Problematic Van Nest Teen Hangout Handled

The party’s finally over at a problematic vacant home in Van Nest.

The abandoned house on 1619 Melville Street, which was being used as a hangout for local teenagers, was finally sealed and cleaned up on Wednesday, April 20.

The problem house was first reported by Melville Street resident Brunilda Machado at a Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance meeting in October.

The VNNA relayed the report to Senator Jeff Klein’s office, which could not locate the home’s owner. It was, however, able to invoke Klein’s 2009 Property Maintenance Legislation to force mortgage holder U.S. Bank to fix up the property.

The house, which had its doors kicked in, was covered in graffiti and filled with empty soda cans, pizza boxes and beer bottles.

“Brunilda would always come to our meetings and tell us kids were still there and there’s still activity there,” said Bernadette Ferrara, vice president of the VNNA.

Ferrara said the way Machado worked through her local neighborhood association to bring the problem to Klein’s attention was a perfect example of how people can use the organization to address other community issues.

“This is how communities work,” she said. “Be a part of our meetings and come to our meetings so you can have resources.”

Cleaning up foreclosed and abandoned properties has been a major issue for Klein. Neglected properties can be eyesores, cause damage to neighboring homes and drive down area property values.

However, the Melville house had the extra dimension of being a congregating place for kids.

“In this particular case, the abandoned property was a safety concern because it had become a hangout spot for minors,” Senator Klein said in a statement. “I am pleased that we were able to get the mortgage company to clean-up the area and secure it to prevent anyone from entering the property in the future.”

The house had an unpaid water bill of over $6,000. All first-floor doorways and windows are now blocked.

The cleanup crew sent by U.S. Bank initially just picked up the litter inside the house, but Klein’s office followed-up to make sure all possible entryways were sealed.

Machado did not return calls, but she did say that she considered the house to be “not only a safety concern, but a quality of life concern as well.”

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