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Photos Courtesy Dominick Totino
The Totino family – whose 86-year-old patriarch Giuseppe was diagnosed with West Nile – say their Whitestone neighbor has been allowing weeds to grow unchecked for years.

Dominick Totino said it took six years – and a diagnosis of West Nile Virus in his elderly father – for his Whitestone neighbor to finally clean up his property – kind of.

Totino said his 86-year-old father Giuseppe, who suffers from heart problems, spent 12 days in St. Francis Hospital at the end of August.

“He had an infection the doctors couldn’t find,” said the photographer for Borough President Helen Marshall. “He was on antibiotics and was released because he was stable. My sister asked for tests for Lyme disease and West Nile.”

When the results came back positive for West Nile, Totino said “everything started to make sense.”

“My first inclination was the house next door – it’s been overgrown for six years,” he said. “Every time we see him we ask him to cut it back. It took this. All the adjacent houses have well-manicured yards.”

The Totinos (Dominick lives next door to his dad, mom and sister) say the house in question on 18th Avenue has been vacant since it was purchased.

They say they have contacted 3-1-1 and even City Councilmember Dan Halloran.

According to the Department of Buildings web site, the property – reportedly in and out of foreclosure – has eight violations, dating back to May, 2008. And according to reports, in 2007, the owner was fined $25,000 by the Environmental Control Board.

Totino, who has been chronicling the problem for years, said following media attention, the owner “said he was sorry and vowed to clean up the property.”

“He showed up with men, only because I put so much pressure on him and because of my dad.”

However, Totino says that the clean-up effort was half-hearted at best.

“As we speak there are 30 black bags of weeds in the yard. They only cut the vegetation down. If it continues to rain we’ll be back to where we were.”

And, he said, a recent inspection by the Department of Health, which reportedly found no evidence of standing water, was “a complete waste of time.”

“They did the inspection from the sidewalk and it hadn’t even rained.”


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