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Constant struggle with blight, illegal dumping leaves neighborhood weary

Posted at 5:35 PM, Aug 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 18:19:41-04

CLEVELAND — The Environmental Crimes Task Force and Cleveland Division of Building and Housing both have launched official inquiries into code enforcement complaints and allegations of illegal dumping at a residential property in the city’s Slavic Village neighborhood. In the backyard of the home, which neighbors said has been abandoned for several months, is a massive pile of trash, including mattresses, furniture and other residential waste.

A spokesperson for Mayor Frank Jackson’s office said both investigations into the condition of 3599 East 57th St. would begin in the coming days. Over the past week, neighborhood activists have flooded local neighborhood Facebook pages about the property and the massive pile of trash that can be seen through the dilapidated fence.

“The fence is about to collapse because there’s so much trash back there,” said Antoinette Wiley. “Kids walk home from school. They walk past this every single day. It’s dangerous for the community because we don’t know who’s in there.”

According to property records, the property has been transferred nine times since 2003. The most recent transfer occurred in April 2018. City spokesman Dan Williams said the city issued a raze order on the structure but it was rescinded when the new owner made repairs to the structure. Despite the apparent repairs, the home is still in rough shape. Neighbors said the owner has not been seen in several months.

“Seems like whoever owned it and came in and cleared it out and dumped everything in the back for some reason,” said Jeff Schebek. “It’s in the backyard now. And then I’ve never seen anybody over there ever again.”

The home is far from the only abandoned, blighted property on the street. Just at the corner of East 57th and Mound Ave. alone are three blighted properties, including a large, hulking multi-family structure whose windows have been reduced to jagged edges of broken glass. A faded ‘FOR RENT’ sign hangs on the façade. The electrical meters, mail boxes and siding have been stripped and broken.

In recent months, the property, which backs up to a shared driveway with a neighboring garage, was also the site of illegal dumping, according to Ward 12 Councilman Tony Brancatelli. City crews had to use a front-end loader to remove the disgusting refuse. The city allocates millions of dollars annually to clean up and address illegal dumping.

“It’s depressing. You walk by and you see houses boarded up. You see garbage. It makes you angry when you see garbage dumped,” said neighbor Jeff Schebek. “It’s like somebody just had a bunch of garbage and instead of putting it in their garbage cans or finding a dumpster they just dumped it on the ground.”

Unlike 3599 East 57th, the abandoned multi-family building is severely behind on property taxes. According to county real estate records, the property has accumulated more than $80,000 in back taxes. The property has since been forfeited to the State of Ohio.

The owners of 3599 East 57th and another neighboring home, 3601 East 57th, are both current on their property taxes. Neither could be reached for comment.

Neighbors said absentee owners and the illegal dumping that sometimes follows have been a constant thorn in the side of the neighborhood.

“Slavic Village was one of the nicest areas ever around here. Everything was here. You didn’t have to go far for something. Everyone was polite. Now it’s just a dead zone,” Williams said. “I’ve lived here all my life. I’m in my 50s now. I’m almost wanting to move out of this town but I’ve been here all my life. Where am I going to go? Back home, right?”

Oftentimes, the city faces an uphill battle when it comes to illegal dumping. In some cases, the illegal commercial dumping is committed by unscrupulous contractors who prioritize profit over by getting rid of construction debris without paying for legal dumping fees. This scenario plays out repeatedly despite the fact that Cleveland’s legal dumping fees are amongst the cheapest in Northeast Ohio.

Neighbors including Rick McGinnis were pleased to hear the city is taking action on the illegal dumping in the neighborhood.

“It’s about time because I want it cleaned up too. I just recently moved into Slavic Village and I love the neighborhood. I re-did my house down here but I get tired of seeing this garbage dumped over here,” McGinnis said. “It’s an ongoing thing in this community. It’s not only in Slavic Village but also up around East 93rd. These contractors, whoever they are, they’re dumping their garbage here.”