Houses set on fire in Hollygrove had a long history of code breaches will be demolished | News

A wrecked home in Hollygrove, which burned to the ground early Wednesday and burned two other long abandoned properties, had stood empty since Hurricane Katrina and had hit up on maintenance violations dating back to 2013, city records show.

“It says nothing but the bricks,” said Cheryl Scott, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1999.

Neighbors were furious when they saw firefighters fighting the fire, which wiped out the shotgun where the flame started at 3031 Eagle Street. That house belongs to longtime property owner Jerome M. Volk Jr., 74, a Kenner attorney specializing in property and personal injury law, according to public records.



Neighbors watch as New Orleans firefighters put out hot spots after three homes burned early Wednesday morning on the 3000 block of Eagle Street in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Photo by Max Becherer, NOLA.com, The Times- Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




Volk also owns the house at 3027 Eagle Street, which was damaged as the fire spread. A house on 3035 Eagle Street was also badly damaged. The assessor’s records show the owners of the property as Velma Lewis, Coreen Lewis and Clyde Jefferson, all from New Orleans. Attempts to reach them by telephone were in vain.

Scott said the garbage dumped row of abandoned properties, which includes another undamaged house owned by Volk at 3021 Eagle Street, has attracted homeless people, some of whom she has observed striking fights.

She said she reported the destroyed homes to city officials several times over the years. Last month, she sent an email to Mayor LaToya Cantrell pleading that property owners be held accountable for the wounds in a street with otherwise well-maintained houses, some recently renovated.

As she looked at the black, twisted hulls of the structures, she shook her head.



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New Orleans firefighters take pictures while extinguishing hot spots after three homes burned early Wednesday morning on the 3000 block of Eagle Street in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, May 18, 2022. (Photo by Max Becherer, NOLA.com, The Times -Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)




“We’ve told them that’s what’s going to happen,” Scott said.

No one was injured and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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Each of Volks Eagle Street’s properties has a history of complaints and violations of the Code. A search of 311, the city’s non-emergency line, revealed 15 reports to the Department of Code Enforcement for property maintenance issues at his Eagle Street addresses within the past three years.

Volk did not respond to voicemails and emails at the time of press release.

The city’s Department of Code Enforcement found several violations at each address and fined Volk in 2019. At the time, the damage was not significant enough to justify an emergency demolition, officials said. Now the houses pose an imminent danger and they will be demolished next week.

By February, Volk had filed a suspensive appeal of judgment in the Civil District Court, which put all city cases on hold.

“Some of the problems (with Volks’s properties) have been the same for almost 10 years,” said City Councilman Joseph I. Giarrusso, who is also a lawyer and whose district includes Hollygrove. “If you have a situation where you know how the system works and you know the fines are not incredibly significant, you can essentially start the clock over and over again.”

Meanwhile, neighbors have become more and more frustrated and scared.

“I wish they would tear them down,” said Percy Williams, who lives just across from the burned houses. He called 911 when he saw the fire around noon. 06.17, when he picked up his newspaper from the curb. The fire was so hot that it distorted the cladding of his home, which sat behind a nicely manicured patio and fleur de lis-topped iron fence. He has lived there since 1978 and experienced a marked change after Hurricane Katrina when the residents of Volks houses cleared out and did not return.

In 2006, Volk and members of his family sued State Farm Fire & Casualty for damages to their Eagle Street properties, which were incurred during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They claimed that the damages were covered by their insurance company, but the company had not paid enough to comply with the coverage limits for the properties. They said the insurance company owed them $ 162,390.81.

In response, State Farm Fire & Casualty said that any damages incurred by the houses were due to “their own fault or negligence” and that their claims were not covered by their policies. The parties reconciled in 2012.

Giarrusso said illness is one of the city council’s biggest concerns.

“When we pour resources into public safety, illness must be part of that discussion,” he said.

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