When cracks began to appear in front of their house more than a decade ago, Retby and Edna Pellitero found themselves in a dilemma: They had bought a house in West Hialeah amid two private streets that nobody maintains.
“I have given up,” said Retby Pellitero, 76, who lives in the Lenar Manor development at West Sixth Avenue and 79th Place. “Streets get flooded here. … we collect money to unclog the drains, and I go around plugging little holes that form on the streets.”
At times, Pellitero has tried to get help from the city of Hialeah to repair the streets of his neighborhood, but the response is always the same: Those are private streets.
Hialeah Streets Department director Jorge Hernández said the city has only 21 neighborhoods with private streets, most of them on the west side of town. Of those, 17 have walls, bars or gates that limit vehicle access to only residents or visitors. Another four private neighborhoods do not restrict traffic.
Problems include crumbling asphalt and sidewalks, obstructed stormwater drains, and damaged underground electrical connections that serve local street lights.
“We can’t give service to private areas,” Hernández said.
Another development, Alameda Jardín — at 24th Avenue and 73rd Place, close to Palmetto Hospital — has three-foot-wide paths that are sinking, especially in areas close to water meters.
“We have had this problem for at least 10 years,” said Jennifer Bowderen, who lives in the suburb with her mother and daughter.
The common denominator is that neither Lenar Manor nor Alameda Jardín has a homeowners association to take responsibility for the maintenance of the common areas.
Some of the neighbors of Lenar Manor and Alameda Jardín say that years after buying their houses they learned that the developers had formed homeowners associations without informing the buyers, clearly and timely, that the streets were private.
“In 2001, they sent me a letter informing us of the existence of an association,” said Orlando Sánchez, who bought his house in 1991 for nearly $75,000. “In other words, they came up with that surprise a decade later.”
According to Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández, the strategy of some developers was to not pay for the process of making streets public and save thousands of dollars.
Retby Pellitero and his wife say they bought their house not thinking that they had to be responsible for maintaining the streets.
“I bought here in 1981, and I was never told about it,” Pellitero said. “When streets began to flood because the drains were not working, we went to see Mayor Raúl Martínez [in early 2000], but he told us that the streets were private.”
According to Pellitero, in 2005, when Julio Robaina ran for Hialeah mayor, he promised the neighbors that he would try to help them repair the streets in exchange for their support in the election. Then when he was elected, Pellitero said he approached him to specify the help.
“He told us to raise part of the funds and the city would contribute the rest to begin the repairs,” Pellitero said. “We raised close to $12,000, and I gave him the money. He told me that with that he could begin to work. Time went by, but the man did nothing … The fact is that he never cashed the checks, either. It was all a lie.”
According to Pellitero, about four months ago he ran into Mayor Hernández at a church and he took the opportunity to explain the situation to him and ask the city to help repair a light post.
A few days later, city employees came to replace the bulb, but when it became dark it didn’t turn on. FPL technicians determined that electricity was not reaching the post, which has an underground connection.
“I know that the mayor tried to give us a hand,” Pellitero said. “Now we don’t know who else to turn to … The worst part is that the neighbors, mostly elderly people, do not want to form an association in our neighborhood.”