Fox 8 Defenders: Neighbors concerned about safety of Gentilly home

Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 10:54 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A Gentilly homeowner says she’s fed up after living next to a dangerous property abandoned since Hurricane Katrina.

“It’s a nuisance, it’s a hazard,” Kenya Harry said of the property next door to her Cartier Avenue home. “My property is not getting the value that it needs to have, because I’m living next to a blighted, abandoned, uninhabitable building.”

Another neighbor -- Lekecia Cockheran -- said, “It’s not right because there’s children that play in the area, you know, and someone could fall and hurt themselves.”

For nearly 18 years, neighbors on Cartier Avenue say, the property has had overgrown grass, broken windows and sometimes wide-open entryways.

“They used to have a lot of teenagers in and out of this,” Harry said. “They used to use it as a clubhouse.”

Harry says she’s tried everything over the years to get the property cleaned up. She says she’s called her City Council member, complained to the City’s Department of Code Enforcement, and even tried to buy the property when it went up for auction a couple of years ago.

“At one point, this grass was so overgrown it was like a forest,” Harry said. “The city had put it on the demolition list and we were like, ‘Yes, this is so great, they’re going to demolish it.’”

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But Harry says nothing ever happened. She tells us the owner of the home before Katrina was from out of state and let the property languish. Code Enforcement fines racked up, and city records show thousands of dollars in fines weren’t paid. In 2021, when the property went up for auction through the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, a new owner purchased the property. Harry and others say they had high hopes.

“The owner was like, ‘Oh, we’re going to rehab it,’” Harry said. And I said, ‘Oh, you’re going to rehab it? That’s fine.’ But this is what it looks like.”

Two years later, safety concerns remain.

“They got a ditch digger and they went all around the property, manually, to re-route the plumbing,” Harry said. “So, they started this maybe last summer. Our little neighbor Santana, this is the type of stuff that’s hazardous (for children in the area).”

Cockheran said, “He plays up and down here and we have to tell him, ‘Don’t go beyond this pole,’ you know, because he could actually hurt himself on one of those bricks or something.”

Just days after our interview, Harry took photos showing kids playing in the trench that’s been dug around the house. Because of her concerns, we reached out to City Councilman Eugene Green. He represents this district.

“When I got your call, Fox 8, thank you very much, I did contact the owner directly,” Green said.

Green arrived for our interview with Larry Taylor Jr., the owner of the property. Taylor said when he purchased the house, he had big dreams for it. But then he ran into problems.

“I was ripped off,” Taylor said. “I had a bunch of wood here. They came in and stole it. It was like 250 pieces of 2x4s. They came and took my wood.”

Taylor said thieves also took appliances he purchased for the home. And wood his contractor used to frame the interior of the house is no good. He said he tried to do some of the work himself, including digging the trench around the home to fix a plumbing problem.

“I had some caution tape, and I had wood also,” Taylor said. “You noticed it when you came. And, you know, over time and the grass growing and the wind and the weather we’ve been having, it just tore down what I had.”

Taylor said he had no problem securing the site to make the neighborhood safer for children.

According to Green, the property isn’t considered blight.

“As I look at the house from here, I see a broken window and I see items that should be removed, but I don’t see blight,” Green said. “So, that becomes a challenge for the City of New Orleans, in terms of emergency.”

Green stressed to Taylor the importance of securing the property, while also offering advice on how he can get the job finished. Taylor said it’s a cash issue and asks the neighbors to have patience with him.

“I got a family member with me, we’re just taking our time to do it,” he said through tears. “I want to finish. I want to finish.”

Fox 8 visited the property with Taylor two weeks ago. We returned Monday (April 3) and found the trench around the home still isn’t secure. A city spokesperson said any violations on the property will be addressed through the standard code enforcement process, including potentially getting an inspector out to bring the new owner into a hearing.

Meanwhile, Harry continues living next to a property she says is not just an eyesore, but a dangerous one.

If you have a consumer complaint you’d like us to look into, call the Fox 8 Defenders, staffed with volunteers from the National Council of Jewish Women at 1-877-670-6397. Or click here to fill out our online complaint form, which is the easiest way to reach us.

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