Monday, June 9, 2008

Building Collapses at 16th and T, Forces Street Closure

Many of you may have noticed that, for the better part of the day, T St. has been blocked off at the intersection of 16th St. According to information distributed via the Logan ListServ, the closure is the result of a partial collapse of a building located at the SE corner of 16th and T:

On Saturday morning June 7, an interior wall of the group house on the SE corner of 16th and T Streets NW buckled. There is concern as to whether the house is safe or in danger of collapse. This DC slumlord owner has long been a problem in the neighborhood, making a fortune off students, interns and other young people, while doing little or nothing to maintain the property or the historic structure. Last year, when cited by the DC regulatory office, he made cosmetic repairs to the mortar and painted the outside to hide the obvious structural defects. Now, there are a bunch of young people with no place to live. I hope there is a way to collect every penny of the thousands of DC tax dollars being spent to deal with this emergency response, and hopefully the building can be saved.

As someone who walks through our neighborhood frequently and notices a number of structures that appear less than fully stable, I must say that it surprises me that this sort of thing doesn't occur more frequently. As has been noted numerous times, the city's historically lackadaisical response to reports of vacant, neglected and nuisance properties poses all sorts of problems, and this would be one of them. Recently, Mayor Fenty's office has shown an increased interest in dealing with these types of properties, which is encouraging. Let's hope it continues.

18 comments:

Brad said...

I lived there with a few friends for 2+ yrs. and we have our own stories, but we put up with it because of the cheap rent and location. That particular wall had partially fallen before.

Anonymous said...

This type of thing is a huge problem all over the city. It includes irresponsible rehabbers-developers as well as owners who either rent their properties or live in them. Amazingly, adjoining property owners--whose buildings TOUCH these disasters--have virtually no rights under current city law/code. These lawless property owners can do things that cause untold damage to your building, and there is nothing you can do except spend thousands of dollars in a civil suit--with no guarantee you will win. It is an outrage and the City Council needs to hold hearings and fix this situation. Those of us in row houses--with touching walls, foundations and roofs--are held hostage by these criminals.

Joel Lawson said...

Brad: I would like to hear from you about your knowledge of previous problems with this property. I'm the prez of the Dupont Circle Citizens Association; we helped place residents in temporary housing, and we're working with the Dupont Circle Conservancy on taking action (again) with other problem properties in the neighborhood.

Joel Lawson said...

Forgot contact info:

joellawson@mac.com
or
president@dupont-circle.org

Anonymous said...

I lived a couple of doors down from this place for 3 years and I was astonished at how much neglect this property owner was allowed to get away with. The most extreme neighborhood insult was when he would actually haul garbage and debris to this property from elsewhere and dump it on the lawn to sit for a few weeks.

Mitch Greenstein - You can contact me directly at Mitch_Greenstein@Yahoo.com said...

Curious ... what is the address of the Property that collapsed? Who is the landlord? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

To Joel Lawson -- I fervently urge the DCCA and ANC 2B to do something about this issue. You have the soapbox to get the city's attention and force the City Council to hold hearings and pass corrective legislation. I know of a situation where a rehabber-developer removed the ENTIRE foundation of a building. The owners of the two adjoining row houses--which touch this property--have no rights. They cannot do anything to force the owner to fix the problem. The city can only issue a Stop Work Order and prohibit the developer from proceeding. In the meantime, the owners of the two adjoining buildings can either (1) pray that the building does not collapse and take theirs with it; and (2) spend thousands of dollars on a civil suit that they may not win.

Katie M. said...

I lived there for three years after Brad lived at 1841. And yes it was in total disrepair with leaks in most windows and throughout the roof. We hoped for the best and enjoyed the cheap rent and awesome location. Joe and Amy, the landlords, were hard to find. Often it would take several phone calls to get a response about a problem in the house.

I will say that the landlords never would "haul garbage and debris to this property from elsewhere and dump it on the lawn to sit for a few weeks." They didn't do that because they were NEVER around. The trash/debris was from either the neighbors or some "independent" trash collector or something. We didn't appreciate the trash either.

Craig said...

I sublet for a summer at this house in the summer of 2000. I am surprised the house lasted this long. It's unfortunate, because it has the "bones" of a nice house.

Couldn't beat the price though.

jdawgthethird said...

I too lived at this house for 2 years(2002-2004) and the slumlords were horrible. Joe Lieberman was his name (not of political prominence). I remember being able to stick my hand in the wall into the bedroom next to mine on the second floor. Bricks would periodically fall onto the driveway below. I'm just glad nobody got hurt. Somebody should put the hurt on Lieberman.

Anonymous said...

Former residents: Is this the husband half of the landlord couple, below? You'd think a neurologist could afford to keep the building somewhere above "dangerous to life and limb" territory:

http://www.whcenter.org/11608.cfm

Katie M. said...

Yes, that is him!

Anonymous said...

I lived with anonymous, above, who mentioned the garbage dumping. I actually watched the landlord take said items from his car and dump them on the curb of this house. I presume the dumping opportunity was better at this locale than at his other slum properties. The stuff sat there for at least a month. I also witnessed a District official preparing to cite the property owner for illegal dumping. I was surprised and pleased. Reminded me of when I witnessed a District police officer pulling over a person driving too slow.

katie m. said...

that is not true.

Anonymous said...

Katie M. - RE: the trash dumping. This "argument" is inane, I realize, but I don't think that you can be sure of everything that has gone on at that address in the last 5 years.

former tenant said...

Hi, considering Joe Liberman could barely be bothered to answer the tenants' phone calls, there is no way he would go to all of the trouble to pack up a car with old junk, drive it down to 1841, and unload it. I'm pretty sure the junk you're referring to was from the rare times he was coerced into cleaning the old, moldy furniture out of the basement due to the recurring rat infestations. I think another time an inspector came by and told him he had to clear out the basement to pass some sort of inspection.

Anyway, the bigger point which I'm sure we can all agree on is that the house was nasty and not a single thing was done about it.

This quote from the Washington Post article actually made me laugh out loud, "Liberman said he and his wife rent out the house and were unaware of complaints about its condition." I want what he's smoking!

katie m. said...

Hey Anonymous, has this been a tough week for you? Let's take a deep breathe and calm down. Yoga helps.

You are not an expert on the landlords, unless you've lived there. The landlords were neglectful but they did not DUMP ANYTHING on 1841's property. I do believe there was some dumping by other people.

That's all I'm saying. Take a chill-pill, dog.

Anonymous said...

Not only were tenants in grave danger (it turns out), but also friends of tenants who would visit, such as me! Scares me to think that ANYTHING could have happened at ANY time, and that I was not being protected by the city or its officials. Tell me, is it really that hard to follow up after such repairs that were mentioned, and their revocation of rental ability? And were the repairs even certified to be appropriate? or certified to have even been done? Whether it be for owners or renters or whoever? What if the owners simply pocketed most of the money and had a bogus "contractor" say he did the work, yet didn't ever do anything? Wouldn't surprise me one bit.