City grilled on Carrick landlord
An apartment building with sewage and water problems so severe residents had to be abruptly evacuated by the Allegheny County Health Department was the main topic at Carrick Community Block Watch’s May 5 meeting.
The audience grilled representatives from Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Building Inspection about why the problem got so bad, and what the city will do about cleaning up the putrid pool of sewage outside 14 townhouses in the Berg Place apartments complex.
“Over five years, six years, we’ve had a really high turnover of inspectors in this ward. So some of the complaints have gotten lost. It’s not an excuse,” said Mark Mariani, project chief for the bureau. “We are participating with [the Health Department] and a city construction crew to get the place boarded up. Once we found out about the condition it was in, we did do an assessment on the property. We came up with roughly 340 to 350 violations.”
Mr. Mariani said none of the buildings owned by landlord Davin Gartley had smoke detectors.
The owner is “jumping between bankruptcy multiple times,” Mr. Mariani said. “It puts us in a position that we can bring violations against him, but history shows that nothing will happen when it’s in this position.”
The residents of the building, which included a number of Bhutanese refugees, were evacuated from the apartment building one recent weekend after media attention about the problems. Mr. Gartley had been in a battle with the water company that left residents only able to access water from garden hoses from adjacent apartments he owns. Additionally, sewage has collected in a large ditch in the front of the property as well as leaking into a cemetery behind it.
Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said four developers have contacted her about buying the properties.
“I’m a neighbor, so I’d rather not see it boarded up,” Ms. Rudiak added.
Another problem the building inspectors discussed was vandalism, break-ins and squatting at St. Basil’s school. The owner of that property is also in bankruptcy. A building inspector said that he will be filing legal complaints against the owner late this month.
Residents at the meeting surprised Officer Christine Luffey by giving her flowers and balloons, and a citation from the state House of Representatives for her work to protect pets. Afterward, she delivered her report highlighting some of the crimes in the community over the last month.
Two of Officer Luffey’s reports involved dirt bikes. On April 13 at 1:16 p.m. an officer pursued a dirt bike rider at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour on Brownsville and other roads until a supervisor told the officer to terminate the chase. A similar incident took place on the afternoon of April 20.
“We’re not sure if this is the answer because chasing dirt bikes is not worth someone getting killed,” Officer Luffey said.
Drug sales and use are also a big problem in the community, Officer Luffey said.
“This is to reassure you we are here,” she said. “We also have narcotics detectives proactively patrolling.”
In one case, officers stopped a car for a traffic violation to find two women, ages 57 and 31, “loaded with heroin,” in Officer Luffey’s words.
On May 1 at 8:30 pm, a drug sale was made in a car at Brownsville and Bausman. A 52-year-old woman from Coraopolis was the buyer.
Officer Luffey also reported about a stalking case.
On Spencer Avenue, on March 12, a parolee broke into the house of a woman he was enamored with.
“How he was caught was because her roommate was there,” Officer Luffey said. “He didn’t want to steal anything. He wanted to see her undress.”
The man is now being prosecuted for burglary and other charges.
Officer Luffey also returned to a favorite topic--animal care. It’s birthing season for many animals, including cats.
“All dogs and cats must be vaccinated,” she said. “More often than not, people are in violation.”
She pointed out that the City of Pittsburgh offers free spay and neuter services and will spay or neuter five animals per household.
Others at the meeting discussed upcoming events:
On May 21, at 6 p.m ., at the Veterans Monument, volunteers are needed to prepare garden beds by cleaning, lifting peat moss and other work. The following day, help is needed at a May 22 planting.
On June 11, there is a community day at Carrick High School. Representatives of Block Watch will be there.