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New Kensington targeting 12 properties for demolition

BRIAN C. RITTMEYER| Friday, Oct. 8, 2021 6:00 a.m.

Frederick Clay says the sooner New Kensington tears down a dilapidated house on his street, the better.

“Nature reclaimed the house,” he said of the house at 1211 Leishman Ave., next to his own. “I’ve been cutting this grass for years. It’s a weekly struggle.”

Clay said the house has been a problem in his neighborhood since a police raid there in 2017.

And it’s not the only empty house the city wants to tear down.

New Kensington has a dozen properties in its sights for demolition. The city’s Board of Health is scheduled to meet Oct. 25 to determine whether the properties are public nuisances.

The city is notifying the property owners and other parties of interest of the hearing, City Clerk Dennis Scarpiniti said.

The hearing is the next step toward razing the buildings. The city’s code enforcement office notified their owners, giving them 10 days to fix problems, Scarpiniti said.

The properties are located at:

• 1211 Leishman Ave.

• 125 Catalpa St.

• 1310 Woodmont Ave.

• 1134 Seventh St.

• 1230 Kenneth Ave.

• 220 Ridge Ave.

• 849 Franklin St.

• 9 Robinson St.

• 728 Bridge St.

• 556 Ridge Ave.

• 264 McCargo St.

• 1207 Victoria Ave.

The house at 1134 Seventh St. was damaged in a fire more than two years ago, in April 2019. A passing volunteer firefighter, Wayne Erb, rescued a resident, Kaylene Keener, from her apartment on the second floor of the three-story house.

The house has become a haven for raccoons. Pete Unruh, who lives on one side, and Joe Davis, on the other, have watched raccoon babies grow up there.

“It would be nice if they’d take it down,” Unruh said. “It’s just an eyesore.”

New Kensington received $3,500 from the insurance on the house, but that wasn’t enough to pay for the demolition. That’s expected to cost more than $10,000, code enforcement Officer Pat McGrath said.

After the properties are declared nuisances, Scarpiniti said the city will seek bids for their demolition. The cost will be paid with grant funds through the federal Community Development Block Grant program, Scarpiniti said.

Scarpiniti said the city hopes to see the buildings torn down by early next year, if not late this year.

The house at 125 Catalpa looks like a jungle, said Cindy Eshenbaugh, who lives across from it.

Hearing that it could be gone soon was good news.

“I wish it was today,” she said.

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