2002-04-27 / Front Page

'House of Horrors’

'House of Horrors'
By Gary G. Toms





















New York City Police officials and New York City Buildings Inspectors descended on a house, located at 142 Beach 96 Street, to evacuate families of squatters. Representatives from the Department of Health were also on hand, as high levels of feces, flies and garbage created an enormous health hazard. New York City Police officials and New York City Buildings Inspectors descended on a house, located at 142 Beach 96 Street, to evacuate families of squatters. Representatives from the Department of Health were also on hand, as high levels of feces, flies and garbage created an enormous health hazard.

City Officials Remove Squatters
From Feces-Filled Home

On Friday, April 19, The Wave received a phone call from the Community Board 14 District Manager, Jonathan Gaska.

"Get down here as fast as you can. You're not going to believe this. We are in the process of executing an order to vacate, and you have to see this place," said Gaska.

Within a matter of minutes, The Wave arrived on the scene to find New York City Police officials, an Inspector from the New York City Buildings Department, and two officials from the Department of Health.

Captain Charles Talamo, the commanding officer of the 100 Precinct, was in charge at the location; 142 Beach 96 Street at Shore Front Parkway.






















From left to right: Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, 100 Precinct officer Joseph Roberts, and 100 Precinct Captain, Charles Talamo. The three men played key roles in the evacuation of 142 Beach 96 Street. From left to right: Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, 100 Precinct officer Joseph Roberts, and 100 Precinct Captain, Charles Talamo. The three men played key roles in the evacuation of 142 Beach 96 Street.

"I hope you're ready for what you are about to see," the captain warned the Wave reporter. "This is not going to be pretty. You might want to hold your nose."

As we walked toward the home, Talamo directed us to the side of the house, which lead to the entrance of the basement. The stench was overpowering. Feces filled the entire basement area, along with bits of furniture and some tattered clothing.

"The sewage pipe has been busted for months, so when the toilets were flushed, the sewage had no place to go but here," said Gaska.

We proceeded to the first floor of the home, which required some skillful maneuvering because the steps were lined with feces from two pit bulls that were removed earlier. Most of the rooms on the floor were locked, but the stench seeped out from underneath the doors. P.O. Joseph Roberts, also of the 100 Precinct, forced his way into one of the rooms. The enormous amount of garbage that accumulated, coupled with the foul odor, prevented us from gaining full access to the room.






















Feces filled the entire basement area after a sewage pipe ruptured months ago. Feces filled the entire basement area after a sewage pipe ruptured months ago.

As Talamo and Roberts proceeded to the second floor, music could be heard coming from one of the rooms. A box containing a brand new Barbie doll was propped against a urine- scented mattress in another room. If only for a moment, the doll and the music gave the dwelling the appearance of being a normal three level home. The charred glass, dog food residue and half-eaten sandwiches along the floor quickly erased such thoughts.

A couple was living on the second floor. The stench was still present. Flies circled our heads, as a small kitten bounced from one tiny section of the apartment to another. Mouse droppings lined the floors and window ledges. The young man indicated that the boiler had been broken since the early winter. He was in between jobs, having just completed a term of employment with the National Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. The young lady noted that she had the day off.

"How long have you been here? You were not here the last time I came to this house to check things out," Talamo asked.

"We've been here since February. We needed a place to stay, and we asked the guy upstairs, who said he was the landlord, if he had apartments here and he offered us this place," stated the man.






















High levels of garbage and debris had accumulated in an area next to the house. High levels of garbage and debris had accumulated in an area next to the house.

"I have news for you. He's not the landlord. The house is abandoned. The guy upstairs is probably a squatter too," the Captain told him.

The couple looked at each other in a state of shock.

"How much have you given him in rent?" Talamo asked.

"We pay him $400 a month," the young man said.






















In what was probably an attempt to create a "normal" home for their child, the squatter(s) left a box containing a brand new Barbie doll in one of the rooms. In what was probably an attempt to create a "normal" home for their child, the squatter(s) left a box containing a brand new Barbie doll in one of the rooms.

P.O. Roberts looked around the room, shook his head, and stated, "Four hundred dollars a month to live in filth."

Sergeant Michael O'Sullivan, another officer from the 100 Precinct, walked into the room.

"Oh man! This is bad. When is the Red Cross going to take them out of this place? What's taking so long?" asked O'Sullivan.

"They said they were on their way. I just hope it's soon," Talamo answered.






















City officials wasted no time in posting an "order to vacate" notice on the door of the home on April 19. City officials wasted no time in posting an "order to vacate" notice on the door of the home on April 19.

The young man walked us over to the small kitchen area. He pointed to the back of the stove, which exposed a gas line that had been taped up with duct tape to keep it functioning.

"We have to eat somehow," he said.

Gaska approached us as we exited the house.

"What a horror show, huh? Can you believe this?" he asked us.






















An apartment of one of the squatters was filled with garbage, feces and urine stains. Mice were seen running through the apartment as well. An apartment of one of the squatters was filled with garbage, feces and urine stains. Mice were seen running through the apartment as well.

Steve Innes, an Inspector with the New York City Buildings Department, chimed in.

"I've been with the Buildings Department for three years, and this ranks right at the top as one of the worst cases I have seen. This is my second time at this house, but this time they took a handicapped infant and five small children out. I cannot believe there were families living on all three floors. When, and if, they track down the landlord, they are going to have to deal with substantial fines and repair costs."

The inspector also indicated that he had issued three "failures to maintain" against the landlord, but the house would not be demolished because it is still considered structurally sound.

"We are going to seal it up tight to make sure that no one else can get into the place ever again," he continued.

"As bad as this whole thing is, this is what really upsets me. The Administration for Child Services (ACS) was here recently, and they actually said that everything was okay for the children to stay here! This house has been a problem for the last 12 years. This deserves a full scale investigation, and someone should be fired for okaying this," Gaska exclaimed.

Captain Talamo expressed similar concerns.

"We notified ACS of the problem, but, quite frankly, what the hell did they do?"

There were allegations that drugs were being sold from the house, but no drugs were found on the premises by police.

The New York City Police Department is currently looking into what charges, if any, could be leveled against the man who charged the couple $400 a month for renting the dilapidated apartment. It is not known if others in the house were also paying him rent.

During the conversation with Talamo, Innes and Gaska, an elderly woman, dressed in business attire, made her way to the front yard of the house.

"I'm sorry ma'am, but you cannot stay here. You're going to have to gather your things and leave. It's not safe here and we're sealing the place up," said Innes.

"I'm not surprised," said the woman. "My daughter is at work, she has her things here too," she continued.

"You'll have to call her and tell her they're coming to seal the place up soon, and she needs to get her things right away," said the inspector.

"But& where will we go?" said the woman in a broken voice.

"Ma'am, the Red Cross will take you to a better place. Anything is better than this," Gaska said.

The woman then made her way into the only home she has known for the last several months.

"Jesus! No one should have to live this way. This really hurts," stated Innes.

Gaska praised the NYPD, NYFD, the Buildings Department, and the Department of Health for their roles in helping to remove the people from the house.

"I just keep thinking about the children running around and playing in all this crap. It breaks my heart. Children shouldn't have to live like this, or anyone else for that matter," said the CB 14 representative.








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