Tidy Cats saves blighted house on 184th Street

Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

They are calling it the best-looking boarded-up house in Queens.

Just two weeks ago, the abandoned home on 184th Street in Springfield Gardens was a dilapidated mess. Neighbors said that in the 10-plus years since the home’s owner died, the yard had become a dumping ground that was driving them up the wall and their property values down.

“It was a mess. The pool was filled in with trash and it attracted mosquitoes and rodents,” said Larry Love, 55, whose house sits right next door to the former eyesore. “The worst part was the summer. It was a swamp, a jungle. The raccoons came out and one even attacked my niece. My mother was getting sick.”

Love got in touch with City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), whose office scoured records to find who was responsible for maintaining the property.

“We asked a million questions. We asked Sanitation; we asked the banks. Everyone was playing the blame game,” he said.

Sanders called attention to the neighborhood’s plight, and soon after its savior rode in “not on a white horse, but on a yellow garbage truck,” he said.

Purina Tidy Cats, the kitty litter company, had recently launched its “NO PU” campaign which, as spokeswoman Meghan Lamontagne put it, helps people tackle extreme untidiness.

“Tidy Cat helps with the PU in the litter box, and the PU Patrol is going around the country helping people with their stinky situations,” she said.

The company hired a local contractor, A.S. Construction and Landscaping out of Hollis, to transform the unsightly eyesore into a beautiful backyard.

Owner Aaron Smith said that in his 25 years in the business, he had never seen such a mess.

“Picture your worst nightmare in one yard, like Freddy Krueger, and it all attacks at one time,” he said.

Over the course of four days, Smith and a crew of about a dozen hauled out 34 cubic yards of tires, mattresses, buckets and trash bags — all out of a backyard that abuts some of the most beautiful ones in the borough.

They filled in the pool, took down four big bulky trees, threw in some plantings, boarded up the house’s windows and slapped the building with a new coat of paint — all to the neighbors’ delight.

“This is not clean,” said Love. “This is a face-lift. I’ve never seen my mother so happy!”

Love’s mother, 81-year-old Mary Moore, joined her neighbors, Sanders and the PU Patrol for a barbecue in the backyard last week to celebrate the transformation.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “Now I can walk out without looking to see if I step on metal.”

Sanders praised the collaboration between the neighborhood and the company, and said it would be up to the community to ensure the home did not fall into such a state of disrepair once again.

“It’s the obligation of the neighborhood now to make sure this property never goes back to what it was before,” he said, adding he believed it would be much easier to find someone to buy the home now. “It’s the miracle on 184th Street!”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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