North Hempstead Town’s effort to rid its blocks of zombie houses includes a hearing on April 25 to order the owners of three long-vacant properties to either repair or demolish them. If they fail to comply, the town will demolish the homes.
Two of the houses are in Westbury; the third is in Albertson. Two have been damaged by fires.
The town did not provide information on how long the homes have been vacant or how much has been spent on remediation. All three homes were boarded up by the town, with cleanup costs charged by placing liens on the properties, town spokeswoman Carole Trottere said.
The homes are “magnets for bad things to happen,” Councilman Peter Zuckerman said. “We do not want houses like this that fall into disrepair; they are a safety risk.”
Neighbors of the three properties said they are eyesores that attract squatters and depreciate home values.
Charles Hargett, who lives near one of the Westbury properties, said he was glad to hear the town will take action.
“Everybody is upset about it in the neighborhood,” Hargett said. “The only recourse we have is to report this to the town to let them know how we feel about it.”
In 2016, there were 179 known zombie houses in North Hempstead Town, largely clustered in the villages of Old Westbury and Westbury, and the hamlet of New Cassel. The town relies on its various departments and resident complaints to locate zombie houses, but the town board is working on a new initiative to address the problem.
In October, the town was one of 76 municipalities to receive funding from the state attorney general’s office, which announced about $13 million in statewide awards to address zombie houses and reduce foreclosures. North Hempstead Town received a $159,000 grant.
“Too many homeowners across New York are still struggling to rebuild their communities in the wake of the housing crisis caused by major banks,” Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman said in a news release.
In the coming months, North Hempstead Town plans to increase outreach to residents, create a dedicated task force of town officials and community stakeholders and also establish a database listing all vacant properties.
Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said that she hoped the early outreach would assist homeowners facing difficulty paying their mortgages before “the bank knocks on their door.”
Zombie houses are a growing concern on the Island. A 2015 Newsday report found that Long Island had the highest number of zombie houses in the state, and ranked in the nation’s top 10.
Longtime Albertson resident Patti Dazzo said zombie homes have markedly transformed her neighborhood.
“Before that we never had an empty house on the block,” Dazzo said. “I’ve lived on the block for 44 years, and it’s always been such a wonderful block. And then to have this happen and not to have it corrected, it’s terrible.”