As a private crew lifted overflowing garbage bags, a long-tailed rodent darted out from under the mess and ran down an alley behind the house.
It was a rat. “He was this big,” said clean-up crew member Alfredo Lopez.
Lopez and the other crew members, who work for Haven Management, were at 215 Edgewood Ave., a two-and-a-half-story, four-family house at the corner of Orchard Street, on Wednesday morning. It was municipal trash pick-up day in the neighborhood. But the tenants at 215 Edgewood hadn’t sorted their trash into the city’s blue and brown bins or left the bins at the curb. They’d dumped piles of bags, with overflowing trash, at the side of the house. Some had split open, contents spilling out. So the city’s public works didn’t cart it away.
It apparently is not a new problem. Tracy Claxton, Dwight’s neighborhood worker from the Livable City Initiative (LCI), the city government’s anti-blight agency, noticed the trash bags, and some discarded mattresses, piling up before the recent snow storms. Then neighbors started complaining to her about the trash there as well as at a second Haven-managed property in the neighborhood. Claxton said she contacted Haven, which removed the mattresses outside 215 Edgewood and cleaned up the other property. But 215 Edgewood remained a mess. So LCI code inspector Rick Mazzadra told the property manager in charge of the building that he would start issuing Haven $100 daily fines-—unless the company cleaned up the mess. The threat from LCI forced the landlord to stop ignoring the problem. The company sent a crew over to get get to work.
The property manager, Jay Rivera, hopped on the back of a Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x4 truck as his crew rebundled, sealed, and hauled some of the bags onto the back. It was one of two trucks brought to the scene to cart away the trash. Rivera said Haven Management has pleaded with tenants to use trash bins instead of making a mess, to no avail. So now, even though they pay the rent, they face eviction. He said Haven manages 300 apartments in New Haven; he claimed that it encounters the trash problem only at four-unit 215 Edgewood.
Rivera said out-of-town investors own the property; state records list Abraham Welder of Brooklyn as a principal of the limited-liability corporation listed as the owner, and Menachem Katz of New Haven as the registered agent. Katz said he hasn’t had anything to do with Haven Management or with the property since last October. He said he originally tried to get garbage toters from the city when he started overseeing 215 Edgewood, but none were available. He was put on a back-order list, never receiving any, he said. So he bought four receptacles at Home Depot; three soon were stolen. He said he encounters that problem at other distressed properties he has purchased across New Haven. Rivera confirmed that bins have gone missing. City public works chief Doug Arndt said is crew has no record of the property’s managers reporting stolen bins. He said the department does regularly receive calls of bins getting stolen or else vanishing when tenants move out of buildings. At least over the past year or two, he said, public works has never run out of replacement bins to deliver.
As Rivera spoke during the clean-up Wednesday, LCI’s Mazzadra hustled down the alley and around to the Orchard Street side of the building in search of the rat. “Tell him Alfredo said hello!” called out Lopez, who mostly does carpentry for Haven Management. (An immigrant from Mexico, he spends his weekends helping his wife run the family’s Grand Avenue restaurant, Tortilleria Jalisco.) “I’m gonna squash the dude!” Mazzadra called back.
Alas, the rat had scampered out of sight. Meanwhile, the crew filled the back of the truck ...
... as well as of a Ford Ranger pick-up. Sixteen 55-gallon bags in all.
Meanwhile, one tenant, 91-year-old Kenny Judson, sat inside his apartment, unaware of the activity outside. Hudson, a 91-year-old former employee of the old Lincoln-Mercury car dealership on Whalley Avenue (since moved to Hamden), said he knew nothing of pleas from the landlord to dispose of this trash differently. he said he leaves the garbage in a black pail outside his door. “I don’t have much garbage anyway,” he said. “There ain’t anyone here but me.” One of the other tenants failed to return a text message. That evening, the building’s back door was unlocked. No one answered knocked at the doors to the upstairs apartments.
Clusters of filled plastic trash bags were already piled up on the landings; they appeared to be more than could fit in the two brown city trash toters out back, awaiting the next garbage collection six days hence. The property had no blue recycling bin visible on premises. Public works chief Arndt said the department doesn’t have an accurate up-to-date inventory of bins delivered to different addresses so recovered bins can be returned to properties; he said he plans to upgrade the system to keep better track.