For most of 30 years, 489 Central Park has sat vacant and neglected, a boarded-up blemish just off North Goodman, a little bit south of Bay.
It is a symptom of the rot that holds the city back.
One of thousands of homes clustered in the northeast and the southwest, essentially abandoned, unkempt and unoccupied, ultimately lost to taxes and dumped on the city like litter. They are infested by vermin, and sometimes by the worst of people. Squatters move in or drug dealers sit on the porch and slowly it rots like a meth sore on the face of the neighborhood.
That’s what 489 Central Park is like.
After years of neglect and complaints from neighbors, the taxman finally could not be ignored and he foreclosed. Two years delinquent and now in the hands of the city.
The worst house on the block is now the financial liability of the city. Maybe it will be razed. Maybe it will be mothballed. Maybe it will sit, boarded up, as if nothing has happened.
Like hundreds and hundreds of other abandoned or foreclosed homes across the city.
They are a cancer and a decay, housing stock that people simply walk away from, leaving the city and its taxpayers to clean up the mess.
Except this house is different.
Not in regard to the strong smell of rodent urine. Not in regard to the eyesore it poses, a missing tooth in a neighborhood’s smile.
But in regard to the name on the forfeited deed.
It’s David Gantt.
Assemblyman David Gantt.
Arguably the most powerful man in town, and for decades the self-professed defender of neighborhoods just like this one.
And a man whose double-dipping state paycheck is in the neighborhood of $150,000 a year.
That’s the man who turned his moldering heap over to the city in lieu of some $725 in back taxes.
David Gantt. The man who has employed Mayor Lovely Warren for all but a few months of her adult life. The man who many believe is a powerful backroom advisor to City Hall. The man who, as dean of the Rochester legislative delegation, has presided over the steady decay of the city and neighborhoods he is sworn to represent.
That’s the man who dumped his house on the city.
Neighbors say his brother used to live there, until it fell into disrepair. Then the brother moved off to senior housing, and the house fell deeper into disrepair.
And while those same neighbors worked to keep their houses up, to protect their meager investments and house their humble families, their street and their block struggled under the extra burden of a purposefully neglected property.
Again, that’s not unique.
Countless good families try to make their way in similar situations. Economic reversal and individual irresponsibility have led to innumerable homes simply being walked away from. In most of those situations, it’s because of financial necessity. People just don’t have the money. Or their lives get in the wind and the stability necessary to pay bills and live independently gets lost.
In those situations, you can’t blame people.
But this situation isn’t like that.
David Gantt is a man who knows exactly what a millstone abandoned houses have become for the city. There are hundreds in inventory, and tending the grass alone is a huge expense. Few of them can be sold, most of them have to be torn down, all of them cost the taxpayers.
And he just threw one more at them.
David Gantt, who receives a full pension for a job he still receives a full paycheck for, didn’t pay property tax on his $20,000 house for two years in a row. And when the house was going to be taken for $725, he let it go.
More correctly, he stuck it to the taxpayers.
He took his responsibility and put it on the back of humble people who make far less than he does, and whom he is supposedly protecting.
The biggest man in town has done a very small thing. He has treated his neighbors like crap and his neighborhood like a ghetto.