The ‘Trash House’ of 13th Street

Last week we ran a photo of a row of houses on 13th Street between 3rd and 4th avenues, and a reader who’s thinking of buying on the street got in touch about one of the properties pictured, which she referred to as the “trash house.” She said neighbors tell her garbage has been piled up outside 196 13th Street for more than 12 years, and there’s “been recent complaint activity although it’s been INCREDIBLY tough to get an answer/get any action to get the place cleaned up–apparently since the trash doesn’t go beyond his property line, it’s okay-ish?” We swung by and talked to a couple neighbors on the block who also said that the house has been this way for more than a decade, which seems to be confirmed by a DOB violation on record from 2000 about “debris piled up at front.” Anyone know if the neighbors have any recourse in a situation like this, or do they just have to deal with the unsightly—and most likely unsanitary—mess? Click through for a close-up of the garbage… GMAP

34 Comment

  • This is advanced hoarding. Can you imagine what the house looks like inside?

  • Oh my! I would think this level of trash would invite vermin and therefore be illegal.

  • I can imagine it. Brrrrrr. Used to work in social services in Indianapolis. One of the cases I worked had 18 children, a hoarding and crack-addicted, but otherwise sad and loving mother (if you can imagine such a thing) and a home like nothing I’d ever seen or smelled when I had to remove the remaining children. The kids would essentially build “nests” in it.

    They later found 4 or 5 cat carcasses underneath everything.

    This should be something neighbors can deal with legally, but I’ve no idea what the laws are regarding such an issue.

  • clearly there is some mental illness at play here, right?

  • I’d actually love to get some advice on this, because we live nearby a similar situation. For years, the brownstone is rotting from the inside out because the guy who owns the building has broken windows, including a skylight and you can already smell the mildew coming out of the house. He seems to have sequestered himself to the garden floor and (because the windows are broken down there too) you can see that he’s got some kind of hoarding problem. He’s got several DOB and Landmark violations, but I don’t think it’s helping. He lives alone and obviously is very sick, but he’s like a ghost- you never see him, just hear music coming our of the windows once and while or a light on.

    • Maybe Fire Department would respond in some way as a safety issue…

    • Pretzelwagon-
      Cornell’s Medical School has a program in Environmental Geriatrics which includes a focus on hoarding among older adults. Their webpage has lots of information and resources you can consider. I’d start with getting the neighbors to call 311. You also need to report it to Adult Protective Services, who can come in and do low cost cleanups if the hoarder agrees. The conundrum is that unless the home is considered uninhabitable, individuals can’t be forced to clean. However, once a home is uninhabitable many folks have no choice but to become homeless. It’s a very sad situation and one that has no easy answers, especially for neighbors who often bear the brunt of the impact of this mental illness (vermin, odors, fire threats, etc.) The thing to keep in mind is that the people who do this are ill, and deserve to get help and treatment even if they don’t recognize they need it.

      • Thanks for the resource. I know from records that the guy owns his home outright, so homelessness isn’t really an issue. He has money to pay his bills but he’s letting his home and the surrounding area rot–not to mention has had these broken windows exposed ALL winter, which is nuts–which indicates instability.

        • Whether he owns the home outright isn’t the issue, its wether he can clean it. What is shown on shows like Hoarders is that the homeowner doesn’t want to/can’t clean and the home is declared uninhabitable by the local authorities. Owner can’t live there, so goes into a shelter/lives in car/squats outside the home. Once the person is out of the home, its that much more difficult to get them to focus on the need to clean and the task seems like so much more of an insurmountable one. As his neighbor, the last thing you want to have happen is for the home to be declared inhabitable, because that becomes just one more obstacle a mentally ill person has to deal with. All I can say is that it takes a lot of perseverence as well as someone who actually wants to accept the help that is offered to resolve these types of situations.

  • we checked out the house for sale across the street a few months ago. we too chatted with some folks on the block. they said the owner began hoarding after the loss of some family member. who knows if this is true. and apparently the place looks “better” than it did in the past.

  • Watch one episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive on TLC (?) and you’ll understand why people do this. It’s acually pretty black and white IMO – something traumatic happened to them in the past, usually the loss of something/one out of their control, and the reaction going forward is to hold on to everything because they are afraid of feeling that sense of “emptiness” again. All the crap makes them feel “full” and another important factor is that there are infinite objects available in which they can “control”. My father has a medium case of hoarding and the situation I described fits his experience perfectly.

  • Every night or two you and neighbors take a bag and chuck it in a dumpster, or your own bin for collection. Slowly it goes away, maybe.

    • This does not work. My mother and I have been secretly making “dump runs” with my dad’s crap for years. At first, he yells and screams when a pile starts to dwindle (loss of control), and then he will just add more stuff to the top of it (taking back control). This is about people who shun emotional attachment to humans because they are afraid of getting hurt (again), and using just “stuff” to fill that void. Using “stuff” to fill the void is safer because presumably the only way it can abandon/hurt you is if YOU dispose of it.

  • If I drink a beer on my stoop I can get a ticket, but if someone creates a rat resort I guess the situation becomes more nuanced. Mental illness or not, behavior that endangers others needs to be stopped. The city is willing to intervene in the case of slumlords, so there must be something that can be done here.

  • There is no way anyone should have to live next door to this. When it’s outside like this it stops being just their problem and the issue is now everyone’s. What are the odds this person is mentally ill? 100% is the answer. And if you are mentally ill, you can hoard all you want, INSIDE, your home. This is clearly a health/sanitation issue. You can figure out who owns it, just go on PropertyShark.

  • Call WPIX, they address these things all of the time on the 10 o’clock news. They know whom to call and it gets taken care of quickly. Or call Bill DeBlasio’s office. He lives in the Slope.

  • i would say even someone cannot hoard all they want even inside their home. its still a hazard for neighbors, even if nothing is outside. biohazard and fire hazard. rodent and pest hazard.

  • If you look at the Street View on Google Maps and zoom in you’ll see someone is on the front door steps. Is that the hoarder in question?

  • I called and reported this 2 times to the 311 and the FDNY because it is fire waiting to happen. That was about a year ago. I got a call from an inspector after I reported it and he acted as if was on the street and couldn’t find what I was talking about. Strange.

  • The City Government too often fails to deal with such cases where drastic and definite action is needed and its a disgrace. It isnt just situations like this, it is abandoned or decrepit houses that sit for decades, its mentally ill people who need to be taken off the streets, its tenants in rental buildings who refuse to cooperate (due to mental illness or otherwise) in dealing with things like bedbugs and leaks, and it goes on and on.
    The city is great about ticketing and enforcing laws and rules against the population that is willing or capable of responding, but is seemingly powerless against those people who just definitively ignore regular norms or rules.

  • I’ve seen half a dozen “Hoarders” episodes and honestly, most of these people seem nearly beyond medical help that it almost makes me feel helpless just looking at this photo.

    But the city is the city, we live on top of each other, and no matter how sick someone is they need to respect this. Of course, getting angry isn’t going to help, but just because someone is sick doesn’t mean neighbors can’t be firm about their position. That is downright nasty, and probably harboring a significant amount of urban species. Probably a good place to hide a body too.

    i take it that “curb” in the photo is actually the sidewalk / property line?

  • The anonymous people who allegedly shut down the O.T. due to their self-righteous emails are pillars of success. Maybe they can send some haughty emails to the city this afternoon? Based on their track record, that pile of garbage could be gone by this evening.

  • Call Community Board 6 as well as having poster’s here fwding their complaint #s for you to pass on to CB6.

  • The building is owned by a man, maybe in his 50s, who hoards and who makes a “living” collecting plastic bottles and brining them to the Pathmark deposit center. He clearly has some problems, and I also heard it had to do with a death in the family. He keeps to himself and takes care of his many cats. Carrying away the trash will not help, as to him this is not trash. He has lived this way for as long as I have seen him (7 -8 years) and a different kind of intervention would be needed than just hauling off what is there.

  • I walk past this house at least every few days and I’ve seen the owner outside a number of times with his cats. He isn’t totally with it (but seems harmless enough) and ml786 is spot on, he makes his living as a collector. But I don’t think he lives there. I’ve inspected the door closely and it doesn’t appear to be operational. It’s completely blocked with debris. Back alley, perhaps?

  • the owner is a bit eccentric and a hoarder. it is difficult to communicate productively with him. The Gowanus Alliance has been in contact with him as well as city agencies. We are hoping to find a solution, we havce offered to donate the cleanup equipment, but do not get a response from him>

  • the owner is a bit eccentric and a hoarder. it is difficult to communicate productively with him. The Gowanus Alliance has been in contact with him as well as city agencies. We are hoping to find a solution, we have offered to donate the cleanup equipment, but do not get a response from him>