Welcome to the jungle.
Van Nest residents say summer strolls or relaxing evenings on their porches are ruined by an overgrown lot at 633 Mead Street that the city has failed to clean up.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” says Bernadette Ferrara, vice president of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance. “The lot is attached to my backyard, and I see it every day. What’s funny is that in February, Sanitation came in and did a great job. It was beautiful, the whole thing was cleaned. So what’s changed? All of a sudden now, it has become a jungle again.”
Joe Bombace, an outspoken community leader, echoed the same sentiments in a separate call. “It looks like a jungle habitat, honestly,” he said. “To have to see this, it’s a quality of life issue for residents in the area. It’s a disgrace.”
The lot, which is filled with trash, tall weeds, and large tree branches that tower over the beat-up fence enclosure, is owned by a company called 633 Mead Street LLC. The agent listed is Dickson Sheh, who is based in Hewlett, New York. 633 Mead Street LLC bought the property in 2007 and has yet to do anything with it.
Members of the VNNA filed a complaint with the Department of Sanitation on July 6.
Kathy Dawkins, from DOS, confirmed that the complaint was filed, and said, “We did inspect it, and as of August 8 the lot was cleaned.”
As it turns out, however, DOS cleaning entails only “removing any weeds that were coming out into the street,” according to Dawkins. DOS cannot do anything further because, according to a representative from Senator Jeff Klein’s office, “the vegetation that exists there is not enough for them to enter the property on their own.”
The VNNA approached Klein’s office after getting no results from the DOS complaint or from calling 3-1-1. After learning the limits of what DOS can do to clean up the vacant space, Klein wrote a letter to the agent, Dickson Sheh.
“Concerns into my office have centered on the collection of debris and unkept vegetation,” Klein wrote to Sheh. “It is important to keep our neighborhoods in good condition… I would respectfully request that you work with us to bring this property into good condition.”
Klein sent his letter on Monday, August 16 and remains “very committed to property preservation” as he awaits a response, his staffer said.
In the meantime, Bombace and his colleagues sent a second complaint to the Department of Health.
A DOH representative said on Friday, August 20, that they are “sending an inspector to follow up next week.”
“The lot should be cleaned two or three times a year. The senator shouldn’t have to get involved,” said Ferrara.