Heap Hill-Highlands

It depends on to whom you are speaking as to who has the responsibility of “Heap Hill.”

Yet while upper echelon powers argue it out, the pile of junked cars, together with the hazards and ugliness of it, grows larger and more unsightly. Heap Hill is an approximate one block area located between the Twin Lights and Henry Hudson Regional School. Since May, according to Air Force personnel, or for the past two years, according to borough residents, it has become a haven for cars which have long since served their purpose. After numerous calls, several interminable waits, and uncounted transfers and referrals this reporter learned the following: In Highlands, Mayor Cornelius J. Guiney Jr. said the borough can’t take any stand since it is federal property. He did say, however, the borough owns the right-of-way through the area and any cars on it would be removed immediately. He added, “We’d like to see them cleared” and added “it would be interesting to see what would happen if the road were closed.”

Police Commissioner William McGowan reiterated the Mayor’s statement, saying “if it were up to us, we would get rid of them right away.” He added “We haven’t had any cooperation up there.” Police Chief Howard Monahan said he had a man go up there and look at the area and he agreed to dispose of the cars. But in the meantime somebody, presumably on the federal level “got the idea they should get money for the cars and the guy wouldn’t touch if after that.” Monahan also questioned the thought behind the state statute governing the auction sale of junked autos. “We have to hold them too long before we can do anything about them.” On the Air Force Side, COl. Ralph W. Frank, Commander of the Highlands base, explained the property had belonged to the Air Force but was declared surplus and as such fell under the jurisdiction of the General Surplus Administration in New York. He added that the base had contacted Highlands police , notified them of the condition, but then received word from Army headquarters to “get out of the business” since it was now GSA property. A spokesman at the civil engineer’s office at the base also said it was a GSA property and has been surplus property for approximately two years. The spokesman said his office had contacted the GSA office several times concerning the state of the property and added, “We’re concerned here because we have friends in the area and we know it is unsightly and hazardous. Somebody’s dragging their feet.” And the GSA in New York? We found it difficult to get them to talk., After one New York call, three waits and three transfers, we heard from a spokesman who refused to be named that “the head Air Force people were told to take care of the property until it is sold. “We are not responsible for the protection, maintenance and repair of it.” The spokesman also said he would contact Col. Frank and clarify the matter. He offered further that the property is in process of being transferred to the Henry Hudson Regional School district. When asked whether the transfer would be ‘with or without the cars,’ the spokesman laughingly answered, “that’s a good question.” At the Henry Hudson Regional School Board of Education Secretary Sal Giovenco said he had received word June 25 from the GSA office stating the New York Office was aware of an “eyesore and hazardous condition,” had no custodial responsibilities but would take whatever action is necessary to clear it up. The letter also informed the school board that a transfer of the property to the school district is anticipated in the near future. Residents in the area say the Heap started about two years ago with seven or eight cars. A quick count yesterday showed 52, some upright, others completely overturned. All are without tires, most with broken windshields, no headlights, and vandal gutted insides. One was the scene of a fire last week and residents say oftentimes the night’s silence is broken by sounds of the cars being dismembered or wrecked. Even daytime quiet is pierced by loud and abusive language emanating from the area together with banging and the sound of breaking glass. Where are the cars coming from? This also remains unanswered. Col. Frank said to his knowledge there was only one car belonging to Air Force personnel there and “we made him move it as his own expense.” Other than this, no one seems to see them come or know their origin. But Heap Hill continues to grow. Visitors to the Historical Museum at Twin Lights have but to turn from their breathtaking view of the ocean to see an ugly problem no one seems to be able to care to solve.


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