North Babylon residents: Squatters have moved in
More than 100 North Babylon residents have voiced concerns that people are illegally living in abandoned homes in their neighborhood.
At a civic association meeting Monday night, residents of the Parkdale community spoke of at least a half dozen abandoned or foreclosed homes where there are either squatters or safety issues, such as odors of gas or pools with open gates.
Residents said they believe one squatting family -- including two young children -- has moved between homes on Kime Avenue, Greenwood Drive and Weeks Road.
After watching squatters leave candles burning in the vacant house next door, Allison Saber, 48, said she was afraid to go on vacation this summer. "My whole house could have burned down," she said.
Several officials spoke at the more than two-hour meeting. Babylon Town Supervisor Richard Schaffer promised a collaboration between the town and county police to remove illegal tenants and board up vacant homes. Schaffer said other agencies, such as Child Protective Services, have been notified, along with banks that own some of the houses.
Under state law, removing squatters can be difficult. After living on a property for 30 days, squatters are classified as tenants, and authorities must have them removed through eviction proceedings.
Schaffer said Tuesday that the town is moving forward with board-ups of four of the vacant homes and that the Suffolk County Water Authority has shut off water to two homes where squatters are believed to be living. The squatters had opened utility accounts at the homes using the same cellphone number, Schaffer said. Under town code, he said, lack of running water is cause to remove squatters.
Residents, who said the problem has been building for a few months, expressed frustration and fear at the meeting. They said squatters have become hostile and have called police to complain of harassment.
"I don't feel the officials really addressed the safety issue going on," said Alicia, who gave only her first name out of fear of retaliation. She said squatters made an obscene gesture at her mother and are "trying to intimidate us."
Schaffer told residents to continue to contact the town and police. "The only way you deal with a situation like this is you pound away," he said. "If we use every force we have to get their attention, we will get them out."