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Long Island

New York attorney general on LI Thursday to promote zombie house legislation

A boarded-up house in Brentwood seen on Dec.

A boarded-up house in Brentwood seen on Dec. 18, 2014. It is among the zombie houses on Long Island, according to California-based RealtyTrac. Photo Credit: Chuck Fadely

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is scheduled to visit Mineola Thursday to promote legislation to combat the proliferation of zombie houses on Long Island.

Schneiderman, a Democrat, is to appear on the steps of the Nassau County Legislature building with County Executive Edward Mangano and Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray, both Republicans, and other elected officials, Schneiderman's office said.

Schneiderman has proposed legislation in the Assembly and State Senate requiring banks and lenders to maintain houses in foreclosure as soon as they become vacant, rather than waiting until the end of the foreclosure process. Long Island has more than 4,000 abandoned houses in foreclosure -- known as zombie homes -- according to California-based RealtyTrak, which monitors real estate trends.

A yearlong Newsday investigation found that Long Island municipalities last year spent at least $3.2 million to maintain abandoned homes, many of them in foreclosure.

Officials have said abandoned houses often are stripped of copper pipes or become inhabited by squatters or drug dealers.

Schneiderman's legislation has bipartisan backing among some state lawmakers from Long Island.

Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) said he is co-sponsoring the Assembly bill. Murray represents communities such as Mastic Beach and North Bellport where there are zombie homes.

"What happens is no one takes care of the property, and it becomes an eyesore and in many cases a danger to the neighborhood," Murray said Wednesday. "This [legislation] is important because it forces the banks to take responsibility."

Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) predicted the bill would pass "overwhelmingly" in the Assembly.

"It is a good step in the right direction," he said Wednesday. "There will inevitably be a need for additional steps. Nothing is ever perfect right out of the box, but I salute the attorney general for his initiative."

The bills also would establish a statewide registry of abandoned houses and would require the distribution of fines paid by lending institutions that violate the law to local governments. The fines would help municipalities pay for upkeep of vacant homes, Schneiderman has said.

The bills face opposition from real estate and banking industry leaders, who blame vacant houses on New York's foreclosure process, where foreclosures take an average of three years to complete.

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