Islip steps up crackdown on abandoned homes

Islip Town Conuncilman Steven J. Flotteron, right, and Islip Town Conuncilman Steven J. Flotteron, right, and Town of Islip Commissioner John J. Carney, left, stand on the front porch of the house at 405 Ackerman St., which was shut down after a raid. (Oct. 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Islip officials have ratcheted up efforts to shutter foreclosed and abandoned homes that have become a blight on pockets of town and become targets for crime and vandalism.

But one community advocate said they need to do more.

Deborah Rotunda, president of the Central Islip Coalition of Good Neighbors, a community watch group, and board member of the Central Islip Civic Council, said the town still isn't doing enough to clean up eyesores that drag down the value of neighboring homes.

"The town's doing halfway decently, but there are just so many properties that need to be dealt with that it takes months to deal with them," Rotunda said. "There are just not enough of them to do it."

Town board members say the increase in activity reflects the town's success in cleaning up blighted properties.

So far in 2013, the Islip Town Board has voted to board up and clean 157 properties, compared with 76 in 2012 and 35 in 2011. Resolutions for the type of work have more than quadrupled in the past two years, town officials said.

"It goes from fixing broken windows, which is a quality-of-life issue, to working with the Third Precinct" of Suffolk County police to shutter houses that have attracted bad elements, Councilman Steven Flotteron said.

Last week, town officials, working with Suffolk's Third Precinct Community Oriented Police Enforcement (COPE) officers, announced they had closed an abandoned house in Central Islip that was long used as a drug and prostitution den. The house had no indoor plumbing, and there were dirty needles and mattresses throughout.

The most disturbing part, Flotteron said, is that young children live across the street from the Ackerman Street property, and it's near a school bus stop. "It wasn't just a cleanup; it was getting rid of criminal activities that are right there in the street," Flotteron said.

Suffolk police did not respond to a request for comment on the case.

Town officials said the cost of cleaning and boarding up homes -- which can range from $1,200 to about $7,000 -- is billed to the homeowner and shows up on their tax bill.

"The town means business, and we've adjusted our approach in the last year and a half and it's showing," the spokeswoman said.

Code enforcement also includes issuing appearance tickets for violations such as illegal multifamily dwellings. As of Oct. 1, the town had issued 2,237 court appearance tickets this year for problems such as illegal multifamily homes and illegal swimming pools, compared to 1,837 appearance tickets in 2012

When a code enforcement officer sees that kind of violation, Flotteron said, they research the deed and write an appearance ticket, mandating the homeowner come to court to face charges.

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