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North Massapequa zombie house may be torn down if no repairs made, town says

If the house is not brought up to code, Oyster Bay will seek a court order directing it to "be demolished, taken down and removed," according to a lawsuit filed by the town.

The boarded-up zombie house in North Massapequa on

The boarded-up zombie house in North Massapequa on Monday. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

Oyster Bay Town officials may seek to demolish the vacant North Massapequa house of a frequent Democratic candidate, according to a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court in Mineola.

The suit is among the first filed by the Mineola law firm Bee, Ready, Fishbein, Hatter & Donovan LLP on behalf of the town. The firm was hired last year to handle a variety of legal matters related to abandoned, blighted zombie homes. The firm filed two other lawsuits against homeowners earlier this year.

One lawsuit was against a homeowner in Farmingdale, who subsequently sold the house, which the new owner demolished, Oyster Bay spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email. In the other suit, brought against a homeowner in Massapequa, the town is seeking a court order to demolish the house, court records show. The owner of that property could not be reached.

Town officials allege in the lawsuit about the North Massapequa house, filed July 31, that John Rennhack has allowed it to “become damaged, decayed and/or deteriorated” and that “the structure poses a threat to the general public.” If the house is not brought up to code, the town will seek a court order directing it to “be demolished, taken down and removed.”

Rennhack said Monday he had a buyer for the property.

“The house is in bad shape,” Rennhack said,  adding he wasn’t aware of the town's lawsuit. On Friday, Judge Roy S. Mahon set a Sept. 17 court date and ordered the town to serve Rennhack with legal papers by mail by Sept. 12.

A 2011 Google Maps photo shows the house in the midst of construction. The work was never finished. Inspection records filed in the lawsuit show the town issued a stop work order in 2013 and ordered the house boarded up in 2016.

“This property has several years of accumulated violations, including an unfinished second floor and boarded up windows,” Oyster Bay spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email. The town had received "many complaints from neighbors," Nevin said.

The town board last year considered resolutions related to the cleanup of 70 properties, including Rennhack’s, board agendas show.

Rennhack, 48, who works in marketing, ran repeatedly on the Democratic line against Republican Peter Schmitt in unsuccessful attempts to unseat the now deceased presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature. Rennhack developed an online presence with a blog called “Nassau GOP Watch” and more recently a Facebook Group called “Joe Saladino and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Administration.”

"This predates this administration," Nevin said, noting that violations had been issued years before Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino took office last year. 

Rennhack, who filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy earlier this year and is currently living in Garden City, said he needed “some time to get everything together” and worried that the town’s lawsuit could affect the sale.

The house, as of last week, was weathered, with unpainted plywood covering the second story, windows boarded up, and untrimmed grass growing between concrete slabs leading to a padlocked front door.

Paul Gatto, 88, an artist who lives next to Rennhack's house, said he’s complained to the town about the conditions for years. Gatto said he worried the dilapidated house is hurting property values in the neighborhood and attracting vermin.  

“God knows what this place is worth living next to that,” Gatto said of his own house.

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