By Mark Hallum
Residents outraged over a long-abandoned Flushing home gathered at a news conference hosted by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) on Jan. 26, at which he called on the city to consider demolishing the house that one neighbor referred to as an “attractive nuisance.”
“Everybody in this neighborhood pays some of the highest property taxes in the country. They want a safe neighborhood, they want to have city services, and they certainly don’t want to live next to an eyesore like this which, at any time, can be broken into … And is certainly a fire hazard,” Avella said. “In my opinion, the Department of Buildings has enough authority to declare this an unsafe building and level it. At least then you’d have a vacant lot which can be fenced in.”
The home at 167th Street and 35th Avenue has sat in disuse for more than 25 years, locals said, and the roof over what seems to be a mudroom in the back of the structure caved in, giving neighbors a glimpse of a still fully stocked bookshelf and other furniture.
Residents at the conference said the owner of the home does not have a mortgage on the house and lives two blocks away, leading Avella to further bemoan the house’s state of neglect.
“A lot of these situations are usually abandoned properties where something has happened; the owner died, it’s in an estate, or somebody just abandoned the property,” Avella said. “The fact that the owner of this property lives just two blocks away and refuses for years to do something about it is absolutely disgraceful.”
The city’s Dept. of Buildings has given the home a pass on inspections, and said it can only demolish the rear of the house since it has already collapsed.
Joann Vitulli, who said her family has lived next door to the property for 40 years, claimed the owner told her he is interested in fixing it up, but is going through a divorce, and doesn’t want to give up a newly renovated home to his soon-to-be ex-wife. But she said he’s peddled that excuse for 20 years, and taken no action.
And her son Joseph Vitulli, who lives with his mother, said the derelict space attracts homeless people who defecate and perform sexual acts in its yard, and teenagers who frequent the place on a weekly basis to drink and smoke marijuana.
“This home has become much more than an eyesore. It is a quality-of-life issue in the neighborhood,” Vitulli said. “We see on a regular basis homeless people going in there doing drugs and obscene acts in daylight right here in the front yard, children going in the backyard drinking and smoking, doing drugs. These are teenagers. This is an attractive nuisance that invites all these activities. They don’t care what happens here … Something is going to happen and then these authorities who are not doing anything about it now will have questions to answer.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall