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Lindenhurst takes title to 39 lots damaged by Sandy, will offer them for sale to neighbors

Lindenhurst Village Hall at 430 S. Wellwood Ave.

Lindenhurst Village Hall at 430 S. Wellwood Ave. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Lindenhurst has taken possession of more than three dozen properties damaged by superstorm Sandy in 2012.

The village in early June took title to 39 empty lots and will pay $15,600 to Lauritano Appraisal Services of Babylon to appraise the properties. The lots will then be offered for sale to neighbors.

“The village’s first goal is to put the properties back on the tax rolls,” said village attorney Gerard Glass. Under state and federal law, the village is not allowed to give away the properties, he said.

The storm-damaged properties were purchased from residents by the state for about $18 million as part of NY Rising's volunteer Enhanced Buyout program. The initiative was designed to return flood-prone properties to a natural state, with the houses demolished and no development allowed.

Lindenhurst, which had the most buyouts in Suffolk County, had scattered participation, creating a checkerboard effect of empty lots.

The village agreed in 2015 to take over the properties, but last July, as they were preparing to close on the lots, village officials discovered $185,000 in tax liens on the properties. Proceedings were halted.

Before last month’s closing, the village made sure the properties had no liens. “[The state] worked it out in whatever way they needed to with the town and county,” Glass said.

Thehbia Hiwot, with the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, wrote in an email that the state reviewed taxes and other fees on the properties and “where applicable, the program paid assessments or secured tax exemptions.”

A spokeswoman for the agency declined to say how much was paid, directing a Newsday reporter to file a Freedom of Information request.

Under the buyout program, the state purchased 155 properties in Suffolk County for about $55 million. Of those, 23 properties became part of the state’s Lot Next Door program, which allowed neighbors to buy them. Glass said Lindenhurst is working on its own version of the program.

The lots will be offered first to neighbors on either side, he said, sold entirely to one or split between the two. If neither is interested in buying, it will be offered to the rear neighbors and then to other nearby owners. If there are still no takers, then the property will be auctioned off, Glass said.

The purchase price of the lots will include all of the costs the village incurs, including the appraisal services, Glass said.

Along with the buyout program restrictions, the properties will have additional covenants set by the village, he said, including that only the property owner’s boat may be docked there, and structures must be approved by the village board and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The village can continue to inspect the property to ensure compliance, Glass said.

“We want to sell it to those where it’s going to have the least impact on the neighbors,” he said.  “We don’t want these to become just strip lots that people just want to dock their boat at.”

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