Elderly woman not a‘muse’d with by unfair tickets

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An empty lot filled with trees sits next to one elderly resident who calls the coveted greenspace a “holy hell” causing her an unfair financial burden brought on by the Department of Environmental Protection, Health and Sanitation. 

Josephine Muse, an 80-year-old who owns the home on E. 234th Street, but not the vacant lot next door, says the city agencies have unfairly ticketed her for garbage dumped at the site and for litter that lands on her property whenever the wind blows. 

“Everyone puts their trash and garbage there, and the grass and weeds have grown over five feet high on different occasions,” Muse stated of the lot. “The New York City Department of Health and the Department of Sanitation know the lot is not mine, yet I have been receiving summonses for over 19 years.”

Muse said she has also received summonses from the DEP for trash that is not only blown over from the vacant property next to her home, but also left in front of her house by people passing by. Additionally, tree branches from the lot next door have fallen onto her home, causing damage that needed to be repaired at cost to her.

“A few years ago, the DOS sent a nice woman to my house to investigate the complaint that I was being ticketed for property that was not mine,” Muse explained. “When that happened, the ticketing from Sanitation stopped, and it hasn’t returned.”

Nevertheless, in 2005, when Muse refinanced her mortgage, the Department of Finance put a $2,700 lien on her house for unpaid tickets. She paid the tickets, but is still getting summonses from DEP and DOH.

“They came to my house and began pounding on my door,” Muse noted of an unspecified city agency. “When I opened the door, they demanded that I clean the lot next door that doesn’t belong to me.”

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, Muse, who has already gone through the hassle of cleaning up the property to avoid future tickets, said she was then harassed by a man who purchased the vacant lot in question, and wanted to buy her home as well.

Muse said the man purchased the lot in January 2007, although the ticketing has not stopped, she complained. 

“The gentleman came to my house and said that he wanted to purchase half of my driveway, but I told him no” Muse stated. “Then he called me, and asked me hypothetically how much I would want if I sold my house. He called seven or eight times in one week, and I believe he was specifically targeting me because I am a senior. I finally had to tell him I was going to call the police, and the phone calls stopped.”

Both DOH and DEP had no official comment as of press time, but representatives of both agencies said Muse should utilize 311 if she had any complaints about the lot next-door or other issues.  Muse said she plans to take her complaints before  Community Board 12.

Updated 5:30 pm, October 21, 2011
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