Something stinks on Hawkins Street

This house at 149 Hawkins Street is home to a family of skunks, among other wild animals, but has not been occupied in seven or eight years. - Photo by Patrick Rocchio

City Island neighbors are up in arm over a family of skunks, who are joining mice and other vermin in making a derelict property on Hawkins Street their home.

Residents living near 149 Hawkins Street drafted a petition against the homeowner, which they presented to Councilman Jimmy Vacca’s office, as well as to City Island Chamber of Commerce vice-president Paul Klein, whose gift business, Eqotica, stands around the corner from the derelict property.

The petition calls on the homeowner, listed on a Department of Buildings violation as Marcelline Moyer, to deal with rodent and vermin infestation at the site, and to secure the property.

“Because I am nearby, the community members came to me about this issue,” Klein said. “The neighbors are annoyed about the situation. They have called 311, but don’t know about any follow through from city agencies.”

According to neighbors, the property has been mostly vacant for the last seven or eight years, and was only sporadically occupied after the woman who last lived in the house moved to an assisted living facility.

Currently the DOB has an active violation on the property, saying it is vacant, open and unguarded.

“The owner doesn’t want to do anything about it,” said Joe Gelsi, who lives on the street. “She thinks it is a landmark, but if it is, this is a travesty.”

The City Island community has formed a non-profit entity called the City Island Historical Preservation Society, to identify historical properties and help the owners restore them to their original state. City Island has numerous land-marked buildings, including the home of Le Refuge at 586 City Island Avenue, but the Hawkins Street property is not listed as one. 

“It’s really unfortunate that the negligence of one property owner can impact so many people on a block and in a community,” said Councilman Jimmy Vacca.

Vacca feels that with enough prodding, even though this is private property, some positive results will occur.  Residents already have ideas about what can be done with the land. 

“We were going to buy it and knock it down, because it is such a problem,” said Michael Lachman, who lives across the street. 

Neighbors on the block said that they were considering knocking the house down to put in a parking lot, as the dead end street has little in the way extra parking.

“Every other lot on the block would have two spaces,” Gelsi noted about the plans, which at this point are at the drawing board. “We could probably fit more than 10 spaces.”

In the meantime, homeowners on the street were concerned that the derelict property would make it more difficult to sell their homes if they needed or wanted to.

“I could just imagine someone coming onto the block to look at a house, and then looking across the street and asking ‘what is that?,’” Gelsi said.  “Something needs to be done.”

Vacca hopes he can help.  “My office has been in contact with several city agencies to see if this owner can be compelled to take care of the property,” he said.  “My staff is also in the process of reaching out to the owner, who we feel really owes it to the neighbors to take some responsibility.”

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