Deadline remains for Penn Hills families to move out of condemned apartments
Penn Hills officials, while sympathetic, said they could not extend a 5-day time limit to residents who were ordered to move out of their apartments last week.
“We’re compassionate to the crisis that’s happening there but our ordinance is set up because of health and safety … it’s unsafe for occupancy,” said Scott Andrejchak, Penn Hills manager. “It’s an unfortunate situation – that we didn’t create.”
The municipality’s code enforcement office posted a notice at the apartment complex on Wednesday that condemned the property and ordered all the 25 families to move out by Sept. 20.
“Due to lack of water, electricity, sanitary systems and a fire alarm system it has been deemed that the property has unsafe equipment and is unsafe for human occupancy,” the note said. “If property is not secured or all occupants have not vacated by Sept. 20, 2018 the municipality will remove all occupants and secure property.”
Andrejchak identified the owner of Val Mar Gardens as Prasad Margabandhu.
“(He) has some history with the code office,” Andrejchak said. “This hasn’t happened in a vacuum and it is not a first go around.”
A call to the Penn Hills code enforcement office went unanswered.
Margabandhu could not be reached for comment. When a Tribune-Review reporter called his number, a man who called himself Shane answered the phone and declined to answer questions.
A company called PA Real Estate Development Inc. bought the complex in January, according to Allegheny County real estate records. That company was created in 2013 and has a Mount Washington address, according to state records.
Margabandhu faced legal issues July 2017 for neglected code violations in buildings located in Arlington Heights and Swissvale, according to a report by Trib’s news partner, WPXI.
A group of about 10 residents marched to the Wilkinsburg-Penn Joint Water Authority on Monday to raise awareness about the issue and demanded the water company to turn on the service.
At one point, the group entered the water authority’s lobby with water buckets, signs and American flags, chanting: “What do we want?” “Water.” “When do we need it?” “Now.”
Nick Bianchi, the water authority’s executive director, asked the group to continue the protest outside and invited a few members of the group to talk behind closed doors. He did not allow media to attend.
Bianchi said the meeting was productive.
“We did meet with the tenants, we’ve agreed that if the tenants can produce an injunction to turn the water back on, then we’ll turn the water back on immediately,” said Bianchi. He said the water authority’s solicitor will meet with the residents’ attorney.
Val Mar resident Andre Mogley said the residents’ attorney is Eileen Yacknin, of Neighborhood Legal Services Association. When reached on the phone, Yacknin declined to talk about the case.
“It’s very stressful not knowing where I’m going to go,” said Andrea Skiles, a former Section 8 resident at Val Mar Gardens. She said she moved out of her place there over the weekend to another apartment complex in Wilkinsburg.
Skiles, 40, moved herself, her daughter and a service dog. She said the building’s electricity was turned off on Labor Day, then the water was turned off on Sept. 10.
“On the 11 th , they turned off the (natural) gas and on the 12 th (the building) was condemned and we got until the 20 th to move out. No warning … it’s just wrong,” Skiles said.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter @dillonswriting.