The Town of Islip, in its push to eliminate dilapidated properties throughout the town, tackled issues at 218 sites during the 2014-15 tax year, a nearly 24 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.
The town fields complaints from residents who alert the fire marshal’s office to issues such as overgrown vegetation, trash, debris, broken windows, and unlocked or unsecured doors.
Fire marshals then inspect the properties to start the lengthy process of getting an action authorized by the town board to board up, clean up or demolish, said Michael Allen, an assistant chief fire marshal who has been with the town for eight years.
In the tax year that runs from November 2014 to November 2015, the town spent $281,355.29 to board up, clean up or demolish those 218 properties, according to data provided by the town. Those costs include administrative fees for obtaining certified deeds and conducting title searches to determine ownership, a spokeswoman for the town said.
Of those properties, approximately 38 were cleaned up, 43 were boarded and 30 were both cleaned up and boarded, while the others are awaiting work, according to the town.
Costs associated with these tasks, which are tacked on to the property owner’s tax bills, rose 52 percent year over year. In the prior tax year, costs to the town amounted to $185,453.25 to board up, clean up or demolish 176 properties, according to the data.
Allen said enforcement has ramped up over the past three years after town officials made it known to the public that they could help with these neighborhood issues.
“We’re complaint-driven,” Allen said of the department, which has 19 fire marshals. “I believe the town has a very good grasp on what’s happening. I think we’re one of the most aggressive towns out there.”
One property on Wisconsin Avenue in Bay Shore was ravaged by a fire in recent years — its roof is gone — and has suffered a partial collapse, making a full collapse imminent, town officials have said. Last month, the town board voted to demolish the property.
Julio Pardo, 54, lives with his daughter, wife, brother and sister-in-law in a two-story home on the residential street, with one home separating their dwelling from the gutted house.
“It’s been like that since I moved in almost two years ago,” Pardo said one recent morning while taking out the trash, staring at the charred structure. “It’s been the ugliest thing around here. The two houses on both sides for Christmas had nice decorations, but then you have to see that house in between and that’s the dark spot.”
Pardo said that, while he hasn’t seen anybody trespassing inside the building on the fenced-in property, he worries that a child playing may run in there, not knowing of potential dangers.
Allen said the safety in these communities has increased exponentially since the town extended more authority to the fire marshals to go after these neglected properties.
“We’ve decreased the number of fires in vacant homes — that’s a big plus for us,” Allen said. “We keep out gang members, people squatting in those houses. We’re tightening up the community.”