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Owner boards up dangerous Gun Hill Rd. property

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The owner of a construction site containing a dangerous retaining wall that has become a hangout spot for local youth has addressed community concerns in hopes of making the site inaccessible to trespassers - although children in the area are not making it easy. 

The backyard area, which was previously accessible from Allerton and Lodovick Avenues, was recently enclosed by a temporary wooden fence, but owner Owen Barrett believes it will not last long once students from local I.S. 144 and Sports Professions High School get their hands on it.   

The developer said he’s tried to enclose the work area, at 1672 E. Gun Hill Road, with wooden boards in the past, but has run into trouble from local students, asserting that, “The kids, when we put it up, they rip it down.”

Barrett has found the school administration to be unresponsive.

“We’ve complained to [I.S. 144] and they haven’t done anything at all,” Barrett said.  “The principal said once the students leave the compound, they are not liable for what the kids do.”

But Barrett will have to deal with it.  “I feel bad for the guy, but it’s his responsibility,” said Community Board 11 district manager John Fratta.  “He needs to find some way to keep the site secure.”

Right now, the wood planks surrounding the home are already showing some wear and tear, suggesting that some trespassers may have tried to gain entry onto the site. 

Barrett promised to keep abreast of the situation, noting that he immediately sprang into action at the behest of Councilman Jimmy Vacca when the problem was first brought to his attention. 

“Once I got the call from Councilman Vacca, I immediately called my contractors and the job was done,” said Barrett said. 

The council member contacted the developer after receiving specific complaints from local residents. 

Vinny Prezioso, president of the Northeast Bronx Association, had worked with the councilman and community board to bring neighbors’ concerns to the attention of the owner and knew they would work the situation out with the property owner. 

“We’re very happy that the officials have paid attention and worked towards solutions to the problem,” Prezioso said.  

Vacca felt that the developer acted in good faith, and relatively quickly to remedy the situation, believing he will continue to do so if needed. 

On his conversation with Barrett, Vacca commented, “He seems receptive and knew our concerns.”

Work began on the property after a permit was secured on September 10, 2007 for a building alteration, from a two family residential space to an office.

Barrett explained that when working initially on the property, there was no intention to create the retaining wall, which prompted a stop work order citation by the Department of Buildings on October 10, 2007.

“We started shoring up the property by taking down this broken wall,” Barrett explained.   “The contractor said it would make sense to just build a new retaining wall.”

While he sought consent from next door neighbors, Barrett feels they panicked, thinking he wanted to significantly alter the construction plan. 

“Right now, we can’t do any work,” said Barrett, “But we hope to continue developing the property soon.” 

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