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North Hempstead to hire coordinator to identify abandoned zombie homes

In April 2016, the Town of North Hempstead

In April 2016, the Town of North Hempstead demolished an abandoned house on Sheridan Street in New Cassel that had been vacant since 2010.  Credit: Jeffrey Basinger

North Hempstead Town plans to hire a dedicated coordinator to identify, research and address vacant properties as part of its effort to mitigate the zombie house problem across the town.

The one-year consulting position will be funded in part with a $159,000 grant the town received in 2016 from the state attorney general’s office to take action on the growing issue of zombie properties in New York.

The homes, which are vacant, abandoned or not maintained during foreclosure proceedings, have a “debilitating impact” on the town’s communities, Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a news release.

“It is our hope that by having a dedicated Housing Quality Improvement Program Coordinator that we can acquire a thorough and comprehensive list of troubled properties in the Town and find the right plan to address each of them,” Bosworth added.

Town officials said they believed North Hempstead is one of the few Long Island towns with a position specifically targeting zombie properties. Last August, Riverhead Town officials announced they were boosting efforts to regulate zombie houses by hiring a prosecuting attorney and a Spanish-speaking code enforcement officer.

The town attorney’s office and the building department count up to 35 properties within North Hempstead that have been deemed unsafe and abandoned, said town spokeswoman Carole Trottere.

Among the new coordinator’s duties will be working with the building department and code enforcement to develop and manage a zombie property database and also streamline the process of inspection, according to the town’s July 9 request for proposals.

Trottere said town officials’ goal is to be “more proactive” by increasing outreach, such as contacting homeowners of zombie properties earlier on to try to prevent a property’s further deterioration, and referring residents to sources of financial and mortgage assistance.

“We would like the various owners to know there is help out there, and there are nonprofits that can help with the banks,” Trottere added.

A Newsday/News 12 Long Island investigation in 2015 found Brookhaven and other Long Island municipalities had spent at least $3.2 million in 2014 to board up and demolish hundreds of abandoned homes.

Proposals for the coordinator position are due by July 31 and the town anticipates selecting a candidate around Aug. 14, according to the request for proposals.

About $35,000 of the $159,000 grant has been used to conduct mailings and hold outreach events, Trottere said. Should funds remain after a year, the position could be extended, she added.

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