Clean start: City to demolish notorious hoarder house in Flatlands

Clean start: City to demolish notorious hoarder house in Flatlands
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Flatlanders are rejoicing after the city filed applications to demolish a notorious Avenue L home packed to the roof with junk, an eyesore that neighbors said plagued the neighborhood for more than a decade.

“This is what we’ve been looking forward to for many years,” said Kevin Hyland, who lives on E. 48th Street, a few blocks away from the hoarder home.

The demolition permits filed on Feb. 21 by agents at the Department of Housing Preservation and Development come years after Department of Buildings honchos slapped the home and its owner John DePietro with a full vacate order in 2014, which DePietro managed to skirt at the time, according to locals, who claimed he avoided inspectors in part because he lived out of a Winnebago parked around the corner — because he couldn’t fit inside his home near E. 55th Street.

But residents called on officials to intervene well before the Buildings Department issued that vacate order, according to the local councilman, who said he began efforts to clean up the cluttered cottage back in 2006, after being elected to his former office in the Assembly.

“Its been an issue as long as I’ve been in elected office, and probably before then,” said Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Flatlands).

And the city’s slow response to Maisel’s and other locals’ pleas over the years led the pol to abandon any hope that officials would seriously address the Avenue L dump, he said.

“I sort of gave up,” Maisel said. “I don’t control the Health or the Buildings departments — I can appeal to them, write letters, talk to them on the phone, but ultimately if they’re not interested in doing anything, it’s not going to get done.”

Dumped: A recreational vehicle, also filled with junk, parked outside the hoarder house on E. 55th Street.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Meanwhile, DePietro copped to his hoarding habit when he spoke to this newspaper in 2016, and promised that he planned to empty his house within a few months, conceding it was packed with nothing more than garbage.

“It’s something we’re going to straighten up, because it controls me,” said DePietro. “I allowed it and it’s nothing but garbage.”

But DePietro did not live up to his word, and Buildings Department inspectors last September issued additional violations to the Avenue L junk shack, while responding to a first-floor ceiling collapse at the home.

Agency officials returned for a more thorough inspection the next month, when buildings experts with the department’s Forensic Engineer Unit issued an emergency-demolition order for the full property, claiming its potential to come crashing down endangered the public, according to an agency spokesman.

“The building has deteriorated and is now posing a potential danger to the community, which is why we took swift action to order its demolition,” said Andrew Rudansky.

Contractors began installing fencing around the house, and carting away giant dumpsters filled with garbage from inside it, in the days after Housing Preservation Department officials — who are in charge with overseeing the home’s destruction — filed the latest permits.

And when they do knock down DePietro’s dilapidated dwelling, it won’t be the first time the city takes the wrecking ball to one of his properties. Officials in 2007 destroyed a Staten Island building owned by the self-described hoarder, after inspectors found it packed to the rafters with debris and gas tanks filled with propane, according to that borough’s paper of record.

Junk yard: The yard at the Flatlands hoarder house, filled with junk.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.