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House Demolition Leaves Behind Problems For Neighbor

By: Mary Robb Jackson
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The city tore down the condemned building in September. (Photo Credit: KDKA)

The city tore down the condemned building in September. (Photo Credit: KDKA)

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When the city tore down a derelict house, it left a party wall exposed and that has caused some major problems, including frozen pipes, for a Greenfield woman.

The house was condemned a year ago in December. It took months for the city to process the paperwork with an Ohio-based owner.

In September, the city tore down the condemned building located at the end of a block of row houses on Delevan Street.

Alexis Balough, 63, lives next door – sharing a party wall. Two weeks later, she was left with exposed joists, a damaged foundation under her porch, broken brick work and a pink insulation board made of combustible material supposedly covering up any holes.

“I’m just sick about it. I have frozen pipes up in the bathroom,” said Balough. “Thank God I have a second bathroom in the basement – that one’s working – and I got the holidays coming.”

She thought the city would repair the party wall after demolition. Instead, she was told to contact the Urban Redevelopment Authority.

“The city is not responsible for my party wall,” she said. “I am responsible for the party wall.”

There was no action for nearly three months. Inside her dining room, a pink board can be seen behind a register and the party wall is icy to touch. Balough says she has been using her gas fireplace to keep warm.

Paul Loy, who supervises demolition for the Bureau of Building Inspection, says he’s not sure why three months went by after the house was razed.

The city sent a letter to Balough in July notifying her of the demolition. Under a 1920 law, a party wall is the adjacent property owner’s responsibility. Building Inspection also notified the URA on Sept. 30 that the building was down.

However, it doesn’t explain why the home was left with holes and vulnerable to freezing temperatures.

“This is only a temporary fix – that’s all it’s required to be,” said Loy. “That’s where the URA comes in.”

“We want to help solve this, and we want to make sure the property owner is taken care of here,” added Rob Stephany, the executive director of the URA.

Balough’s present situation may be the result of miscommunications on both sides – a demolition with winter coming on, as well as the URA being swamped with similar projects.

The URA is ready to help Balough with their “Party Wall Grant Program.” They will also foot the bill for her frozen pipes.

“Again, our intent and our heart is with the woman in Greenfield, and we want to make sure her pipes get unfrozen,” said Stephany.

They will also try to speed up the bidding process to get the party wall resurfaced. The URA plumbing contractor arrived at Balough’s house to tackle the frozen pipes Friday, just as a pipe burst.

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