Hempstead Town officials are demanding the Long Island Rail Road clean up what’s being called a zombie property — abandoned, littered, overgrown with weeds and a breeding ground for vermin — that stretches for two miles through a Levittown subdivision.
Town Supervisor Anthony Santino said in a Wednesday news conference that the LIRR has skirted responsibility for the site and neglected to mow the property for several years even after residents complained about rodents and insects moving from the land to their homes.
Railroad tracks ran through the site off Meridian Road from 1871 until the line was closed in the 1930s.
Town representatives spoke with LIRR officials three weeks ago and asked them to clean up the property, but nothing has been done, Santino said.
“This is more disgusting than most properties we’ve encountered,” he said. “Despite that fact, they’ve done nothing to maintain it. Local homeowners can’t use their backyards and become hostages in their own homes.”
LIRR officials said Wednesday they periodically manage the property to meet the town and resident requests, and talked with town officials last week.
“The LIRR’s vegetation management program must prioritize the 700 miles of active track in need of constant attention for safety purposes, but in response to community outreach we trimmed this decommissioned stretch of railroad just last month,” LIRR spokesman Salvatore Arena said in an email.
He added that the agency will continue to trim vegetation on the property and “will continue to stay in contact with local elected officials, as we have as recently as this week.”
The town pays rent to the railroad for a water tower on the property. Power lines run the length of the site from Wantagh Avenue to Newbridge Road.
Vienna Kirkland, who lives next to the property, said she and her 15-year-old daughter cannot go outside because they are afraid of bug bites and mice that have invaded their backyard.
“It’s horrible. It’s a shame,” Kirkland said. “Something should be done about it.”
Santino said the town would normally treat the property like a zombie home — by taking control of the parcel’s upkeep and billing the property owner for costs. But the town has no authority to do that for the Levittown property because the LIRR does not have a tax assessment that can be charged.
Hempstead Councilman Gary Hudes said the town has been pushing the LIRR annually to maintain the property, but it only gets cut “once in a blue moon.”
“This doesn’t need a study or a plan, it needs a lawn mower,” Hudes said.