They Don’t Give A Shit About Us, Literally

This photo is of the remains of a sewage backup that the absentee
landlords of 170 W. Brighton Ave. pumped out of
the basement into the adjoining yard. This apartment building tells
a years’ long tale of our neighborhood’s abuse
at the hands of slumlords and neglect at the hands of city officials.

The apartment building was owned for years by Harry Murphy, a
notorious Southside slumlord. The apartments
were actually two buildings–each containing 12 units. Tales of
drug trafficking, noise and gun shots were common
at this property, nicknamed Fort Apache by area residents. Many
members of the Brighton Brigades gang cycled
through the property. The properties taxes were unpaid for years.
This was actually a strategic move on the part of
Mr. Murphy, since the city decreed that it would not issue a
certificate of compliance–required of all multi-unit buildings
in the city–since the owner was tax delinquent. Was the logical
next step closure of the building until the taxes were
paid and the buildings inspected for code violations? No. The next
step was to do nothing. SUN complained to
Code Enforcement, the Community Development Commissioner, numerous
Common Councilors and the Mayor.
No response.

The building was sold in 2005 to an out-of-town developer based in
Long Island. The taxes remain unpaid, totaling
over $22, 000–not including the current years arrears. A fire
destroyed a good portion of one of the buildings, one
tenants manner of settling a dispute with another tenant. In 2007,
162 W. Brighton was torn down.

As a result of SUN’s complaints on Wednesday May 21st, city DPW came
out to the remaining building and stopped
the landlord’s hired men from pumping more sewage into the adjacent
lawn. City Code Enforcement and the County
Health Department both came out the next day as a result of our
complaints. The building was declared unfit for
habitation and the landlord hired a knowledgeable plumber to drain
the remaining sewage. County Health determined
that the sewage pumped onto the lawn could stay there, as the sun
would kill any toxins.

With the exception of Tim Carroll, Director of Operations, who
managed to get DPW out to the site and stop the pumping,
no one acted with concern or speed. Code did not
return phone calls on either Wednesday or Thursday evening. The
Health Department did not return Wednesday’s
phone message and when contacted on Thursday stated they would get to
the dumping site the next day
“if nothing big came up.”

Five families still remain in the unfit building. They do not
qualify under HUD guidelines for relocation assistance. The
agency the city used to help relocate families in unfit properties
went out of business and the city never replaced the
service, despite putting $10,000 into the CDBG budget for this
purpose two years ago.

Remember, when you say nobody gives a shit about us, you are
absolutely right!

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