Town moves to demolish East Islip house termed danger to the neighborhood

Karen Parker, of East Islip, stands in front

Karen Parker, of East Islip, stands in front of an unfinished home on Claridge Lane in East Islip on Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. Parker backs a recent town decision to demolish the house she considers dangerous to the community. Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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The Town of Islip has ordered the demolition of an East Islip house undergoing renovation whose owner didn't respond to multiple building violations and angered neighbors.

It is the second house the town has ordered demolished in six months, as part of what it calls its "staunch commitment to more aggressive and vigilant code enforcement practices."

Similar efforts against such properties are underway elsewhere on Long Island. The Mastic Beach village board unanimously voted last month to create a vacant-building registry and will fine absentee property owners $2,000 if a building has been abandoned for 120 days or longer. Village officials say nine Mastic Beach homes have been demolished since 2010.

In East Islip, the unfinished two-story home on Claridge Lane was deemed "vacant . . . and a public nuisance,"according to town law enforcement officials.

Marcos Contreras bought the house in 1995 for $137,000, according to property records. He began renovating it in 2007, according to neighbors Jim and Karen Parker, who live across the street. Contreras did not return phone calls for comment.

At the Feb. 11 town board meeting, the Parkers appealed to the board to address what they called the dangerous conditions at the boarded-up house, which has a covered pool in the backyard. Karen Parker said the pool was unsecured and posed a threat to children. She added, "It's now time for the town to step up to the plate and show him his actions are unacceptable."

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Contreras was at the board meeting but did not speak. His attorney, Harold Steuerwald of Bellport, said at the meeting that the family couldn't finish a renovation because of financial difficulties, but are now able to address the 22 violations the town issued the past five years.

"My clients did suffer hard times. They purchased this property and spent nearly half a million dollars on it. They would like the opportunity to take care of any problems," Steuerwald said.

Town attorney Kerry Bassett said at the meeting Contreras has had ample opportunity to finish the construction and secure the house. Councilwoman Trish Bergin Weichbrodt asked if the house posed a fire risk.

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"Yes, based on the fact the home doesn't have proper services," Bassett said. "We don't know what will happen to this home." The board voted unanimously in favor of demolition. The town is now awaiting an engineer's report to pursue the court order for demolition.

A housing law expert said a house would have to pose significant risk to the community for the government to order its demolition. "If it's because of the condition of the building, then there are state statutes that allow such drastic action," said Stefan Krieger, a professor at Hofstra University's law school.

Islip spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said the town only pursues demolition as a "last resort after years of other ways to achieve compliance with property owners." In October, the town ordered the demolition of a Johnson Avenue house in Ronkonkoma that was partly burned down.

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