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Suffolk partially tears down Mastic Beach house without formal village approval

Workers begin demolishing a house in Mastic Beach

Workers begin demolishing a house in Mastic Beach on April 10, 2014. Credit: Ed Betz

Suffolk County partially demolished a dilapidated Mastic Beach home Thursday morning despite not having formal village approval, Mayor Bill Biondi said.

The effort began after Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, the keynote speaker at a news conference at the site, lauded the planned destruction in front of county and village officials. The long-vacant house had been acquired by the county as part of a program to preserve open space in flood zones.

Village officials who attended the event said the county had submitted an incomplete demolition application and didn't have the necessary formal approvals to tear down the home.

However, Vanessa Baird-Streeter, Bellone's spokeswoman who attended with the county executive, said the county didn't need village approval for the demolition and the demolition went ahead when county officials on hand said county law superseded village law.

Village officials didn't make an effort to stop the demolition.

Suffolk's Commissioner of Public Works, who did not attend, said the county had the authority to proceed on its own.

"We're the higher level of government," said Gil Anderson. He said the county's application with the village was filed "as a courtesy." He noted that under county law, officials weren't obligated to submit an application to tear down the house. He said he couldn't cite a specific law to that effect.

The incomplete application to the village, which was missing county signatures, came to light minutes before Bellone was scheduled to hold his press conference.

Known as the Kramer house, the dirty, white, blighted structure, with several broken windows, sat atop bricks on Riviera Road near the tip of the peninsula of Sheep Pen Creek. As the news conference neared, village officials discussed whether the demolition should be canceled.

In a compromise between the county and village officials, both parties agreed to move ahead with the demolition under the condition that only part of the structure would be knocked down. Biondi said that construction crews would finish tearing down the home once the application was approved Thursday afternoon.

Shortly after the news conference ended, the demolition project continued, and later in the day Biondi said the village was in the process of approving the application.

Suffolk County Legis. Kate M. Browning (WF-Shirley), who attended the news conference, backed the decision to knock down the home without formal village approval, saying the county often waives permits and fees to "benefit the community."

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