New Kensington starts demolition process on 10 more dilapidated houses

BRIAN C. RITTMEYER|Sunday, September 20, 2020 8:01 a.m.


Another 10 dilapidated houses are on the path to demolition in New Kensington.


That’s great news for Paula Tracz, who lives near one of them at 814 Ross Ave., which was damaged by fire.


“It’s such an eyesore. I sit on my back porch, and I see the squirrels all go in there,” she said. “God knows what it’s like inside. It will be good to get this thing down.”


The city’s Board of Health voted Thursday to declare all 10 detrimental to the health, safety and general welfare of the community and a public nuisance. They were declared unsafe, and their demolitions were ordered.


The Redevelopment Authority of the City of New Kensington will tear the houses down, said the authority’s executive director, Sarah Snider. The authority works with the city and manages the grant the city already has that pays for the demolitions.


“All of these structures were selected because they have all been vacant for a very long time,” Snider said. “They’ve all got foundational and structural issues that are very challenging. These are very clear that demolition makes sense for them.”


The properties are in a 30-day waiting period in which the owners may appeal.


If the process continues, Snider said they could be torn down by the end of year or in the spring.


“We still have some additional due diligence to do,” she said, which includes asbestos surveys.


The house at 524 Fourth Ave. is so consumed by trees and other vegetation that it can barely be seen from the street or even the sidewalk in front of it. Walk across the street, where Aaron Dombrowski lives, and just the top of the roof becomes visible.


“I just don’t want the kids to go in and set it on fire. I don’t want that to happen,” he said. “It’s dangerous.”


Dombrowski said he’ll be happy to see the house gone, but there are four more in a row empty and boarded up across the street.


“It would be nice if they all were gone,” he said.


Several residents living near the empty houses worry about kids going in them and getting hurt. Les Deily said he and others have chased kids away from the house at 1153 Forest Ave., which is already half collapsed.


Sitting on his riding lawn mower recently, Deily said he cuts the grass there “so the neighborhood looks good.”


Leslie Vereen said she sometimes closes the curtains on her Fourth Avenue porch and pretends the house across the street at 433 Fourth just isn’t there.


Vereen, a member of the Redevelopment Authority board, said that over 10 years she’s seen several people move into the house with the intent of fixing it, then leave when they realize they were in over their heads.


“It’s an eyesore and we hate it,” she said.


Brandon Murray lives in a rented home next to 498 Fifth Ave., a large brick house with windows shot out by vandals. While the once overgrown lot has been cut down, he thinks his indoor cats got fleas from it.


Shingles and other pieces of the roof have blown off.


“I’m tired of looking at it and worrying something will happen to our home because of it,” he said. “This town is full of eyesores exactly like this. It’s a problem throughout the whole city.”


Declared unsafe

The New Kensington Board of Health has declared the following 10 properties are unsafe, a step toward their demolition:

• 1251 Kenneth Ave.

• 1153 Forest Ave.

• 814 Ross Ave.

• 498 Fifth Ave.

• 1214 Leishman Ave.

• 253 McCargo St.

• 310 Main St.

• 2111 Marker St.

• 524 Fourth Ave.

• 433 Fourth Ave.

Source: City of New Kensington

Photo: 1153 Forrest Ave.

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