It took three years of complaining to the city, but only two weeks after a story by the Queens Chronicle for the absentee landlord of a blighted Laurelton property to board up the dwelling, finally keeping gang members and other vandals away from the site.
It was a victory for Roxane 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.
“We are really relieved,” Stephens said. “We feel a lot safer now.’
Prior to the house being sealed, there was graffiti, some of it YBZ gang-related, scrawled over the walls and ceiling on the first floor, garbage everywhere and holes in some of the walls. On the second floor were massive piles of discarded clothes, toys, books and other possessions left behind by the former occupant, D’Orelans-Juste said.
Her family had feared for their safety, installing a security system after someone tried to break into their house by throwing a brick through the skylight.
Frustrated by the lack of response from the city, D’Orelans-Juste, who is recovering from breast cancer treatment, contacted City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), who alerted the Chronicle, prompting the June 7 story.
Donovan Richards, chief of staff to Sanders, said the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development gave the owner two weeks to secure the property or the city would step in, make the repairs and bill the owner.
This week, workers sealed all the house’s openings with wood and a metal mesh covering, Stephens said. They also installed a fence around the backyard to prevent the illegal dumping that had been occurring.
“I can only imagine how happy they are,” Richards said of D’Orelans-Juste and her family. “We have really been able to move mountains with your help, with the help of the Queens Chronicle.”