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Widow seeks reprieve on condemned house

Pilings are all that are left of her

Pilings are all that are left of her back yard and deck. Edith Hotis' house is perched on a cliff that has been steadily eroding and now has been condemned by Brookhaven Town as being unsafe. (June 26, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

There used to be a deck behind the home of Sound Beach widow Edith Hotis.

Her house sits atop a bluff overlooking Long Island Sound. But after a violent nor'easter ravaged the beachfront in March 2010, the land eroded, and soon after, her deck fell over the cliff. Now, officials worry, her house will, too.

Earlier this month the Town of Brookhaven condemned it, deeming it unsafe for her to live there any longer. Hotis says she hasn't had enough time to find money to pay for the necessary restorations. A new bulkhead wall and deck, she estimates, would cost several hundred thousand dollars. So far, three of her children have paid more than $45,000 to stabilize the house's rear. But attempts to secure funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency have been rebuffed three times, she said. FEMA declined to comment.

Hotis, 77, and her son Peter, 50, an attorney who lives in Bayport, are contesting the June 11 condemnation notice. They've hired an engineer to conduct a second inspection Wednesday.

"First things first, we need an engineer to say that the structure is sound," Peter Hotis said. "What I'd be looking for is the ability for my mother to restore the bluff to the original condition, so she can at least be able to get some type of grant to maintain the area. I don't expect [grants] to pay for it outright."

Peter Hotis said his mother has homeowner's insurance but it doesn't cover this type of loss.

Edith Hotis said she is distraught over the prospect of leaving the house she's lived in for the past 13 years. She said she and her husband bought the home in large part to accommodate their daughter Valerie, who suffers from multiple sclerosis. There are no stairs leading to the deck, so during Valerie's weekly visits from a nursing home in Commack, she can take in the view from the bluff. For 11 of those years, Edith Hotis said, she took comfort knowing her daughter could take a break from a mostly indoor life.

"I worked my whole life to have this house and for Valerie to come here," she said Tuesday. "That's why we bought this house for my daughter, and that she can't come here now, that's criminal."

Mike DiMarco, 65, who lives nearby, said Hotis is a beloved mother figure in the neighborhood. "What we need is someone with an open ear who can listen to Edie and her plight," he said. "She's an asset to this area and we'd be lost without her. But she needs this house."

Brookhaven officials said she can stay in the house pending the engineer's report. But even if the engineer deems the structure sound, the Hotises have to convince the town of their findings and fund the restorations. "No bank wants to loan to a condemned home," Peter Hotis pointed out.

Edith Hotis said she can't think about leaving the house. "They'll have to take me feet first," she said.

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