Roxane D’Orelans-Juste stared in disbelief as she walked through the interior of the house attached to her own in Laurelton on Monday. The property has remained vacant for the last two years, she said, but recently some unsavory characters have been coming in and out through its unlocked door.
“It’s much worse than I imagined,” D’Orelans-Juste, who is recovering from breast cancer treatment, said. “This is disturbing.”
Graffiti, some of it YBZ gang-related, is scrawled all over the walls and ceiling. In one room, empty liquor bottles, a discarded mattress, lawn chairs and garbage can be found. On a makeshift table made out of a plank of wood and a plaster bucket is marijuana and tobacco residue. Holes have been knocked through several of the walls and the smell of mold and mildew permeates the air.
And that’s just the first floor.
In the second floor apartment are massive piles of discarded clothes, toys, books and other possessions left behind by the former occupant, D’Orelans-Juste said. From its appearance it seems the vandals, most of them young people, have confined themselves to the first floor.
“We have seen people coming in and out and we’ve told the police, and they said they can’t do anything until they catch them in action,” D’Orelans-Juste said. “Neighbors have seen them coming in, but they don’t want to risk their lives.”
The backyard has been the site of illegal dumping, with items such as shopping carts, dirty mattresses, Christmas trees, and even old cars being left behind, according to D’Orelans-Juste. “It’s just unacceptable,” she said.
Carol Thomas, an employee at Best House Realty in Queens Village, the broker through which the property had been listed, was shocked when she heard about the condition of the house from the Queens Chronicle on Tuesday. She said she thought it had been rented and said she would call the owner immediately to inform him of the vandalism.
The owner, 236 Bentley Development Corp., could not be reached.
“This is ridiculous,” Thomas said. “You leave your home unsupervised and this happens.”
D’Orelans-Juste, 52, who lives next door to the house at 135-24 223 St. with her husband, Kevin Stephens, 55, and her adult niece and nephew, said she fears for her safety and that of her family. They put in a new security system two months ago after some of the vandals tried to break into their home by attempting to throw a brick through the skylight.
“We bought our house in 2004 and there was nothing like this,” D’Orelans-Juste said. “The lack of care is just unbelievable. I never thought it was like this.”
“These are obviously vagrants, who care nothing about the community,” Stephens added. “We have no idea who’s going to be staying here temporarily as we try to raise our family and live in a community that was once very quiet and very civil.”
D’Orelans-Juste said she has called 311 at least eight times and the operators always tell her the city will look into it, but she has yet to see an inspector come to the house and issue a violation. She added, however, that the city has taken the homeowner to court, but did not know the outcome.
Ryan Fitzgibbon, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, said the agency issued a violation at the beginning of May for an unsafe building condition, specifically having a vacant, open and unguarded building. If the owner does not correct the situation within the next several weeks, the city will step in to clean it up and bill the homeowner.
The property also has two more DOB violations for work without a permit and a construction infraction and three open Environmental Control Board violations for construction-related penalties totaling $6,600.
D’Orelans-Juste and her family have enlisted the help of City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) in hopes that he can get the house cleaned up. His chief of staff, Donovan Richards, explored the property on Monday with D’Orelans-Juste and her husband, along with neighbor Melvin Hall.
“We’re totally outraged that such beautiful residents have to live with such horror, especially when we have somebody that’s recovering from breast cancer,” Richards said. “Nobody wants this for their mother. Nobody wants this for their sister. Nobody should have to endure this, period.”
D’Orelans-Juste is not the only one on her picturesque tree-lined block who is concerned about the disgusting dwelling. Lipton Mott, 100, who lives across the street, said he couldn’t understand why the homeowner would leave the door unlocked and not check on conditions there.
“We cannot allow this to continue,” Mott said. “Somebody may come into that place — vandals, you don’t know what they may do, and that would be detrimental to us here. ... It’s no good to us. It’s wrecking our neighborhood.”