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Ridgewood neighbors push city to deal with squatters

Sokol Gjonbalaj lives next door to the dilapidated Cypress Avenue house that was foreclosed on years earlier. Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

The previous owners of a foreclosed Ridgewood home moved out, and neighbors said the city has done little about the squatters who illegally moved in.

Neighbors of the abandoned, dilapidated, two-story brick house at 80-44 Cypress Ave. said a band of squatters in their 30s and their dogs use the residence as a nightly hangout and even a bathroom.

“This place looks like a disaster,” said Sokol Gjonbalaj, whose second-story balcony hovers above the overgrown backyard. “If I left my house like that, I would get violations every day.”

Gjonbalaj actually did receive a $100 violation when a city inspector mistook his house for the abandoned home. And he has incurred other expenses as his homeowner insurance premiums went up and his property values down. He even had to replace a fence that separates his property from the lot of the house after the squatters knocked it down.

“Nobody cares,” Gjonbalaj said. “I’ve called the police, 311, [city] Sanitation.”

The Sanitation Department has come by a few times to clean part of the abandoned lot near the house, but the city Department of Buildings said the owner of the property is ultimately responsible for its upkeep.

After the house was foreclosed on by Wells Fargo, a California-based company called Carrington Mortgage took over as the servicer of the property, which means it is responsible for upkeep.

Carrington Mortgage did not respond to requests to comment for this article.

Gjonbalaj said he fears for the safety of his three children, especially after another neighbor said he found a box of syringes inside the house.

One of Gjonbalaj’s daughters cut herself on a nail on the sidewalk in front of the property after the weather knocked down a large wooden wall which nobody cleaned up.

“If the city owns it, they should knock it down or make it secure,” he said.

Other neighbors, like Patrick Defillippo, simply want to see the property cleaned up.

He also wants to be reimbursed for damage done to his fence and concrete patio by someone working on the property.

“They messed it up when they were digging back there,” he said, although he was unsure which company or agency was digging and putting up an unsightly plywood fence right behind the white picket fence.

Defillippo’s wife, Marisol, said the filthy house attracts rats and mosquitoes.

“The rats were on the roof,” she said. “In the middle of the day!”

She also said the overgrown state of the backyard attracts so many mosquitoes that the family cannot use their barbecue and outdoor patio at night.

The NYPD did not comment for this article.

Down the street, the empty shell of a foreclosed apartment complex invites a similar crowd, according to neighbor Peter Giglio.

“We called 911, 311, anybody you could think of we called,” he said. “Nobody could do anything about it.”

Giglio said the squatters curiously wear army green and listen to “weird classical music.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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