections of the house’s structure with a four-step concrete staircase on its side and in one piece, and a lot of debris including shingles, window frames, a microwave and garbage.

“The city is creating problems by not finishing the work and letting these houses get so bad,” said Patricia Coney, who’s lived the past 17 years at 1029 Norwood Ave. in her childhood home. “The demolition work is very sloppy. I know the city is doing the best it can. I’m thankful for everything they do, but they’re a little slow in what they need to do.”

Pusateri should return in the next week or two to finish the work, Kitchen said.

“It’s ugly, it’s an eyesore, but it’s not illegal to start the job and then return,” Kitchen said. “It’s dangerous standing up, and it’s dangerous coming down. The complaint is valid without a doubt, but we’re responding to it.”

The second property is at 803 Norwood on the corner of Wirt.

A few months ago, Safeco Environmental, a Marion, Pa., company hired by the city for asbestos removal, did work on that house.

During the abatement process, Safeco made huge holes on either side of the house that remain.

Besides the large holes, the front door to the house is missing as are several windows, and old carpet and wood is dumped in the yard. Hardly any of the vacant house is boarded up.

“Can you believe that?” Coney said. “It’s on a main thoroughfare, and all I hear from the city is: ‘We’re going to take care of this.’ This is outrageous. How can they do this and leave it?”

A city street department crew will start work to demolish 803 Norwood in a few weeks, Kitchen said.

Again, Kitchen acknowledges the danger of the open building.

“For every complaint that [Coney] gave, there are 1,000 more worse or the same as where she lives,” he said. “We’re responding to the complaints.”

Stella Pittman of 817 Norwood, who lives next door to that structure, said the city has an obligation to secure that vacant home, demolish it and clean it up.

She said 803 Norwood has been vacant for only two years, but it fell apart from neglect and vandals.

“It’s kind of scary living here with the bad element and the vacant houses,” said Pittman, who’s lived in her home since 1975.

When she moved to this street on the city’s North Side, Pittman said, “It was wonderful. But new neighbors came in, they didn’t take care of their homes, rented them or just left.”

Among the numerous other nearby abandoned houses in that area is 936 Margaret St., on a Norwood corner lot.

The house, vacant for two years, looks like it’s been empty for decades.

Bushes surrounding the house have grown so high that only the roof is visible for the most part. A closer look reveals the siding has been ripped off the house.

The most visible location is the garage area, where four abandoned tires sit nearby. The garage door, which had its plywood ripped off, is filled with a mountain of garbage.

It’s become a popular dumping ground in just a few months, Coney said.

Kitchen, who visited the Margaret Street location Thursday at Coney’s request, said work to demolish the vacant house should start in a few weeks.

“Unfortunately, 936 Margaret St. is no different than other houses in the city,” Kitchen said.

The city has about 4,000 to 5,000 vacant houses, including at least 1,000 that need to come down quickly, city officials say.

Coney said she is “seriously considering leaving this neighborhood. It’s my family house and I love it, but the area continues to get worse. People either abandon houses or rent to people who don’t care. It’s awful to live like this. I don’t want to have company come to my house because I don’t want them to see where I live.”


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