New Castle News

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September 7, 2013

City, county join forces on ‘neighborhood stabilization’

NEW CASTLE — New Castle officials and the county district attorney’s office have joined forces to clean up some of the city’s neighborhoods.

The “neighborhood stabilization” program is a coordinated effort among law enforcement officers, the city’s public works and code enforcement departments and social service agencies to eliminate drug activity, repair streets, improve the housing stock and the lives of the residents who live in targeted areas.

Lawrence County District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa said the first area selected was a portion of the lower North Hill, which he referred to as a “trial run.” The area is bounded by Park Avenue, Blaine Street, Boyles Avenue and Highland Avenue.

Narcotics officers — both city police and the district attorney’s units — were sent in first, he said, followed up by public works and code enforcement. In addition to eradicating the areas of drugs and crime, the purpose is to make sure properties are properly maintained, houses are up to code and demolished if necessary.

Michael Rooney, city public works director, said his department made sure streets were passable. His crews used approximately one and a half tons of material to patch streets, he said, and made sure all traffic signs are visible.

Anthony Cioffi, code enforcement foreman, said his department is in the process of checking properties for any violations.

“We want to try to touch base with them (the residents) personally and let them know what’s happening.”

He added he is excited about the potential of the stabilization program.

Lamancusa said the third phase of the program is to bring social service agencies into the neighborhoods.

“The goal is to bring these social service agencies directly to the people,” he said. “We’re going to go door to door and see if they need assistance.

“We’re not increasing any costs. We’re asking these agencies to do what they already do.”

New Castle Police Chief Robert Salem said he, Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo and Lamancusa determine which area to target. A “variety of factors” is considered, he noted, including crime and condition of the houses.

Mastrangelo said the next area is on the Lower East Side: From Oak Street to Countyline Street and Spruce Street to Walnut Street.

He said one house in the area is already on the city’s demolition list and at least five more abandoned properties will be added.

“Then, if there is any money left over, I want to pave one of the streets.

“The idea is to clean up the area, help the homeowners, help them fix up their houses. If this can work, then we can apply for grants.”

He said the city has received a state grant that can be used to rehabilitate owner-occupied homes for low- to moderate-income residents in these areas. The city administers the grant and the Lawrence County Community Action Partnership handles the actual rehabilitation.

Mastrangelo noted only three people on the lower North Hill agreed to have their houses fixed up.

Residents also will have the opportunity to take advantage of the weatherization program.

“The winners are people who live in the area,” he said. “Maybe it will serve as an example for other people to fix up their houses.”

Jennifer Elliott, director of healthy homes for Community Action Partnership, said qualifying homeowners can receive rehabilitation grants up to about $20,000.

“We understand it will be a slow process,” Lamancusa said of the stabilization effort.

“These neighborhoods did not get this way overnight. Nor do we anticipate fixing these overnight.”

“I could not be more pleased with the collaborative effort with the mayor of the city of New Castle and all of his department heads.”

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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