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Long IslandColumnists

Watchdog: Drainage basin-area property cleaned up

Sister Therese Corde Oliva's efforts to clear a

Sister Therese Corde Oliva's efforts to clear a sidewalk in North Amityville of debris and overgrown vegetation got results, seen here on Sept. 10, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Judy Cartwright

My concern is the property at Albany Avenue and New Highway in North Amityville. Ecologically it's terrible, and physically it's just a garbage dump. I've been trying to work through the town and haven't gotten very far at all.

-- Sister Therese Corde Oliva, North Amityville

The property at that corner is a drainage basin, surrounded by a high fence with a locked gate. A collection of debris covers the bottom of the pit.

But Sister Therese's primary concern was not on what was inside the sump. Her attention was on the sidewalk, which had become inaccessible: Debris had accumulated around the sump perimeter, and evergreen trees next to the basin appeared never to have been trimmed.

"There are trees that overhang and trees that have died and been left there," she said when we spoke at the end of July. She cited the presence of pulverized glass along the sidewalk, mixed with an abundance of sand, and garbage just about everywhere.

Sister Therese, a member of the nearby Dominican Sisters community, said as the situation persisted, and worsened, she decided to get to work. The sidewalks were not only off limits -- the ugly landscape was within view of a new apartment community for military veterans just across the road. Which is no way to welcome newcomers to the neighborhood.

It was time to take back the sidewalk.

In early June she began a concerted effort to get the garbage and dead trees removed, the tree growth trimmed and the sidewalk cleaned.

"I can't tell you how many people I've called," she said.

Those calls bounced among municipal offices: Sometimes she was told the solution lay with Babylon Town. Other times, with Suffolk County. On one occasion, she was told an adjacent property owner was responsible.

Still, she continued. And her persistence paid off.

The property owner was the only one who didn't have a role.

Before we had a chance to make calls on her behalf, a cleanup was underway. On a weekday in early August, on her daily walk, Sister Therese saw several trucks parked along the sidewalk. A work crew had begun clearing out the debris and removing tree limbs.

They were from the county's Department of Public Works.

Town spokesman Kevin Bonner said her calls to the supervisor's office led staff to look into ownership of the property. What they learned led to the complaint being forwarded to the county.

Today, Sister Therese remains on the case, encouraging officials to keep the sidewalk clear. When we joined her for a walk last week, it was.

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