Boston’s Problem Properties: 102 Blue Hill Avenue

Add “animal abuse” to the lengthy rap sheet at 102 Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury.

This July, Mayor Menino stood outside a house at 102 Blue Hill Avenue and announced the launch of the city’s new Problem Properties Task Force, a unified effort by Boston Police and City Hall to identify absentee landlords and hold them accountable for the illegal actions of their tenants (as well as their own misdeeds). At the time, the Roxbury home had clocked 105 police calls in the past year, and some of its occupants were allegedly selling cocaine and soliciting prostitutes. The city held owner Edward Franco’s feet to the fire, telling him that he needed to clean up his building and evict his problem tenants, or else they’d station a police cruiser outside the house and charge him for cost of the detail.

I wrote about the task force in the latest issue of the magazine and was heartened to hear that the city had convinced Franco to take action. He’d put up fences, installed security cameras, and Boston police proudly boasted that there hadn’t been an incident since the press conference had been called. Then, last week, a new police report at the address found two problem tenants who had been previously charged with drug dealing were involved in another altercation: Tenant Thomas Ganzales was arrested and fined $750 after allegedly throwing kittens out of a second-story window during an argument with his wife, Angela Ganzales. Thankfully, when the police responded, the kittens were fine.

The addition of animal abuse to the long list of incidents at this property is disturbing and disheartening. In the course of my reporting, I spoke with City Councilor Maureen Feeney, who said that she hoped that the task force would enact a special distinction in housing court that would help hasten evictions in the case of buildings designated problem properties. Obviously, the fact that these two tenants were still living at the property over two months after the task force crackdown makes her argument even stronger. If the task force is going to work, it needs its “teeth” to extend to housing court as well. (For their part, Boston Police say that the eviction is scheduled for this week.)

But if there is a silver lining, it’s this: In addition to being the poster child for problem properties in the city, the tenants at 102 Blue Hill Ave are now also being cited in an effort to expand the state’s domestic violence laws. State Senator Katherine Clark has submitted a bill that extends the right of restraining and protective orders to also include pets. As one anti-domestic violence advocate explained to Metro:

Abusing animals “is used as a mechanism for having control over a victim either by making threats to the pet or causing actual harm to the pet,” said Maureen Gallagher, the policy director at the statewide domestic violence victims’ advocacy group Jane Doe, Inc. “We also have concerns because victims may not leave a situation if they fear animals will be left behind or would be hurt.

Similar legislation has been enacted in Connecticut and Vermont, and it seems that thanks to the altercation with the kittens, it may now have the support in the State Senate to get passed.