Post office property needs a cleanup

The derelict house on property leased by the postal service. —Tony Spinelli photo

The derelict house on property leased by the postal service. —Tony Spinelli photo

First Selectman Rudy Marconi is asking the town’s Blight Prevention Board to keep up the pressure on the Ridgefield post office regarding a blighted building the post office leases next door to the mail office.

The blighted building at 28 Catoonah Street is a picture of overgrown weeds and brush, gaping holes, and dilapidated surfaces.

“It’s an old building that is clearly in blight, but it is controlled by the post office federal property, and we the town lack authority for as long as I’ve been on the board, 10 plus years,” said Selectman Andy Bodner.

The town has unsuccessfully attempted to get the post office to acknowledge the blighted building for years. It is owned by the estate of Edward H. Benenson, who built the shopping center next door. It is leased to the United States Postal Service through 2048.

The town would be willing to take it down, Bodner said.

“The challenge is to get the post office to say go ahead and do that,” Bodner said.

The local postmaster was not available to answer questions.

Marconi was prepared to continue the pressure.

“The blight committee will keep asking the post office to comply even though they may be exempt,” Marconi said in an email following last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting, where he talked about the blight.

The building was the home of Helen McGlynn Cumming, a former Danbury schoolteacher, who died in 2003 at the age of 97.

Richard Baldelli, the town’s zoning enforcement officer and a member of the blight committee, said the sovereign immunity of the federal government extends to the blighted house.

“I don’t know,” Baldelli said, when asked what could be done in that case. “We can only do what the law allows us to do.”

The rundown building has openings through which rodents can pass, Baldelli said. “There are a variety of deteriorating building issues.”

The blighted building is not alone on the property. The late Harry Thomas’s blacksmith shop is still there, on the east side of the post office behind the blighted house.

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