Help Me Howard: Woman’s nightmare battle to clean dump next to her home in Newark

Posted: 9:51 PM, May 10, 2013
Updated: 2013-05-11 00:34:15-04

For 43 years Ernestine McCoy has lived in her Newark home. She’s raised her kids here.  She’s proud of her home.  She’s furious at her next door neighbor and the city for spoiling it.

In 2007 a nice home next door was knocked down.  Three new ones were supposed to go up.  The economy tanked and the construction never happened.  But the owner used it as a dumping ground for his construction business.

“I’ve put too much into the city. I feel as though I deserve better than this,” Ernestine says.

For six years now she’s fought to get the lot cleaned up.  In frustration she turned to Help Me Howard.  Two weeks ago Howard tried to get some answers from the lot’s owner and the man who did the dumping, Nelson Espinoza of IBN Construction.

On the phone, Espinoza promised Howard, “ The next 15 days I’m gonna clean it up…I will move it in 15 days.”

Ernestine didn’t believe it would happen.  And she was right.  When Howard came back 15 days later, the debris was still there.  The city had shown up and moved big chunks of concrete to the entrance to try to prevent anyone from getting back in to dump more.  But that was about it.

“I wasn’t expecting much,” Ernestine told Howard. “Even though with all your help. I’ve tried for all these years and this is what he always do. The city doesn’t seem to enforce the issue so he does what he want to do.”

Howard went looking for Espinoza.  He wasn’t home.  But then a little luck intervened.  Howard thought he was calling Espinoza but had actually dialed a number for Newark’s city government.  He got through to the Director of Neighborhood Services, Karim Arnold.  It turned out that Espinoza had just been in Arnold’s office for a little sit down.  Arnold told Howard the city now owns the lot and the property will be cleaned up by Wednesday, or else.

Here’s an excerpt from their conversation:

ARNOLD: I went over there yesterday.

HOWARD: I was there too.

ARNOLD: I must have just missed you. These guys were putting stuff there.  They used to own the property.

HOWARD: I’m aware of that sir.

ARNOLD   …They dumped the stuff there. They’re planning on moving it. I met with them. So this will be rectified beforeWednesday is out.

HOWARD: He agreed to have this done next week?

ARNOLD:  Or face arrest!

HOWARD: Or face arrest?

ARNOLD: We don’t play those types of games here.

HOWARD: I appreciate that, Mr. Arnold.  And I’m sure Ms. McCoy appreciates it too.”

After all she’s been through, Ernestine may still have her doubts.  But we’ll see next week whether the lot gets cleaned up or someone gets arrested. And Howard will be back to see for himself.