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PA neighborhood residents say city wants them to fix landslide or face condemnation

By Meghan Schiller

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    PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A Pittsburgh woman is turning to KDKA for help as an unresolved landslide threatens to take away her family home.

“This was their only home and they left it to me to protect and take care of and that’s all I want to do. And I don’t want to give anybody grief,” said Mary Kaye-Kienke.

She reached out to KDKA’s Meghan Schiller for help, saying a landslide continues to threaten her home along Drycove Street in the city’s Bon Air neighborhood. Kienke fondly recalls growing up alongside her siblings and playing in the backyard.

“Everybody knew one another, and everybody looked out for one another. Never would I have ever imagined that something like this would have ever occurred,” she said.

What started as a crack in her backyard grass in late December 2018 turned into a landslide. A once-underground pipe shoots out into nothingness. Her bench, trees and fence are now in a pile of debris nearly 100 feet below.

“I’ve been told that they’re just going to put a sticker on my house and they’re going to say it’s condemned and I have no place to go during the wintertime, the pandemic. I’m going to be out on the street with no home,” she said.

It’s a problem that neighbors say boils down to two viewpoints. The neighbors say the landslide should not be their responsibility to fix because they believe it stems from the stream flowing at the base of the hillside, which they claim is on city-owned property.

The letters from the city allege the landslide is on the residents’ property and therefore is their responsibility to fix it.

“I lost three-quarters of my backyard and I go to bed at night just praying that I can keep my home,” said Walsh-Kienke.

She’s hired an attorney and engineer but claims her court dates with the city didn’t bring any resolution.

Kienke and her next-door neighbors, Tyler Cavanaugh and Aleah Dishong, told KDKA that they have now started receiving letters from the city telling them they need to fix it or face fines.

It’s something Cavanaugh said they’ll never be able to afford.

“He said just to stabilize the hillside from slipping anymore is upwards of $100,000, twice that much to fix it,” said Cavanaugh.

“Our house isn’t even worth that much money,” Dishong added.

The two felt they had only one option: abandon their home and try foreclosure.

They moved after the “Requests for Compliance” from the city started arriving in the mail, threatening fines of up to $1,000 a day per violation

“I wouldn’t be living in Pittsburgh if I had 100 thousand dollars to fix a problem,” said Cavanaugh.

For Walsh-Kienke, a fresh start is not an option. She hopes the fines will stop and she can stay and closely monitor the hillside.

“How would you like to feel if you come home and see a condemned sticker on your house? It’s a horrendous feeling just knowing there’s no help whatsoever,” she said.

KDKA’s requests for comments from the city were not returned. The neighbors say they hope the city’s administration will take a look at what’s happening and offer some sort of compromise.

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