11 Investigates: Neighbors, councilman fed up with community eyesore

11 Investigates: Neighbors, councilman fed up with community eyesore

An eyesore in Pittsburgh has neighbors at their wit's end. The property has debris piled high and is overgrown with grass and weeds. Even the city councilman in the neighborhood couldn't get results, and contacted Target 11 for help.

The old St. Henry Church in Pittsburgh's Arlington Heights neighborhood has been closed for more than a decade. Neighbors said they've had to deal with debris, trash, and overgrown grass and shrubs outside of it for months.

"It's so miserable to live up there. The filth. We are afraid of rats. We are afraid of raccoons. It's so terrible," said one resident who asked not to be identified.  She said the problems aren't just on the outside of the property, either. "You hear banging, you hear music playing very loud. It's just a constant coming and going there."

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Over the last two years, Pittsburgh building inspectors cited the property owner, listed in records as Pgh. Burgers & Fries, for working without a permit, overgrown weeds, and debris. The judge dismissed the debris case when the owner couldn't be located, but the company was fined $1,000 for the permit violation. Nobody ever paid the fine.

"That's why I'm turning to you, Rick. I need your help. We've done everything that we possibly know through legal avenues to correct the situation," said Bruce Kraus, president of the Pittsburgh City Council.

Using the Pennsylvania Department of State website, Target 11 discovered Pgh Burgers & Fries is owned by Prasad Margabandhu. Target 11 went to several of his prior listed addresses, and left a message at one of his restaurants on Pittsburgh's South Side. His attorney eventually called, and said squatters had moved into the church and were responsible for most of the problems. The attorney said the squatters left behind the garbage and debris, and said that Margabandhu intends to clean it up.

Target 11 also uncovered that Margabandhu owes more than $27,000 in taxes on the property. The Treasurer's Office said if it's not paid in several weeks, then a lien will be put on the property, and it could then be made available in a sheriff's sale.

Council president Bruce Kraus said neighbors just want the site cleaned up.

"It's been a detractor for a good three years now. It's just not a contributory building too, and as you said, the peace and tranquility of that neighborhood. The people deserve better," said Kraus.

Margabandhu's attorney said he doesn't know what his client plans to do with the church property, but said his client had purchased other problem properties on the South Side and turned them around.