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'We'll clean this up ourselves': Neighbors tidy up problem property in Slavic Village

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Posted at 4:22 PM, Mar 31, 2023

CLEVELAND — Absentee landlords have long been a thorn in the side of Cleveland neighborhoods on both sides of the river. On Friday, however, a grassroots collective of neighbors and community leaders took matters into their own hands by taking out the trash themselves.

Located near the corner of East 65th and Sebert Ave., the half-block-sized commercial and residential building has been languishing for the better part of a decade, neighbors said, and has cycled through three different owners since 2017. In recent years, the rear of the property has played host to open-air drug abuse, illegal dumping and other nuisance activities.

It has become an eyesore in every sense of the word.

“This could be a crown jewel at E 65th and Sebert. Instead, this is a part-commercial, part-residential building that has been allowed to decay and decay for over 10 years,” said Cleveland City Council member Rebecca Maurer (Ward 12). “The trash and the drug paraphernalia has become an eyesore and a criminal nuisance.”

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Becca Britton, who runs a non-profit that provides pet supplies to low-income households, has a storefront directly across the street from the trash-filled property. She routinely sees squatters enter the property and addicts smoking cocaine and heroin, she said.

“We’re right across the street. My office window literally overlooks this property and I look at it every day,” Britton said. “Everyone that walks past this lot. What this says is that people feel like they are unseen and they feel like they are unheard.”

On Friday morning, the neighborhood heard the message loud and clear.

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A group of more than a dozen neighbors, community and non-profit leaders doled out trash bags and rubber gloves before systematically picking up every bit of trash at the vacant property. They collected a shattered kitchen sink; a hollowed-out interior door; boxes of Narcan as well as spent syringes. Bit by bit, the property, which can best be described as an urban dump, improved.

The group’s mantra? If the property owner wasn’t going to clean it up, they would.

“This is a neighborhood of fighters. This is a neighborhood of people that keep up their homes; people who are holding on through the hard times for a promise of a better Slavic Village and they don’t want to live through this,” Maurer said. “Those people are coming out today to say, ‘we’re going to clean this up ourselves."

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The intended message of the grassroots community cleanup event was to draw attention to the drain that problem properties and absentee landlords can have on a neighborhoods. Although landlords can and should be responsible for the upkeep of their properties, this part of Slavic Village opted to lead by example.

“This isn’t about ‘woe Slavic Village,’” Maurer said. “This is a very good thing happening. It shows that even though we have a lot of struggles, we’re going to come to gather and make a difference.”