FOX 8 Defenders Follow-up: Not So Sweet 16 party planned for longtime blighted home
From complaints of harboring rodents to missing windows, a vacant Lakeview address has racked up dozens of Code Enforcement violations over the years. Now nearby homeowners are planning a unique gathering Thursday to shine more light on the eyesore.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -
Lakeview homeowner Brigette Starr is preparing for a party.
“We are throwing a Sweet 16. The theme is ‘Sweet 16 and Never Been Fixed’.. more like not so sweet 16,” Starr said. That’s because the not so sweet 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and a blighted Faubourg Florida neighborhood home is just around the corner.
“It’s for me, my family, all of our neighbors here that have had to endure life with this blighted property for 16 years,” explained Starr.
The home is in succession because the homeowner’s deceased. However the person responsible for the estate, Frances Musacchia, received Road Home money to repair the house after the 2005 storm, yet 5700 Vicksburg has never been fixed.
The home has been the center of multiple FOX 8 Defenders investigations because of its dozens of blight violations that date back to 2009.
During our first interview with Starr in 2017, she expressed grave concerns over the property’s dangerous pool and unsecured back gate. “Anybody could walk right in,” she said.
That interview started our series of reports on nuisance swimming pools, posing health and safety hazards across the City. Our coverage of the longtime blighted Lakeview pool even prompted the City Council in 2018 to crack down on unfenced, unfiltered pools with a new law that allows the City to fill them in.
“If we prevent the death of one child, this ordinance is completely worth it,” City Councilman Joe Giarrusso told us in October that year.
Ultimately, Musacchia hired workers to drain her pool and build a wooden deck on top of it.
Since 2009, neighbors have often packed Code Enforcement hearings, sharing concerns, but they complain the years of hearings and fines haven’t worked in this case. Just last month, Code Enforcement inspectors once again cited the property for several violations.
“This is a six time repeat offender.. so therefore your honor the City feels that this property should be cited or assessed max fines,” City Code Enforcement Hearing Facilitator Vanessa Logan said during a virtual hearing May 6th.
The property was found guilty of all but one violation. An attorney who says Musacchia retained him the day before the hearing represented her that day. “I have told the client what she needs to do. She’s working. She’s told me she’s going to do it, and I’m going to try and get this house fixed,” attorney Donald Reichert said.
“Each time a new hearing takes place she tries to bandage the property days before,” Starr explained.
Starr worries the fines won’t make a difference because they’ve gone unpaid before, leading to not one, but two sheriff’s sales. In one case, Musacchia paid thousands owed in full and got to keep the home. The second time, a judge threw it out because he said she wasn’t notified properly. In both instances, the neighbors were right back to where they started.
Now neighbors worry about what may be happening inside of the home after talking with a repair man. “He thought the house had been in a fire.. a bad fire because the entire inside is black,” Starr said. She and other neighbors are concerned it may be full of mold.
Meantime, Sweet 16 hats and party streamers will soon fill the block. “This is New Orleans, and we celebrate everything. Even when we’re sad we find ways to celebrate and that’s what we really needed to do here,” Starr said.
Neighbors and friends will gather on the neutral ground Thursday for cupcakes, cocktails and a potluck.
“A neighbor is going to dj the event,” Starr said.
She’s keeping the party light and fun, but with informative boards. “First love.. first love is Code Enforcement,” Starr said.
Another board will chronicle the property’s more than a dozen Code Enforcement hearings.
While she’s poking fun, she says fighting the blight next door has drained her. Neighbors here take pride in their property and their City and hope they capture attention, especially from City Hall.
We reached out to Frances Musacchia directly for comment on the upcoming event, but her voicemail was full. We also reached out to the attorney who represented her in the latest code enforcement hearing for comment. So far we have not heard back.
Meantime, we noticed wooden boards now cover the gaping hole in the brick fence around the property, a window’s been boarded up, and part of a soffit that was falling off the house has been repaired.
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