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L&I rescues Kensington kids' park from dangerous dig

Developer undermines Arcadia Commons but L&I says: ‘Stop!’

PAT WALDER, who has lived on her East Kensington block for 50 years, was delighted when the Arcadia Commons community association bought two vacant lots last year, removed the trash, built concrete raised garden beds and created a green mini-park for neighborhood families.

But last month, Walder woke up one morning to discover that a developer, excavating a foundation on the adjacent lot, had crossed the property line, dug deep into Arcadia Commons, undermined one of its raised concrete garden beds and left that bed half-suspended over the edge of the pit.

Walder, 70, who has "watched over my neighborhood for decades," was angry that an illegal excavation turned the kids' park on Kern Street near Huntingdon into a kids' hazard.

"If you saw that community garden there, why would you start excavating without checking into boundaries?" Walder said.

"It's not like the developer saw empty lots," she said. "He saw a bench where people sit and read. He saw a little stage where the kids sing and dance. He saw an area where the kids play horseshoes. He saw the gardens. Kids were still picking vegetables from the gardens."

The concrete garden bed that the developer left dangling over the edge of the pit was filled with thriving tomato plants.

"And I didn't see permits," Walder said. "All of a sudden, our property is being excavated and no permits."

She didn't see permits because the developer posted them at the bottom of the excavation.

Walder called 311, the city's help line for non-police problems.

"They told me Licenses & Inspections would check on the permits but in order to resolve the trespassing issue and the hole itself, we had to get our own surveyor and file a civil suit," Walder said. "I just threw my hands up in the air."

She called Jeff Carpenter, president of Arcadia Commons, who emailed the Daily News.

As soon as the story ran, Licenses & Inspections Commissioner Carlton Williams, who had not responded to an interview request, responded immediately to the problem.

Stating that he wanted to "let the public know that their safety is still our priority," Williams directed L&I inspectors to compel the developer to pour the foundation for the new house, then backfill the deep hole under the Arcadia Commons concrete planter.

L&I also made the developer install a security fence around the construction site until the new house is built.

The permits were moved to street level so that something other than moles could read them.

"Once the house is done, we'll be back to our little park and gardens again," Walder said happily.

"Nobody does anything for the children around here," she said. "At Arcadia Commons, kids can sit and read, play games, plant things in the gardens - tomatoes, squash, lettuce, and lots of flowers interspersed among them.

"The older kids can hang out in Arcadia Commons instead of on the street corners," she said. "We bought those two lots and made Arcadia Commons to take our kids away from the streets. That's what this is all about."

On Twitter: @DanGeringer