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Islip Town orders demolition of two unsafe abandoned houses

Islip Town Hall in an undated photo.

Islip Town Hall in an undated photo. Credit: Erin Geismar

The Islip Town Board voted unanimously last week to demolish two decaying abandoned houses -- one in Central Islip, the other in Islip Terrace -- that have been deemed structurally unsafe.

The demolitions would be the first by the town since Oct. 28, 2013, when a house on Johnson Avenue in Ronkonkoma was taken down, Islip Town Attorney Robert Cicale said.

Town building inspectors surveyed the properties on Ocean Avenue in Central Islip and Andrew Avenue in Islip Terrace and deemed them "vacant and unsecured, dangerous, unsafe, damaged, decayed, unsanitary, and hazardous and a public nuisance," according to the resolutions authorizing the demolitions.

Elyse Grasso, an Islip deputy town attorney, said at Tuesday's board meeting, where the resolutions were passed, that the Central Islip property was neglected and deemed "an immediate hazard in imminent danger of collapse, likely to cause injury or fire, and is unfit for human occupation." It has been vacant since 2007, Cicale said.

Grasso said the Islip Terrace home had "evidence of vandalism," and an analysis of the house showed it had "significant fire damage . . . [and] is in immediate danger of collapse." The home had a fire in August, Cicale said.

Arthur R. Schnittger, owner of the two-story Islip Terrace home, appeared at the town board meeting and agreed to work with the town to demolish the structure himself, Cicale said. The town board authorized the demolition resolution in the event the demolition by Schnittger is not completed.

"We're working with the owner as best we can," Cicale said. "Hopefully it will get done quickly and correctly under his own direction, and if not, we'll be prepared to do that on our own."

Schnittger, 69, of Seaford, said the Islip Terrace home has been in his family since it was built in 1923, and had been burned by arsonists.

"The arson squad has not been able to find out who did this," Schnittger said. "It's been an emotional and financial strain. It wasn't abandoned, but since it was vacant on and off over the past couple of years, the insurance was canceled on it."

Schnittger said he has a written agreement with one company and hopes to take the house down within 30 days.

A timeline for the demolitions was not given by town officials. Attempts to reach the owners of the Central Islip house, listed by the town as a firm called 473 Realty, were unsuccessful.

The Town of Islip, along with many Long Island municipalities, in recent years has waged a battle against dilapidated houses, left abandoned to deteriorate and attract nuisances such as squatters, overgrown vegetation and criminal activity.

A yearlong Newsday investigation into zombie houses -- abandoned homes in the foreclosure process -- on Long Island found that Islip Town spent more than $200,000 on zombie homes in 2014 in its board-up and cleanup program. Out of the 2,084 zombie houses in Suffolk County, as of Jan. 31, the hamlet of Bay Shore within Islip Town had the most of any New York ZIP code, at 182 properties, data has shown.

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