Photo by Steve Mosco
By Steve Mosco

A long-abandoned Woodhaven house with a brutal murder in its history was finally sealed by the city — almost.

Officials from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development boarded up the doors and windows last week after neighbors complained of shady characters going in and out of the house, at 87-19 90th St.

But hours after officials secured the residence and left the property, neighbors said the squatters returned and kicked down a freshly installed cinder block wall at a back entrance before the cement dried.

“Neighbors heard the young men come back shouting, cursing and bemoaning that it had been sealed,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Block Association. “The next thing they heard was a giant crash. Cinder blocks are good, but not when the cement is still wet.”

The house was the site of a 2011 hate crime that left a Long Island teen, Anthony Collao, dead after a group of thugs pummeled him because they thought he was gay. Residents have since grown tired of the negative element that frequents the house — often playing loud music, tossing trash out the windows and making everyone in the neighborhood feel like prisoners in their own homes.

“We all feel like we’re in danger. The lady across the street won’t let her two young daughters outside,” said a neighbor who did not want to be identified. “There’s gang members there and we are all afraid for our lives.”

A spokesman for HPD said the department was aware of the most recent issue and a contractor will be sealing the building again within the week.

But neighbors said if the building is not properly sealed, the threat to the neighborhood posed by the abandoned house would always remain.

“The danger with this house and any abandoned house is that someone is going to start a fire to stay warm and it’s going to get out of control,” said Wendell. “The houses here are very close together and if there’s a gusty wind, the fire will spread. It could be absolutely devastating.”

Wendell also noted the house is just around the corner from PS 60, where young men often congregate and participate in illicit activity.

“Residents are always reporting that young adults, not kids, hang out at the school’s playground at night, drinking and smoking pot,” he said. “It’s become a scary area for the people living there.

The incident resulting in Collao’s death last year stemmed from a party being held at the abandoned house. On that night, five teens arrived at the party, chased Collao down the block and brutally beat him. Collao died two days after the attack at Jamaica Hospital.

Wendell said the house should have been sealed the next day — not 18 months later after the squatters were able to re-establish themselves in the house.

“For the people on that block, this is a failure by the city, the police, the elected officials and even the block association,” he said. “There is a lot of blame to go around.”

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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