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New owner claims derelict Kings Park houses

A Carle Place attorney told the Smithtown Town

A Carle Place attorney told the Smithtown Town Board that he has been awarded ownership of these two Kings Park houses from their previous owner, Frederic Powell, of East Meadow. The town is considering tearing down the vacant and deteriorating buildings at 77 and 81 W. Main St. in Kings Park. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz, 2012

The nearly decade-long saga of two Kings Park houses that stood abandoned and incomplete amid their owner's legal troubles took another twist Tuesday.

A Carle Place attorney, appearing at a Smithtown Town Board hearing on the unoccupied homes, said he had been awarded ownership of the structures from their previous owner, Frederic Powell, of East Meadow, who is serving a 4-year federal prison term on unrelated fraud charges.

The attorney, Jeffrey K. Brown, said a company controlled by his family was among Powell's victims, losing about $450,000 in a real estate transaction. He said he would attempt to repair and sell the houses “to see if I can salvage anything .?.?. I feel terrible about this.”

Brown said he had not toured the buildings -- known to local residents as the “Hightower houses” after the construction company that had been building them -- and planned to hire an architect to assess whether they could be completed. He said a state referee last month awarded him controlling interest in the parcels.

Town officials did not challenge Brown's assertions and said they were willing to give him time to resume construction of the houses, which have long been the subject of neighborhood complaints. But they said the houses have suffered so much damage that they likely cannot be repaired.

“I would give him a chance to remediate it, though it may be beyond hope,” Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.

The houses, at 77 and 81 Main St., are among 20 unsafe structures the town has targeted for repair or demolition. Town officials have said Powell, who is incarcerated in a Pennsylvania federal prison, has ignored requests to clean up and repair the properties.

Construction of the houses ceased about nine years ago, town officials have said. The roofs and walls are crumbling. Kings Park civic leaders Tuesday again called on Smithtown officials to raze the buildings.

“It's been long enough,” said Charles Gardner, of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce, during the hearing. “They should be torn down.”

The town board Tuesday approved a plan in which town workers will clean up the property, with cleanup costs to be added to the property owner's tax bill. Town officials have not ruled out demolishing the houses if they are not fixed in a timely manner.

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