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Amityville moves toward greater control over empty buildings

Amityville Village trustees could vote Monday on two bills regulating empty or unsafe buildings and another that would turn Wellington Place into a one-way street.

Village officials began working this spring on legislation, partly modeled on the Town of Brookhaven’s, intended to ratchet up pressure on absentee owners and banks who hold foreclosed property by mandating registration with the building department and streamlining the village’s response to conditions deemed a threat to public safety.

One proposed law would let the village order or carry out repairs or demolition on those buildings. While the village would still have to hold a hearing before taking action, a recent amendment to the proposal removed language on the timing of the hearings, a move Deputy Mayor Jessica Bernius said would give delinquent owners less maneuvering room in court.

“If this goes to court and you have a time factor, the judge can always say, ‘Let’s give them a little more time,’ ” Bernius said, citing the advice of a consultant officials hired to help write the laws.

A companion proposed law would require owners of buildings vacant for more than 120 consecutive days to register with the village clerk, giving officials contact information for owners or guardians who are now sometimes difficult to reach or even identify under ownership arrangements like limited liability companies.

While only about 40 of the village’s 3,300 homes would be immediately affected by the legislation, trustees have said its passage is imperative.

“It’s a quality-of-life issue,” Bernius said. “People want to see these houses back on the market for young people to buy, and also to spruce up” neighborhoods.

The Wellington Place law would turn the two-way street southbound-only, following complaints from residents about speeding traffic.

Drivers often use the street as a cut-through rather than wait for the light at Broadway and Oak Street to turn northbound, according to a preliminary traffic report by Babylon Town traffic engineer Donald J. Epp, who noted that many exceed Wellington Place’s 25-mph speed limit.

“People will do crazy things to save 10, 15 seconds,” resident Randy Calamia said in an interview last month. “Do we have to wait for someone to get hurt or killed?”

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