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Smithtown to tear down abandoned 'bamboo house'

A home at 436 Edgewood Ave. in Smithtown

A home at 436 Edgewood Ave. in Smithtown is surrounded by bamboo and is schedule to be demolished by the town. (Sept. 6, 2013) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Smithtown officials have approved a contract to tear down a "bamboo house" that was abandoned years ago and concealed behind a wall of the 20- to 30-foot-tall invasive plants.

The town board approved a $40,203 bid last week by Nesconset Construction Co. Inc. to demolish the house at 436 Edgewood Ave. because its structure is unsafe.

John Bongino, director of the town building department, said it has conducted 22 inspections of the property since 2010. In May 2010, the department installed a fence around the home's inground swimming pool, which had stagnant water atop the pool cover "with algae and insect larvae present," he said, adding that Suffolk County was notified of the mosquitos.

Scott Ingvaldsen, senior pastor at Grace Church, which is near the house, described it as "an eyesore" and "dangerous." He also said he was concerned about the bamboo spreading to neighboring properties after demolition.

Matt Jakubowski, deputy town attorney, said Monday only the bamboo "that's incidental to the structure will be removed" because the town is not authorized to remove additional bamboo.

"We would have to start a different proceeding under another section of the town code to remove it," he said, adding that it "may be addressed in the future."

An April 2013 inspection of the home said that "rainwater has penetrated the dilapidated roof and walls, causing mold, rot and decay," Bongino said. A subsequent June report showed that the severe decay had caused "an approximate 9 to 11 feet of [the] structural front wall to collapse downward, creating an unsafe condition," he said.

Church of the Gospel Ministry owns the home, Jakubowski said. But the town has been unable to identify the person who lived in the home and operated the church.

Attempts to reach the owner Monday were unsuccessful.

The Smithtown Department of Public Safety has also issued a half-dozen summonses on the home -- including property maintenance violations for accumulation of rubbish, debris and weeds; and an unsecured, vacant building -- since 2009, said Joe Nowotny, the department's investigation division supervisor.

A June 2012 summons was for bamboo within 10 feet of the property line, he said, which violates town code.

"We were hoping someone was going to come forward and admit some responsibility for the property, but unfortunately, no one has come forward in court," he said of the unanswered summonses that resulted in default judgments.

Ingvaldsen said an elderly man lived there until six years ago and about two years ago parishioners found drug vials and needles around the property.

"I'm glad it's coming down," he said. But, he added, "I'm worried when they knock it down, that we're going to have a rat problem."


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