Residents Are Tired Of The Empty, Decaying Homes Threatening The Community

June 10, 2014

Update on June 12th: After the running water at 501 Midland Ave was brought to City Council member Steven Matteo’s attention, it has now been fixed and is no longer a danger to the home next door. The home should still be checked for mold and any structural danger, but this is one small item off the checklist.

I sent this blog post to the Facebook page of Borough President James Oddo, and this was the response I received. “This has been a real problem in many flood damaged communities. I recently introduced a bill, along with Council Members Steve Matteo and Vinny Ignizio to address this exact issue. … We are working towards gaining support for the bill. ” I will be writing about this soon so please check back or follow my blog. Thanks, as always, for reading.


As one battered house is finally coming down, there are so many others that need attention. Today, the process of dismantling 497 Midland Ave. finally began after years of wear and tear. This house was run down prior to Sandy and empty for 22 years, but the hurricane left it simply dilapidated and a danger to those around it. (Please see the Staten Island Advance’s article about the demolition of the home)


While this is a sign of progress, there are still a number of homes that have been left not just unoccupied, but untouched and hazardous to the neighborhood. I recently surveyed the area with Aiman Youssef, who runs the Midland Ave. Neighborhood Relief hub. From the outside, these streets and homes may look like they are “back to normal” but local residents know that is not true.


Right next to 497 Midland, lie three smaller homes. 501 and 505 Midland Ave. remain unoccupied, while someone currently resides in 503. As reported by Youssef, there is running water and electricity still running through the house. The running water can be seen from the side of the home through a crack in the foundation. On the door, a sign that states “The property inspector has temporarily secured and maintained this property to protect it against future deterioration.” Yet with running water and the environment for mold growth, how is this property possibly “maintained”?


Water can be seen running under 501 Midland Ave.
Water can be seen running under 501 Midland Ave.


615 Midland Ave. lies next to the site of the former Metro PCS, which was gutted by fire the night of Sandy. This structure was only recently cleaned up, while the home next door still stands, also unoccupied and heavily damaged.

Behind 562 Midland Ave. lies a small bungalow that has not yet been cleaned and consequently, there is mold growing in close proximity to other units on the lot.

A unit behind 562 Midland Ave remains untouched and mold is growing in close proximity to the other units.
A unit behind 562 Midland Ave remains untouched and mold is growing in close proximity to the other units.
At 31 Mapleton Ave., the ground level windows and doorways have been filled with cement while the top floor remains open. The house next door was torn down, but the home behind it is also falling apart. There is currently a green “X” on the home, but its unknown if this house will come down anytime soon. Meanwhile, there are residents living in the home next door.
Mapleton Ave
Home on Mapleton Ave. Photo: Aiman Youssef

There are a number of other homes with similar conditions on Nugent Ave., Patterson Ave., Colony Ave., Freeborn St., and Baden Pl. There are also just as many damaged homes sitting idle in South Beach on Doty Ave. and surrounding streets and along Father Capodanno Blvd. Residents are growing more and more concerned about the safety of these structures, the effects of the mold, and the squatters that have been attracted to these areas, flying under the radar. Complaints of drug use is also a huge concern for many living near these empty houses.


The question is who is going to take responsibility for the cleanup of these homes? While the quality of life for other residents is suffering, these homes remain unaccounted for and have been left to rot. There are a number of residents who want to rebuild and return to their homes, but the lack of progress from the Build It Back program has proven that process nearly impossible. (Please see my blog post about the Oversight Hearing). Many homeowners have gutted and cleaned the properties, but are still waiting for help to start the rebuilding process. Youssef is included in that. He lost his home to Sandy and his since run the Midland Ave. relief hub where his home once stood. But he wants to stay in the community he loves and continues to serve those in need while he waits to hear about his own home.


What is also problematic is the high number of rental properties and the question of whether or not those who own the properties will be returning or have just given up entirely. When residents have tried to remedy such issues, no one can attain answers. Just by looking at these homes, there is no way of knowing if the owner is still trying to rebuild, if they will be demolished, if they’ve been properly inspected, or who or what actually has responsibility for maintenance.


Do you know of an empty home that has mold, structural damage, or any other kind of issues that are affecting nearby residents? Please contact me.


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