Judy Cartwright writes the Community Watchdog column
Spring finds us back outside, face to face with homes that have been left to rot.
Such dilapidated properties persist even in towns that have taken a more aggressive approach with "blight laws" that can require owners to take action or face penalties in the thousands of dollars.
One such house, on Claridge Lane in East Islip, was among properties that Islip Town designated as blighted two years ago. Neighbor Karen Parker had watched as the property deteriorated and she obtained documents from Suffolk County that indicated it had gone to foreclosure. But each time the address would appear on auction lists, she said, it would be removed before the auction arrived.
One neighbor "is dying to buy it and knock it down," she said when she contacted Watchdog. Her attempts to get updated information about the property had been unsuccessful.
A Bank of America representative told us the bank, which holds the mortgage, was last in contact with the owner in October in an effort "to continue to help identify a home retention solution. At this point, it appears that the loan will proceed to foreclosure."
Neighborhood optimism hinges on the pace of those proceedings. Foreclosure could lead to a sale and, presumably, a new owner would tear the house down. How soon could that happen? "Unfortunately," the bank representative, Jumana Bauwens, said, "due to the judicial foreclosure process we don't know how long it may take."
So much for optimism.
For now, Bauwens said in an email, the bank's property preservation team "is well aware of the property and has conducted as much maintenance as allowed legally (and within investor guidelines)." Parker said last week that a crew cleaned up the yard last month.
The town has pursued action against the property since 2002, spokeswoman Inez Birbiglia said last week. "This is an abandoned construction project and most of the problems stem from this fact alone," she said in an email.
The condition of the real estate market coupled with the owner's "inability to complete the construction project has hindered resolution of this case," she said.
Parker said she had notified the town of violations -- including when the fence was down, making the backyard pool accessible -- for years.
Town enforcement agents found violations on 10 occasions, Birbiglia said. They ranged from litter and no pool permit to construction of a second floor -- without a permit. "Beginning in November 2002, our first complaint was for construction of a pool without a permit and improper fencing," she said.
The owner has been in court "dozens of times," she said, and the town's prosecution is continuing.
And the eyesore remains. But the neighborhood's patience is exhausted.
Pole damaged by Sandy finally removed
Another ominous-looking utility pole is gone, six months after it was damaged by superstorm Sandy.
This one was in Greenlawn, at the northwest corner of Broadway and Aster Street. Neighbors Randy Traster and Harold Slamovitz had called the Long Island Power Authority about the pole and, when they got nowhere, contacted Watchdog.
Traster sent us photos -- the pole is next to a newer, taller one -- and wrote that he had contacted LIPA twice and, on the second call, "was told that a crew went out to survey and 'saw nothing unusual.' I explained to the operator that the pole was not only leaning, but it was broken, at almost a 45 degree angle, and could fall at any time." Loose wires were hanging, he wrote, "which we are all told to treat as 'live.' "
Shortly after we contacted LIPA, this email arrived: "We had a crew look and confirmed these are not our wires/facilities," spokesman Mark Gross told us. "Our wires are always the highest ones, which are attached on the higher pole. Operations is reaching out to Verizon again to let them know."
We sent a heads up to Verizon and, within 48 hours received word that the pole had been removed after the final wires attached to it had been moved to the new pole. As it turned out, those wires belonged to another communications company, or "tenant," Verizon spokesman John Bonomo told us.