Pat Johnson has lived on Robinson Avenue in East Patchogue for 48 years, the last seven of which was spent across from an abandoned home she said became a haven for drug users.
“But there wasn’t anything we could do about it,” she said. “About time the police would arrive they’d be gone. We’d always see cars pulling in and out.”
“I was always worried about a fire,” she continued. “And sure enough, that’s what did it in.”
No one ever actually lived in the large home a few blocks north of the Sunrise Highway North Service road in the hamlet, said Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine, who was joined with other officials Wednesday to see the house demolished.
Romaine said the vacant building was torn down because it was deemed unsafe.
“It had stood vacant for years but we didn’t knock it down because it was structurally sound,” Romaine said. “It didn’t look good, but we didn’t have legal authority. But when the kids set the fire [June 11] it became structurally unsound and we have a legal obligation to make sure that unsafe structures are removed.”
Romaine called the house a “zombie house,” meaning it was abandoned by its owner but never went through the foreclosure process, he explained. Vacant houses have plagued Long Island neighborhoods since the housing bubble burst.
The supervisor said residents living near abandoned homes that are structurally sound don’t have much recourse, other than contacting Brookhaven Town to cite owners for not taking proper care of their land, such as not mowing a lawn.
Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley (R-Blue Point) said the somewhat good news for areas dealing with vacant houses, depending on how you look at it, is that over time they all become structurally unsound.
“If they maintain their property we don’t really have much say in what goes on,” he said. “But here’s the thing, usually when you’re in foreclosure and don’t pay your taxes, you’re not keeping up the property. So it’s just a matter of time and Mother Nature, and these houses eventually become structurally unsound.”
“You have no idea the impact these houses have on [the neighbors],” Foley continued. “When you have an abandoned zombie house, it probably lowers the value of their home 15, 20 percent. So the day we take down these houses, that’s why everybody is so happy, because the eyesore, the blighted house is gone and their property values go up.”
“I’m very happy to be seeing this,” Johnson said. “Since the fire I had been worrying about little kids coming, thinking this is a good place to play. Then they go in there and something falls down on them.”
Foley said about one abandoned home gets demolished each month in his town council district.
Top Photo: Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (center) and Councilman Neil Foley (right) were joined by other town officials for a zombie house demolition in East Patchogue Wednesday. (Credit: Michael White)