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Brookhaven demolishes 52nd abandoned house so far this year

Brookhaven Town officials demolish a Sound Beach house

Brookhaven Town officials demolish a Sound Beach house on Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016. It was the 52nd home demolished this year, part of Supervisor Edward P. Romaine's initiative to tear down one structurally unsound home each week. Credit: Brookhaven Town

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine has made good on his promise to knock down one structurally unsound home each week for the year.

On Wednesday, the town demolished its 52nd home.

The Kew Drive house in Sound Beach had been vacant for more than a decade, was in disrepair and the source of numerous code violations, town officials said.

It was demolished by Brookhaven in accordance with Chapter 73 of the town code, which provides a “fast track” to rid neighborhoods of unsafe structures.

Suffolk County will reimburse Brookhaven for fees related to the demolition and debris removal, and will eventually collect the money from the property owner.

“We’re improving neighborhoods,” Romaine said in a Wednesday interview. “If a home is structurally unsound, we’re taking it down.”

Romaine has also threatened to tear down the dilapidated Ridge Motel East on Route 25 in Ridge, which is owned by Suffolk County and home to numerous squatters.

Two years ago, Brookhaven officials estimated there were nearly 2,000 vacant and abandoned homes — a third of which were “zombie” homes that have been foreclosed on — in the town. Romaine now believes the number of vacant and abandoned homes has been reduced to 1,600.

Zombie homes, a legacy of the 2008 mortgage crisis, are houses in the foreclosure process vacated by homeowners before banks take title to them.

A 2015 investigation by Newsday and News 12 Long Island found that Suffolk and Nassau counties led the state and ranked among the top 10 regions in the nation in the number of zombie houses.

Long Island municipalities spent at least $2.3 million to clean, board up and demolish vacant, foreclosed houses in 2014. The report showed that, in many cases, banks had failed to maintain properties under their control.

“We’re going to keep this up next year and until all the blighted houses are gone,” Romaine said. “We have more houses to take down before the year is over.”

Brookhaven held a pair of public hearings at last week’s board meeting to demolish unsafe homes in Centereach and Blue Point.

“We will knock down as many as we possibly can,” Romaine said. “We’re working every single day to make this place a better place.”

Town board member Jane Bonner, who represents Sound Beach, said of the demolished house that “neighbors have complained about this house for years.”

Speaking of the town tearing down its 52nd house, she said: “It was a promise that all the council members made because they were in all of our districts.”

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