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Mount Pleasant Moves Toward Demolishing Abandoned, Decayed House

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The house at 354 Manhattan Ave. in Hawthorne after the Town of Mount Pleasant cleared the property after years of having overgrown foliage. The town is strongly considering demolishing the house that is filled with mold, vermin and racoons.

Mount Pleasant officials are increasingly likely to authorize demolition of an abandoned house in Hawthorne that has been deemed unsafe, with evidence that the structure has been infested with vermin and raccoons.

The Town Board opened a public hearing last Tuesday to help it decide whether it should authorize a teardown of the one-and-a-half-story wood-frame dwelling at 354 Manhattan Ave. that has been neglected for about a decade. It stands on a nearly quarter-acre lot at the corner of Montieth Avenue in a quiet residential neighborhood.

The listed owner of the home is Betty A. Smith, according to the town assessor’s office last week. Smith died on Nov. 7, 2012 at 88 years old, and the house has steadily deteriorated in the 10 years since.

One of the house’s immediate neighbors spoke of its disastrous condition during the Dec. 27 hearing. Glenn Frisbie, a Sherman Avenue resident whose residence directly faces the back of the home, pleaded with the board to follow the recommendations of Building Inspector Sal Pennelle and the town’s consulting architect to raze the house.

“It’s vile. I’ve watched this thing degrade to a point that we can’t utilize our outdoor deck,” Frisbie said. “There’s holes in the roof, there’s furniture still inside the residence and it’s moldy, and there’s a stench.”

There are several broken windows and a hole in the front that allows animals to enter, Pennelle’s Oct. 12 report to the Town Board stated. He recommended that the board authorize the demolition.

“I have determined that the property is an imminent danger to human life and/or health which should be made safe or removed,” Pennelle’s wrote in his report. “As such, my recommendation is for the Town Board to authorize the demolition or removal of the structure in accordance with the provisions” of the town code.

The town retained Divmovski Architecture of Thornwood to do a survey of the premises and they concluded that the house is unsalvageable. The firm’s principal, Paulette Dimovski, noted in her report that the roof system is compromised with severe water damage, the roof rafters are compromised and its structural framing is failing.

Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said within the past several months, the town also hired a landscaper and cleared the overgrown foliage from around the house. Officials hope that an eventual sale of the property will allow the town to recoup most of the cost of demolition, landscaping and professional services so far.

Although no one has maintained the property, Fulgenzi said the taxes are being paid, possibly through the estate of the owner.

He called it unfortunate that neighbors and other residents in the area have to endure a decrepit property. It’s also been difficult for the town having to spend money on professional services in hopes of recovering the money later. Previously, the town would have petitioned the county court, but the process to condemn a property has become more complicated, Fulgenzi said.

“Now it’s a matter of having an engineer inspect it,” Fulgenzi said. “We can’t use our own engineer. We have to get an outside engineering firm and go in there and deem it unsafe, so we can go through the process of having it torn down.”

Frisbie also told the board that he has video of racoons entering and leaving the house and that the property also is home to rodents, some of which have made it into his home.

“It’s unsafe, it’s beyond unsightly and I would strongly advocate that we move forward and knock the thing down,” Frisbie said.

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