The demolition of two zombie homes on Thirteenth Street in Locust Valley began Tuesday morning, following an investigation by Town of Oyster Bay building inspectors.
After receiving complaints submitted to the Town’s Code Enforcement Bureau about lack of maintenance, town building inspectors visited 47 and 51 Thirteenth Street. They determined that the two homes were structurally unsound and damaged beyond repair, finding openings throughout the walls and roofs, collapsed of ceiling joists, water damage and exposed insulation. The town commissioner of planning and development declared the homes “an imminent danger to the safety and welfare of the residents in the surrounding neighborhood” under the town code, and ordered their demolition.
“This is a very special day here in Locust Valley, as we are cleaning up the blight of this neighborhood to protect our residents and to protect our beloved community,” Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino said. After pronouncing it a “miracle on Thirteenth Street,” he donned protective gear, climbed into a backhoe and proceeded to knock down the entirety of one of the homes, which took nearly 45 minutes.
The work was completed with the cooperation of the town’s new Quality of Life Task Force, a multi-departmental team created last month to address illegal rentals, poorly maintained property, zombie homes and other related issues. Representatives of Code Enforcement, the Department of Planning and Development, the town attorney, law enforcement and Fire Department members comprise the task force, which “will put the Town in the unique position to crack down on these types of quality of life issues,” according to a news release.
Thirteenth Street resident Tony Maglio had been pushing for the town to investigate the two residences, and he said he tries to stay active maintaining the quality of life in his neighborhood. “These homes have been vacant for a while,” Maglio said. “Over the 30 years that I lived here, I was instrumental in helping clean up the neighborhood. We’ve had a lot of issues here, from drugs to absentee landlords to overcrowding.”
Before he was a town councilman, Louis Imbroto prosecuted illegal housing violations. He brought the idea of a task force to the Town Board to address these issues. The task force has also been making efforts in other communities such as East Massapequa, where it id investigating two more abandoned properties.
However, there are situations in which the property does not meet demolition standards set by town code and state law, and the home must remain intact. In these cases, the town will attempt to get the property owner (or the bank, in the case of a foreclosure) to resolve any maintenance issues. If the owner does not take responsibility, the town will step in to bring the property up to code. The costs are then added to the property tax bill.
The town also does not have jurisdiction over property in incorporated villages such as Sea Cliff or Bayville.
The board passed a resolution at its Nov. 28 board meeting to hold a hearing at the Dec. 12 meeting regarding changes to Town Code Chapter 96, which covers abandoned properties. Included in this discussion will be how to improve the appearance of these homes so as not to encourage squatters, and ways to keep the property owner responsible for the cost of maintenance.
Residents who would like to report an issue of concern to the Quality of Life Task Force can call Code Enforcement at (516) 624-6200.