The tip arrived via e-mail: “On the corner of Clifton St. and Forest Ave. there is a run down one-story building that is an eyesore of fading polar white and shitty graffiti,” the anonymous whistleblower wrote. “Its only purpose is for people to drunkenly piss behind it on their way home from the Great Lost Bear (guilty!)”
For those less intimately familiar with the property, the tipsy tipster’s talking about the boarded-up storefront attached to 593 Forest Ave. — a large gray apartment building on the corner of Clifton Street. The store’s formerly white walls are marred with colorful graffiti and splotches of purple paint applied in earlier attempts to cover up tags. The windows are boarded-up and a sheet of crinkled paper is taped to the inside of the front door to keep passersby from peeking in.
The dump sticks out among Clifton Street’s otherwise well-maintained, historic homes. Tax records indicate the storefront used to be a hair salon, but neighbors say no business has occupied the building for at least a decade. “It would be nice if it was a bustling little coffee shop,” one neighbor lamented. Another suggested a “bad-ass record store.”
So what happened?
After a lot of digging, this reporter knows little more than the curious public urinator who brought the property to my attention. Residents of the apartment building next door refused to answer their doors and did not respond to notes left in their mailboxes. None of the neighbors know the owner, Nicholas Giusti III, who could not be reached for comment. Giusti’s father described him as “very private,” and said the building’s last tenant was paid to vacate the place.
Giusti owns another property in a modest housing development off Washington Avenue, so I went there to try to reach him. But upon arriving, it became clear that 38 Primrose Lane is also abandoned. A rotting basketball hoop stood over the unplowed driveway, and tall weeds licked at the sides of the house. A peek inside the first-floor windows revealed, well, not much: a couple of door knobs sitting on the carpet, and a lot of empty rooms.
A longtime resident of the Primrose neighborhood and the Cumberland County Registry of Deeds offered some clues. Giusti bought 593 Forest Ave. in 1993 and began renting it out shortly thereafter. In 1997, he and his now ex-wife purchased the Primrose Lane property together. The neighbor I spoke with said Giusti “was not a nice guy,” and suspected the Primrose house was abandoned after an alleged run-in with the police a couple years ago. But according to police records, the cops have been there only twice in the past five years: once to drop off some paperwork, and again last fall to investigate a report of an open door at the vacant home.
Giusti’s father said he has not been in touch with his son for years and does not know his whereabouts. “He’ll go after you if you write about him,” he warned.
Until then, it seems the case of the double-header dump will remain unsolved.
— Emily Guerin