Taking down a blight a bit at a time

Heavy equipment takes down a dilapidated home in Derby, Sept. 29, 2014. *WTNH / Kent Pierce)

DERBY, Conn. (WTNH) — A small wood frame house has stood on Derby Avenue in Derby near the Ansonia line for decades, but in recent years, it fell into dangerous disrepair. Monday a large excavator started tearing it down, leaving nothing but a pile of rubble.

“The foundation was bad, the house was leaning,” said Alderman Carmen DiCenso, Chairman of the Derby Blight Committee. “The owners did not want to do anything about it, so we went with a state ordinance which gave us the right to take it down because of fear of collapsing.”

Using that state ordinance about dangerous properties, the City of Derby is on a mission to try to cut down on urban blight.

“Blight is really like a cancer,” according to Derby’s Mayor, Anita Dugatto. “If you have a house that’s not taken care of, the neighbors see it and say ‘hey, why should I take care of my yard? Why should I take care of my house?'”

Right next to the house being demolished sits right next a true piece of Derby history: the Uptown Burying Grounds, with some graves dating back more than 300 years. Officials guess the house is around 100 years old, so it doesn’t have quite the same history as the cemetery, but News 8 did find out a few things about its past.

“My grandmother lived here and she had the upstairs was available,” remembered legendary Derby wrestling coach Walter “Buster” Jadach. “So we moved in up there and I lived there until I got married.”

A blighted home in Derby is torn down, Sept. 29, 2014.
A blighted home in Derby is torn down, Sept. 29, 2014.

Jadach moved into this house as a kid after the flood of 1955 put his parents’ house under water. “Lot of good memories – my family, my grandparents – she had 12 children,” Jadach said. “So on Sundays all her daughters and sons would come here…”

But he knows years of neglect ruined the house, which is why the city had to step in. The city even had to pay for demolition because the owners couldn’t. “This house is kind of upside down,” said Mayor Dugatto. “They owe a lot of money – so the city has money to remove these properties and then hopefully we can regain that money.”

The city’s hope is the association that runs the cemetery next door will buy the property and turn it into parking so more people can visit the historic burying grounds.

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