By ALISSA SCOTT
Several Amsterdam South-Siders clustered around a fire-damaged neighborhood home Monday afternoon, grinning as it crumbled to the ground.
"This isn't a sad thing," Jerre Chilton, of Essex Street, said as an excavator picked away at the corner of the house. "It's a happy thing, in that it's finally getting taken down."
The home, 2 Perkins St., drew an even larger crowd two years ago when it caught fire.
Amsterdam Fire Chief Richard Liberti said "a pretty good size fire" was caused by the likely overloading of a branch electrical circuit. The family evacuated the home safely, but one firefighter tripped and twisted his ankle. Liberti said it didn't cause him to miss any work.
But since that day, July 23, 2011, neighbors have watched as it became unlivable, was marked for asbestos removal, and then sat around for years becoming the "neighborhood eyesore."
"People have been asking me 'When are they going to knock that thing down?" said Mary Jo Verderese, who lives next door at 4 Perkins St. "Like I'm supposed to know. ... And now it's finally coming down."
An audience of about a dozen-and-a-half gawked as the excavator controlled by a Dan's Hauling construction worker dug at the home, room-by-room for three hours Monday. Starting around 2 p.m., the claw ripped apart the walls, the roof and the flooring as the house full of possessions crumbled into the taped-off area surrounding the home.
A pool table, its felt covering dampened by the years' build-up of mold and mildew, that sat in the attic slowly slid down to the bottom floor. The machine ripped open a China cabinet, exposing stacked dishes that fell and shattered. Mattresses, board games and a flat screen TV all lay strewn about in piles and piles of rubble.
"There goes a laundry basket," Verderese said, covering her mouth as dust and the moldy scent wafted through the air.
Dan Wolfe, owner of Dan's Hauling, said Verderese didn't need to worry about breathing in asbestos as the crews were following procedure and kept a hose spraying on the home throughout the demolition.
Verderese and her husband Angelo watched from their garage across the street. The construction crew instructed them, for their own safety, to stay out of their home until the day's work was complete.
"Yeah, it's scary," Angelo Verderese said. "But not as scary as the day the whole house was on fire."
"Oh, it's wobbling, it's wobbling," Mary Jo Verderese interjected, watching the structure, its satellite dish trembling as the excavator dug into a back room. "Just look at it shaking."
Dan's Hauling taped the vents and windows of the Verderese's home and lined its side and half of the roof with wooden planks to protect it from tumbling debris. The home owners said they also signed a release form that stated the construction company would pay for any damage done to their home during the demolition.
"They're doing a really good job," Angelo Verderese said. "When you know what you're doing, which they do, you don't have to worry about it."
Among the steadily increasing gaggle of spectators was 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero, who had one word to summarize how he and his ward felt -- "Hallelujah."
"I'm glad that people don't have to look at this anymore," Leggiero said.
City Engineer Richard Miller said it took two years to demolish the building because this home was "trickier" than others that needed to be torn down. Crews worked on easier projects until the "specialized guys" were able to be brought in for the job. Another tricky house, he said, on Locust Avenue, has also been waiting a significant amount of time to be removed and will be soon.
Wolfe said his crew would be back for another two days to remove the pile of rubble and then they will move on to two more homes. He said 2 Perkins St. was the ninth of 11 homes Dan's Hauling contracted with the city to remove.