For years, a Queens home overflowing with garbage has brought a plague of rats on neighboring houses—and despite myriad 311 complaints and hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid fines, the city has never done anything about it. That's according to locals who say they've been forced to suffer through the trash smells and rodent runs. Following a report by the NY Post, however, various municipal departments have intervened, and are now working on clearing the premises against the occupant's wishes.
On Wednesday, the Post reported that a house at the intersection of 118th Avenue and 115th Street in South Jamaica had generated over $342,000 in unpaid civil penalties since 2015, thanks to the resident having created a sort of domestic dump in her yard. In certain spots, the debris piles supposedly towered 10 feet tall, creating a situation one neighbor described as "painful and annoying." Which, yes, living next to a house literally full of trash, a house that seems to hemorrhage trash from every crack, does not sound great. Just think of the summertime stench, or the roach spillover!
A Department of Buildings spokesperson tells Gothamist that the city has repeatedly fined the owner of this residence for failure "to keep the property in a safe and code-compliant condition," which is to say, keeping the exterior areas "clean and free from dirt, filth, garbage or other offensive material," per the NYC Administrative Code. As you can see, the fines do not appear to have had the desired effect:
"This is ridiculous," another neighbor told NBC New York. "Nobody wants to deal with this. It’s rats, it’s cats, it’s bugs, it’s dead cats. She’s destroying people’s property."
The 57-year-old woman who lives at the address in question, however, sees things differently. She told NBC that she makes her living collecting recyclables, and while that may definitely be true — plenty of people redeem cans and bottles for cash — a lot of that recycling appears to sit bagged in front of, or even on top of, her house.
In any case, city agencies seem to have escalated its intervention past the issuance of fines, on the orders of our elusive mayor-slash-presidential-candidate Bill de Blasio. Speaking to members of the media yesterday, de Blasio reportedly said he read in "one of the papers" that a local home has "a lot of trash in the front yard," and "immediately contacted a group of commissioners" to see what could be done. "I said, ‘We need to figure out if there are legal concerns or if we need to get the Health Department involved. Figure out how to get it done,’ ” de Blasio continued, according to the NY Post. “That happens dozens and dozens and dozens of times throughout every single day."
In the Post's estimation, de Blasio used the trash-strewn house as an example of how he really does still do mayor stuff all the time, you guys, and his alleged intervention appears to have set some things in motion. The DOB, the Department of Sanitation, the NYPD, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (which had not returned our request for comment by time of publication, nor had the NYPD) are all involved now. NBC adds that police took the home's resident in for a psychiatric evaluation on Wednesday, after the city opened an adult protective services case for her. To enter the premises and clean it up, the Sanitation Department requires either the owner's consent or a court order. The city is reportedly working on getting the latter, thus the psych evaluation.
However, it appears the DSNY may not need to do the trash hauling themselves, because the homeowner (who is NOT the tenant responsible for the hoard) reportedly showed up on Thursday and started piling bags into a U-Haul. "I am going to pick up all the stuff and take it to the dump," Mahindra Ramlal, who was identified as an ex-boyfriend of the tenant, told the Post. The coterie of agencies keeping tabs on this effort reportedly feel some skepticism about Ramlal's chosen disposal methods, and said they'd "tighten up the noose" if he didn't get everything out in a timely fashion. We'll update as the situation develops.