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Wild abandon: Deserted house crawling with raccoons, neighbors say

What an eye-sore: Plants are overtaking the abandoned car.
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A Georgetown resident who tried to clean up a derelict E. 65th Street house was chased off by a pack of raccoons, and now locals are demanding the city step in and secure the pest-infested dwelling. But municipal workers won’t trap the masked mammals unless they have rabies, and neighbors don’t want to get close enough to make a diagnosis, one said.

“I called 311, the woman on the phone asked me if it was rabid, and I asked her if she wants me to go get bit so I can find out,” said Dori Ramos, who lives next door.

The raccoon rooming house between Avenues M and N has been otherwise vacant since its owner died about three years ago, and the yard is so overgrown that weeds are creeping onto Ramos’s property and threatening to damage her home’s foundation, she said. She sent her son on a July 12 bushwhacking excursion, but a few of the beasts ran him off the property, according to Ramo, who said she’s frightened by the critters’ newfound boldness.

“It started to become aggressive and started coming at him,” she said. “And on the top of her shed there was another raccoon. We’ve never seen them out in the day like that. I was spooked all night last night, every time I went into my yard, I was looking over my shoulder.”

There is little the city can do about the wild animals or the derelict home, officials said.

“The city doesn’t do anything about raccoons. If they are rabid that’s a whole different story, but most are not,” said Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park), who also said similar vacant homes is a widespread problem in his district.

The Department of Buildings issued two violations on the home — one on May 15 for failure to maintain the building in a code compliant manner, and another on July 11 for vehicles stored on the property, according to a department spokesman. But the city won’t seal off the property or issue any orders because it is not considered a public safety hazard — and it’s the owner’s responsibility to maintain, he said.

The owner’s daughter, Gina Sorrentino, says she started caring for the home when her mom died. Sorrentino lives on far-away Staten Island but claims she is about to clean up the three-years vacant house and put it on the market.

“I live out of town, the landscapers are coming next week,” said Sorrentino. “The house is going on the market within the next two weeks.”

But Sorrentino has been trying unsuccessfully for three years to sell the rotting home, and its doubtful anyone will buy the mess soon, according to neighbor Joyce Grunes, Instead, the city must do the right thing and clean up the mess, because Ramos’s quality of life is seriously suffering, Grunes said.

“She can’t go in her backyard, the raccoons are all over the place it’s disgusting,” said Joyce Grunes, who lives down the street. “Why should we live like animals? We’re paying taxes.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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