House of the crammed: City must raze Flatlands hoarder home, neighbors say

House of the crammed: City must raze Flatlands hoarder home, neighbors say
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

Talk about a full house!

The city must intervene and raze a Flatlands house that is so packed to the rafters with garbage that the junk spills out onto the sidewalk, neighbors say. The Department of Buildings issued a vacate order on the Avenue L home between E. 54th and E. 55th streets in 2014, but the owner hasn’t complied, and area residents are demanding action.

“It’s gotta be demolished — it’s gotta be cleaned up,” said Larry Feigenbaum, who lives down the block. “They put a vacate notice on that gate. Less than 30 days later, the g—— signs were covered up and gone, and [the owner is] back, and he didn’t give a s—.”

John DePietro owns the property. He admitted that a hoarding obsession compels him and claimed he is planning an April spring cleaning.

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

But locals say that DePietro is anything but apologetic. He hid from city enforcers when the city issued the 2014 vacate order, only to emerge once they’d left and, in a bizarre fit of spite, placed a caged opossum atop his car and drove around the block blaring his car horn, Feigenbaum claimed.

“A half hour after the city pulled their cars out of here, he was driving around with that cage on the top of his car beeping his horn, harassing everyone on this block,” he said.

DePietro has more than $18,000 in outstanding city fines for the dangerous property’s condition, city records show.

And the house may be full of more than junk — the city demolished a Staten Island home DePietro owned in 2007 and found it was “packed with debris and combustible propane and gas tanks,” the bucolic borough’s paper of record reported.

DePietro doesn’t inhabit the Avenue L house — rather he lives in a trailer perpetually parked around the corner on E. 55th Street, neighbors say. He defecates onto the street, flushing his feces into a nearby storm drain, Feigenbaum claimed. A garage behind DePietro’s house literally bulges under the weight of junk inside, and its partially collapsed roof reveals rodent infestations amidst the piles of refuse, junk, and antiques, neighbors said.

The Department of Buildings has not received any complaints on the property since September 2014, and it will only demolish the house if it’s in danger of collapse, according to spokesman for the agency.

Another neighbor who described DePietro as an eccentric millionaire and “like a godfather” defended the man, claiming DePietro is quick to lend a neighbor a shovel or a handyman spare parts, but admitted the man’s compulsion is unmatched.

“He’s probably the biggest hoarder in America,” said Donald Valentino who has known DePietro for 25 years. “I kid you not.”

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