Blighted school building still an eyesore

An abandoned school classified as a brownfield site An abandoned school classified as a brownfield site will be demolished and cleaned up with a $200,000 federal grant to North Hempstead Town, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced. (May 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday / Judy Cartwright

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Judy Cartwright Judy Cartwright

Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column ...

After a recent Watchdog report on neighborhood eyesores -- unattended properties that have lost whatever neighborly qualities they once had -- a New Cassel resident called our attention to another one:

The Grand Street School, an elephant of an eyesore.

"The people who live across the street from the school are up in arms," Carol Bright said. "When is it coming down? That's what we want to know."

Over time they've heard progress reports from the Town of North Hempstead. But their patience has been tested as they've watched the deterioration continue: The doors and windows are gone and the chain-link fence rusted.

When Watchdog took their concerns to the town, Supervisor Jon Kaiman said he is optimistic that the blighted hulk won't be around much longer.

The town is expected to take title to the property in a matter of "weeks or days," he said. When that happens, it would end more than five years of negotiations.

He conceded the site is "definitely a hazard."

Neighbors agree. They've been since the last occupant of the building, a day care center, departed several years ago.

"I would like to see this building gone as soon as possible," said neighbor Geraldine Page, who said she had seen indications people have taken shelter in the building, including footprints in the winter snow at the entrance. In 2009, a homeless man was found dead in the building's parking lot, apparently of exposure to the cold.

Once the town gains possession, Kaiman said, "we're set on coming in and removing the hazard by removing the entire building."

The town purchased the site in the 1980s and deeded it to the nonprofit New Cassel United Community Center Inc. The building then provided community services, including a health center.

But financial difficulties set in -- the property owes back taxes -- and in 2008 the town started the process of reacquiring it.

The neighborhood continues to wait.

 

Consider Peter Morra's experience with a parking ticket a lesson.

Morra got a ticket for blocking a driveway three blocks from his home in East Meadow. He paid the fine -- $80, plus a $10 surcharge -- and then, days later, got a notice from Nassau County telling him he owed $35 more.

The notice did not make it clear why his initial payment was insufficient so, as you might imagine, Morra was confused. As the May 16 deadline for paying the additional charge approached, he turned to Watchdog for help in finding out what was going on.

Had he been given an additional penalty? It seemed uncalled for, as he had followed the rules, having paid the ticket before the April 30 deadline. His records indicate his check was cashed April 26.

We asked John G. Marks, a retired judge who is executive director of Nassau's Nassau County Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, if he could explain Morra's plight.

"What happens in cases like this," he said, "is that the officer writes the incorrect [fine] amount on the ticket." In Morra's case, the officer should have written $100 instead of $80, he said. The ticket was also missing a state fee that would have brought the total to $125.

The correct total showed up when the ticket was entered into the agency's computer, he said, which generated the "underpayment letter."

When such situations are brought to his attention, Marks said, the county absorbs the difference between the two amounts. "We don't go after the driver" for it, he said.

As for Morra: He paid the extra $35 by the due date in mid-May. By the end of the month the refund was in his hands.

And the lesson? It pays to ask questions.

 

"There's a light pole in front of my house that's rotting, and I can't get anyone to remove it," Lillian Nash told Watchdog recently.

Nash was worried that as the rot at the base of the pole worsened, it posed a danger not just to her house but to anyone walking past.

She can stop worrying.

The pole, which had remained for almost three years after LIPA installed a new utility pole inches away, is gone.

One day after Watchdog's query about the twin poles, on Baur Street in West Babylon, LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said LIPA had transferred its lines to the new pole but couldn't take the old pole away because neither Verizon nor Cablevision had moved their equipment. "We did notify both utilities again as a reminder," he said.

A check with both Verizon and Cablevision minutes later found both had already sent crews to the scene. Cablevision spokesman Jim Maiella said the company's lines had just been removed, and Verizon spokesman John Bonomo said a manager told Nash the pole would be taken away by the next day.

It happened even faster. A Verizon crew arrived within hours of the earlier visit, Nash said, and the pole was quickly hoisted onto a truck and driven away.

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