Abandoned Whitestone lot forces curfew on family

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Courier

It’s house arrest come sunset for one family in Whitestone who say they’re being held hostage by a hotbed of mosquitoes and wild animals thriving in an abandoned six-acre lot next door.

“We’re limited to the time we can use our yard — cooking out or going into the pool. Once it starts to get dark — that’s it,” said Artie McCrossen, 59. “The summer’s so short already. It’s a shame.”

McCrossen, a retired firefighter, said the large and undeveloped property — which surrounds his 6th Avenue home on three sides — has been neglected for more than a year. The unkempt yard, he said, has been overgrown with weeds as high as four feet and has become an ideal home for swarms of mosquitoes, raccoons and possums.

“Last Monday, I had four raccoons on my front porch,” McCrossen said. “It was only eight o’clock at night.”

And shorter days mean a fleeting summer for his son, 12-year-old Patrick McCrossen, who said he loves swimming in the backyard pool but has to get out when the sun starts to set.

“I’m getting bitten all over. It’s hard,” he said. “It’s not fun [to have to go inside earlier]. It’s boring.”

McCrossen, who has lived in his home near the East River for six decades, said he also battles with poison ivy and other foliage that seeps into his garden through the fence that divides the properties. The lot used to be maintained and the grass cut, but that service came to a halt sometime last year, he said.

Kathy Dawkins, a spokesperson for the city’s Department of Sanitation, said the agency cleans around the perimeter “as personnel and equipment are available” but cannot enter the private property.

The removal of weeds and wildlife falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health, which found the site overrun with weeds during a July 31 inspection, an agency spokesperson said. Violations were not issued, but the department sent a warning letter to Whitestone Jewels, which purchased the five connected lots in September 2006 for $23.3 million, city agencies said.

According to Department of Building records, a permit was issued to the same company in October 2007 to build a two-story, one-family home, but that expired in March 2008 and was never renewed. The land may now be in foreclosure, according to a Department of Finance spokesperson, although it has not yet been auctioned and bankruptcy could not be verified.

Whitestone Jewels could not be reached for comment.

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