A South Shore region dotted with affluent communities overlooking Great South Bay has a zombie home problem that is “one of the worst in the state,” a state lawmaker said Tuesday.
Zombie homes are those in the foreclosure process.
The 3rd State Senate Legislative District, which includes parts of Brookhaven and Islip towns, has at least 119 foreclosed properties owned by banks or federal agencies, according to a report released Tuesday by state Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville), who represents the district, and state Sen. Jeff Klein (D-Bronx).
Croci and Klein released the report as lawmakers make a final push to pass a bill cracking down on zombie homes before the state Legislature ends its session on Thursday.
Klein said Assembly and Senate lawmakers and representatives of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had hammered out a “tentative” agreement on the bill Monday night. The bill passed the Assembly earlier this month.
Klein said in an interview the zombie home problem in Croci’s district has “probably gotten worse” in recent years.
“It’s probably one of the worst in the state,” he said. “This is a problem that is very serious [thoughout the state]. But for some reason, Suffolk County and particularly Sen. Croci’s district is one of the hardest hit.”
In a statement, Croci, a former Islip Town supervisor, said: “For too long, vacant, unattended homes have been a blight on our communities and affected our quality of life. As a former town supervisor and now as a senator, I have striven to rid Long Island neighborhoods of these eyesores and mischief magnets.”
He added that Klein’s bill “takes an important leap forward for our residents.”
The report, titled “The Next Great American Bank Robbery,” estimated that 1,116 homes in Croci’s district are within 300 feet of a bank-owned property. Homes near zombie properties lose an average of $5,000 in property value, the report said.
The report showed these properties in the district were present in both communities such as Brentwood and Central Islip as well as more affluent areas such as Bayport, Bellport and West Sayville.
Last year, a yearlong investigation by Newsday and News 12 Long Island found Long Island municipalities had 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.
Klein’s bill would force banks to clean up vacant properties and would fine banks that fail to do so. The bill also would establish a state registry of zombie properties and expedite foreclosure proceedings.
“The banks caused this problem. They were bailed out, they’re doing great,” Klein said. “But they have left the innocent homeowners to hold the bag.”