A year later, wall collapse debris vandalized as cleanup remains in limbo

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It’s been nearly a year since a retaining wall collapsed onto a Harrisburg business and still no one has started to clean it up.

It hasn’t really gotten any better, and in some ways, it’s gotten worse.

“It’s just unbelievable. It really is,” Daniel Johnson said, walking along the Mulberry Street Bridge and looking down at the wreckage of the wall below.

May 5 marks one year since the first collapse happened (a second one would come later), but it’s an anniversary no one will be celebrating.

“I was amazed this even happened,” David Boyer said. “It was just wild,” Jeff Lewis remembered.

The hill of broken concrete, gravel, dirt and even a car has become a familiar sight to people who use the bridge. “And it’s got to be an eyesore, you know,” Lewis said.

In the year since, there’s been no cleanup, no change — except for the recent graffiti that now covers the sedan that’s slowly migrating into Howard Tire and Auto on Cameron Street.

“They painted the car,” Timothy Darnell Young said, “so you can tell people are going down there.” He worried about the people doing it: “Kids could come down here and get caught up under that and get trapped.”

“It’s hard to find words to explain what we’re standing in front of right now,” Johnson said. “And that poor guy’s business down there, I mean, what is he going to do?”

Howard Henry is that guy. His tire shop closed after his warehouse was condemned.

“I built a wall because we had vandals,” he said, motioning to a floor-to-ceiling plywood barrier between the main part of his warehouse and the collapsed section.

On the other side, the reality is still tough to stomach.

“It just doesn’t register to me that this is still like this,” he said.

The city blames the McFarland Apartments and told them to clean it up last summer. The McFarland blames PennDOT, citing work they did to the bridge near the retaining wall months before the collapse, and says they shouldn’t have to clean it up.

The company’s attorney, Adam Klein, said the McFarland sympathizes with Henry, but they don’t feel they’re to blame. He said they’re still working out an insurance payout, and starting to clean up the debris might impact the amount that eventually comes to the apartment company.

A Dauphin County judge is set to rule on an appeal to the order condemning part of the McFarland, but when that might happen is unclear.

After that, whoever loses the decision may decide to appeal further, which could tie up the process even longer.

Until then, the city’s hands are tied.

“And it just drives me nuts,” Henry said. His hands are tied, too. He’s paying bills for a shop that’s not making money. “Every single day I come and get ready to get ready for a reopen,” he said.

That could happen, he said, if the McFarland stabilized its foundation. “Just do something,” he said, looking up at the apartment building from the hole in his warehouse, “please.”

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