Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pittstown Problems or Why they call it "The Pitts"

I have always heard it but never realized how true is was until we moved here seven years ago. Pittstown, NY is definately the junk-yard capital of upstate New York. In 1999, my husband and I had qualified for a FHA Homeowners loan and we eagerly set out to do some house-hunting for our first home. We were only qualifed for $57,000 so really didnt have too terribibly much of a choice of which homes to look at. Most of the houses we liked were way out of our range and we searched for months and months but couldnt find anything within our budget. Until one day I received a flyer in the mail about a real estate auction that would be taking place in a couple of weeks and had some nice looking reasonably priced properties advertized there. There was one in particular that we liked as it located in the country, was within our price range and we were anxious to move from the city. We made an appoint for a pre-auction walk through and when we pulled up to the house to park we were appalled to see the condition of the house right NEXT door to us, less than 20 feet away and sharing a property line. Although the "house" was occupied, , ....for all intents and purposes, judging by the delapitated run down appearance of the building iteslf, it looked like it should be immediately condemmed. The 2 acre lot on the side of the house was a total an complete "back-yard" junk yard, with EVERY MANNER of debris to be found there; old cars, boats, pallets, school buses, hundreds of tires,and litter and debris of all kinds all over the place. I knew in a heart beat the place was not for us, eventhough it was about to go on the auction block for cheap. Now we knew why. Well, since we were already there and the sale property was pretty nice looking from the outside, despite the deplorable conditions next door, we decided to have our walk around so as not to waste the realitors time. So we went in. Much to our suprise the house was really nice, had been modernized in recent years with a big room country kitchen, den, living room w/ fireplace, a full bath and laundery room down, and three bedrooms and a full bath up. All in all, for the money, it was a very nice house, and if it werent for the ramshackle house nextdoor almost ontop of us, and the two acres junk yard to go with it, we would have bought it on the spot if it were possible. It must have been the realitors first showing of that property as she looked in a bit of a state of shock also at the deplorable conditions next door. We let her know that we would have been interested in the house if it wernt for the "problem" next door. She offered that she would call the town supervisor, at that time a Mr.Salisbury, to see what the story was on all the obvious CODE VIOLATIONS regarding the adjoining property. Well, it was only a few days after that that the realitor called us back with some "good news." Mr. Salisbury had informed her that the property was currently under citation for the State Department of Environmental Servies (EnCon) and was under ORDERS to clean up the property. Through our real-eatate broker, we were assured by the town that the property was "in the process" of being cleaned up. Of course, wanting to be sure, we did call EnCon to inquire and they said "yes," indeed it was true. They were overseeing a clean up of the property, (EnCon Case #__________) . With this piece of "good news," we went ahead and bid on and "won" the property at 118 River rd. In January 2000, we moved in, and come the warmer weather of March and April, we watched "gleefully" as the clean-up next door began. Several junk cars and dozens of old tires were removed, as well as a stack of auto-batteries and some other miscellanous debree. The "clean up" "looked" as if it was going well, with bon-fires buring every day for weeks while scrap lumber and other stuff was burned off. Then around the end of April, we noticed not a slow down but a sudden cessation of all activites. Days went by and still no sign of any further clean up efforts. Curious, I called the EnCon Officer in charge of the clean up to inquire as to why the cessation of clean-up activites, and you can imagine my suprise when she told me that EnCons mandated cleanup of that property was through! Through, I thought! Yes they did take some stuff out but it still looked as bad as ever, to say nothing of the falling down house rife with serious code violations but wasent touched! For all the junk they did take out, there was 10 times that still laying all over the place. For all intents and purposes, it looked exaclty the same as before the clean up. If you didnt know there was a clean up, you would never know. The place looks as bad as ever. When I questioned EnCon as to why they would close the case before the clean up was compete., the EnCon officer asvised me that it was just a "minimal" clean up, explaining to us that EnCon didnt have any enforcement powers over junkyards, advising me that the completion of the clean up would be up to "the town" to pursure. So started our never ending battle with the town of Pittstown to get the property next door cleaned up. We went to town meetings, we wrote letters, in 2002-3, we even had the State Department of Code Enforcement open a case on this property and ORDERED the town IN WRITING to do a clean up IMMEDIATELY. However, and I was amazzed at the gall of the town,...the town just plain out ignored the State Department order "just like it never came down." When I called to question Mr. Scott, the Enforcment officer at the State Department as to why he would let the town get away with ignoring his order, he informed me that he had spoken to the town supervisor over the phone and that the town supervisor had "promiced" him he would "get busy" with the clean up. Based on the town supervisors promice to perform, the State Department "closed the case" on this property! We think a lttle premature? Imagine our dismay when several months later there was still no futher clean up on that property by the town or anyone else.....sooooo, back to the town meetings every month we went, getting accused of making a nusiance of ourselves over the nuisance property next door. "Trouble-makers" we were called, and no help from the town, the county or the state was had. Back to to the letter writing campaign, the State Dept again, the Attorney Genrerals Office, and all who else I could think of that might be able to help us get the deplorable property right next door to us cleaned up. All to no avail. During the course of our battles for a clean up, I did a FOIL request to the town for copies of "any and all" complaints that had been filed againts this property for the last 20 years. Incredibly, we received in reply a stack of complaints going back to the late 1980's!
*Any good lawyers out there looking for an easy win case against the town, the county and the state for failure to do their jobs? Contact me at:

Fast forward to 2004. A fire. Thank God that no one was hurt but the offensive building went down to the ground "in a flash." Fast forward to 2008, and you will have to click on the title above to see what that 2 acre lot next door to us looks like today;

bear in mind as you look at the pics, this property has a documented history of complaints going back to the mid-80s, and I personally have been complaining about over the last EIGHT YEARS to anyone even remotely liable for enforcement of property maintenance codes and its clean up,...starting from the town on up to county, state and even attorney general offices. Apparently nobody gives a dam but me. Nobody wants to do their job, they are all passing the buck one to eachother but I say the buck stops here,...with the birth of Johnsonville Residents Who Really Care Campaign! We think that "Real" Smart growth begins with a dedication to natural & rural preservation FIRST and FOREMOST above ALL ELSE. That is the foundation of "Real Smart" Growth & Planning - We need more that "Smart Growth," we need "REal Smart" Growth for we are in critical times and living in a critical environmental area. Wake up ans smell the coffee Pittstown, before your rural heritage disappears as will your farm lands and open and natural spaces if you dont start appreciating them NOW!

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