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Hightower houses owner gets 2-week extension to submit plan

Two houses located at 77 and 81 W.

Two houses located at 77 and 81 W. Main St. in Kings Park, are vacant and frequently vandalized, and the local community wants the town to tear them down. (Feb. 13, 2012) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Two incomplete Kings Park houses that face a date with the wrecking ball have received a stay of execution.

Town of Smithtown officials last week gave property owner Jeffrey K. Brown a two-week extension to craft a plan for completing construction of the two-story, single-family homes on West Main Street. Brown had until Thursday to convince officials that he could rehabilitate the structures, which building inspectors had deemed unsafe.

Town officials have threatened to demolish the houses if Brown does not meet the deadline, now set for April 18. In an interview, Brown said meeting the deadline is a "very realistic goal."

"We're eager to start building," he said. "I'm just happy that we're past the demolition phase and we're rehabbing the houses."

Councilman Thomas McCarthy, who had advocated razing the houses, said Thursday he is "more comfortable that . . . [Brown] is starting to live up to the stuff he said he was going to do . . . He's done the substantial part of it, which entitles him to the extended time," McCarthy said. "He's shown good will."

Brown, a Carle Place lawyer, has paid about $4,000 in fees to obtain building permits and submitted an engineer's report on plans to finish the houses, town building director John Bongino said. By April 18, Brown must submit detailed drawings outlining plans to complete construction, Bongino said. He added that the work would be inspected by a town building inspector and an engineer hired by Brown.

Brown was awarded ownership of the homes last year by a Suffolk referee after Brown had sued former owner Frederic Powell, who is serving a 4-year federal prison sentence for conspiracy and fraud. Brown has said a company controlled by his family was among Powell's victims, losing about $450,000 in a real estate transaction.

The homes, dubbed the "Hightower houses" after the contractor who built them about a decade ago, have been the subject of complaints from neighbors who say they attract vandals and vermin. Kings Park Civic Association president Sean Lehmann said he worries the deadline extension delays the razing.

"If Mr. Brown is looking to sell these houses, he needs to make them attractive, like other homes in the area," Lehmann said.

Brown said a deal to sell the homes fell apart, though he did not explain why. "There's no interest now in selling it quickly," he said. "[I] just want to get the permits."

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