Eternal nightmare of the not-so-spotless crackhouse

Neighbors say that a boarded-up house at 59 Orient Ave. in Williamsburg has become a safe haven for drug use and prostitution — and that the flimsy plywood fence that surrounds the dilapidated building has only made things worse.
The Brooklyn Paper / Ben Muessig

The Williamsburg house that starred in the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” has become an eternal nightmare for neighbors.

Squatters, junkies, and prostitutes have turned the vacant building at 59 Orient Ave. — which served as Kate Winslet’s apartment in Michel Gondry’s artsy 2004 flick — into a crackhouse, and residents of the tree-lined block say their safety is at risk.

“What was once a nice neighborhood is going downhill because that place is a haven for people who are using drugs,” said architect Adam Kehr, who lives next door. “It’s scary. We have people walking across our property to go in there to do drugs at all hours of the night.”

The once-grand edifice — which, coincidentally, is on the same street where Gondry just bought a home — went vacant last winter when a longtime owner moved out, and by spring it was a destination for druggies.

Since then, neighbors have spied trespassers tying off their arms and smoking from tinfoil pipes in the overgrown front yard.

“Someone needs to do something about this,” said neighbor Nina Gilbert, who started carrying mace when she leaves the apartment. “I feel like my safety is really compromised. It used to be a really short and really pleasant walk back from the train — now I don’t feel safe.”

But the risk of crime isn’t the only thing that has neighbors frightened — there have been two fires on the property since it became abandoned, prompting the Fire Department to designate the building as a potentially dangerous structure.

“It’s a big fire hazard,” said Lourent Girard, who lives across the street and has seen groups of as many as 20 people spend nights in the decaying structure. “Unless they have a guard 24 hours a day, I don’t know what they could do other than board up the whole thing.”

To keep trespassers out, the owners of the building surrounded the house with a rickety plywood fence and boarded up the front door and first-floor windows.

But the druggies have repeatedly knocked down sections of the fence, neighbors say, giving them easy access to the building through second-floor windows.

And some residents of the block, which is between Metropolitan Avenue and Olive Street, say the fence is only making things worse.

“The owners of the building need to take down that fence,” Kehr said. “It’s not helpful in terms of safety and it provides visual cover for people who are doing illicit things.”

But the owners, who are planning to demolish the crackhouse to make room for a 20-unit condo, say they can’t obtain the necessary permits to tear down the decaying building without having a fence.

“I know we’ve got a lot of the homeless [living there],” said Carlos Mery, who owns the building with his brother Andres. “We put the window guards in, we’ve put gates on the doors, but they always find a way in. … I’m also very concerned, but there is nothing I can do.”

Cops say they are aware of community complaints.

“We do visit to the location,” said an officer from the 90th Precinct. “We do not have any way to get into the building — it’s boarded up and it is [structurally] a dangerous building. We have been trying to get in touch with the owners. There have been arrests over there for trespassing and drugs.”

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