Riverhead Town officials recently announced that they have increased enforcement efforts to regulate the town’s vacant and abandoned “zombie” houses, illegal short term/vacation rental issues and overcrowded housing violations.

A $100,000 Zombie Grant issued in 2016 by the New York State attorney general’s office to the town’s Community Development Agency allowed the town to hire a prosecuting attorney and a Spanish speaking code enforcement officer, as well as purchase code violation tracking software that assists in preparing court paperwork and tracking code violations, according to Riverhead community development director Dawn Thomas.

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This allowed the town’s Code Enforcement Division to tighten enforcement by cracking down on “zombie” homes, including the recent demolition of two long-standing vacant and abandoned houses on Route 58 near the intersection of East Main Street.

“Their efforts have been tremendously effective,” said Town Supervisor Sean Walter. “It is my strong belief that this action will assure the safety and well-being of those residing in our town and will potentially save lives by addressing dangerous conditions before a disaster such as a house fire occurs.”

According to town attorney Robert F. Kozakiewicz, the town has also commenced 11 separate actions in Suffolk County Supreme Court and five separate injunctions for people allegedly violating the town’s rental law and other housing violations. Two property owners recently settled cases with Riverhead in July, resulting in more than $12,000 in fines, and there are additional pending actions that could result in hundreds of thousands of additional fines paid to the town, Kozakiewicz added.