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Vacant house dangerous for Brooklyn neighbors

Sarah Wallace reports from Bedford-Stuyvesant.
March 18, 2014 3:39:12 PM PDT
Residents in an up and coming neighborhood in Brooklyn say a vacant house has turned outright dangerous.

The problem includes several fires at the house in Bedford-Stuyvesant, but their demands for action are falling on deaf ears.

It's a picture that says it all; A burnt out shell of a house that's been neglected for as long as Tyrone Boone can remember, he bought the brownstone next door and turned it into a gem.

"All the years that I've been here there've been squatters, fires, killings here," Boone said, "Last year there was a homicide, and they took the body down the street. At that point there were squatters living in there."

City records show the building is registered to two absentee owners who owe more than $45,000 in back taxes.

Jessica Leonard's family bought the brownstone two doors away a couple of years ago and began renovating. She says they had no idea 684 would become their nightmare.

"We've had so many instances of people breaking in the front, threatening people who live in the area," Leonard said, "People can't continue to live in neighborhood if they're not protected, that's a fundamental value we have in this country."

There have been two fires in the past eight months. Leonard took video of one the other week that went to five-alarms. They needed her home to fight it.

"Twice they've come in to our home to get access to our roof," Leonard said, "Leverage our roof to put out the fire."

The city Buildings Department says they have two complaints on file about the house in 2009 and two more in 2013. They sent out inspectors who were denied entry four times, apparently by squatters. At least the fires cleared them out, for now.

"You come home at night, you never know what you're going to walk into," Boone said.

There is a late development. The Buildings Department has now issued a demolition order for the home and it will come down, but not soon enough for this neighborhood.

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