Bushy lot big eyesore

Maria Bradshaw,

Added 07 December 2012

mtm1207bush2

Alvin Sobers thought he was doing a good deed for his family and his community by clearing vacant overgrown lots in his neighbourhood. But two years ago officials from the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and the Urban Development Commission put a halt to his valiant efforts by threatening to prosecute him if he continued. “They told me it was illegal to clear Government land,” lamented Sobers, who resides at Hilltop Road, Pine, St Michael. The problem is that since he was warned back in 2010, the vacant lot next door to his home and other lots in the community that he and other young men faithfully cleaned have become overgrown with bush and trees.  An upset Sobers said he believed the action by officials was political. “I was cleaning the land next door to my house since 1990 when I started to work in construction. I would borrow the Bobcat from my workplace and come out here and spend an entire day cleaning the grass because nobody came out here to do it,” he explained. However, he said that in 2010 Opposition Senator Santia Bradshaw, who is contesting the St Michael South East seat, visited the neighbourhood and asked residents if she could assist them with anything. “I showed her the grass and told her that if she rented a Bobcat, I would clear off all of the bush in the community. She rented one for five weeks and me and the guys out here started to clear off the bush. “Then one day I see a number of vehicles pull up with all these people who said they were from [NHC] and [the Urban Development Commission (UDC)], and they told us that they understand we were clearing the land to squat on it and that it was illegal to interfere with Government land and if we did not stop we would be prosecuted.” Sobers said he tried to tell the officials that he had been clearing the land for years and that nobody was going to squat on it but they ordered him to remove the Bobcats. “I decided from then that I ain’t touching the land anymore,” he cried. But Sobers said since then he had been calling different Government agencies such as the Ministry of Transport and Works, the NHC and the UDC to clear the land. “Whenever we call, they tell us that the equipment down or out on other jobs,” he said. Last week he was forced to cut some of the bush that was encroaching on his mother’s house and also clear a walkway that had become overgrown with bush. “Rats, centipedes, sandflies, mosquitoes, everything in that grass and this is two years and nobody has come out here to clear it,” he lamented. He also expressed concern about other overgrown lots behind the neighbouring Irving Wilson, Wilkie Cumberbatch and Ann Hill schools. “We used to go out there and clear away all of that bush and now it is so high that you can’t even see the schools,” he said, adding that he was disappointed that the authorities “were more interested in politics than the health of people in the community”. When contacted, a legal official at the NHC confirmed that it was illegal to interfere with Government land. “It may be a good deed (to clear the land), but within the legal parameters they do not have the right to be on that land and it would be considered trespassing,” the officer reported. We were unable to get any indication as to when the overgrown lots would be cleared by the NHC.

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