PITTSTON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s a problem nationwide and in our region, blighted properties are in just about every community. But the question always asked is, what can be done about them?
The city of Pittston has a reputation for being tough on the owners of blighted properties.
Now, one property owner has filed a federal lawsuit against the city claiming his civil rights were violated when his property was torn down by the city.
The blighted property was located on North Main Street in Pittston. Now, it’s an empty field, which is just fine with the neighbors there.
The property owner claims the city crossed the line, but Pittston Mayor Mike Lombardo insists They drew a line in the sand, blighted properties will not be tolerated.
“I’ll say what I said over and over again if you want to own property, own it responsibly. If not, sell it, or deal with the consequences,” said Mayor Lombardo.
Mayor Lombardo talks about the actions taken by the city in June of 2019. Eyewitness News was there as demolition crews razed the building at 385 North Main Street. This after years of trying to have the owner, Douglas Bruce from Colorado, clean it up.
Mayor Lombardo said then and now, it was a safety hazard to the neighbors, which includes thousands of dollars of fines, and finally a warning that it would be torn down.
“I feel again like I said in the past that we’re on firm legal ground when we did what we’re supposed to do. One of the main responsibilities of government is public safety and this becomes a public safety matter and we dealt with it,” Mayor Lombardo explained.
But Douglas Bruce filed a federal lawsuit against the city, claiming, among other things, he never received proper notice about the demolition and that the city violated his civil and property ownership rights when the heavy equipment moved in on June 25 of 2019.
“Under the federal constitution, the city must pay the true value of the property, not simply steal it and destroy it while charging me with demolition for their misconduct,” Bruce said in a statement to the I-Team.
Below you can read the full lawsuit filed by Bruce against the city of Pittston.
Bruce is seeking in excess of $500,000 in damages from the city of Pittston.
“Could the lawsuit have a chilling effect on other communities that take similar actions?” Reporter Mehalshick asked. “I would hope not. I would hope we get a good outcome in what it says is when you’re in the right you should follow through and do the right thing,” Mayor Lombardo replied.
Mary Beth Mazonis of Pittston walks in the neighborhood every day.
“We’re you glad to see it torn down?” Reporter Mehalshick asked. “Oh yeah. It was falling apart, yes, absolutely,” said Mazonis.
Pittston City has released a statement in response to the lawsuit against them.
The property with the building on it was assessed at $30,000.