Patchogue Village Board members have issued a stern warning to the owners of a rental house that’s troubled one neighborhood for the past three years:
The next tenants better have respect for their neighbors — and themselves.
“How the heck does a house get wrecked, to the point where you have to basically gut it?” Trustee Jack Krieger asked of a lawyer representing the Community Development Corporation of Long Island, which owns the Central Avenue property.
“How does the CDC allow people to live in this mess?” Krieger asked.
“I don’t have a good answer for you,” responded the attorney, Brian Doyle of Southampton.
“They’ve got to do something to make sure this never happens again,” Krieger said. “Someone once lived in that house; they took care of that house. Your tenants came in and destroyed it.”
Doyle explained during Monday night’s Village Board meeting that there was a lease in place that expired naturally on June 30, but it took several weeks, including actions filed in Sixth District Court, before the tenants finally vacated.
“These people ultimately left voluntarily at our prodding,” Doyle said, adding statutes involving rent-subsidized tenants can make efforts to remedy bad situations problematic in court.
“I believe this to be a serious matter,” Doyle continued. “If this board or the building inspector or any members of the village feel like they’re not being heard, I will make sure you’re heard at CDCLI. It’s not appropriate. There are things going on there that people don’t want to live next door to.”
Doyle said the CDC is in the process of fixing up the two-bedroom house before finding new tenants. To allow the organization to do so, the board put off revoking the CDC’s rental permit Monday.
Even if the permit were to be revoked, village attorney Brian Egan explained federal housing laws prohibit the village from pulling the rental permit permanently — if the house comes into compliance.
Krieger said the village has a list of violations on file that need to be addressed. Chiefly, making sure the attic in the two-bedroom home doesn’t get converted into living space again.
About a half dozen neighbors showed up at Village Hall to describe what has happened to the neighborhood while the previous tenants lived in the house.
“The drug activity in that house was unbelievable,” said John Gessner, who lives next door with his wife and their five children.
He said his one boy used to say, “Druggies are here! Druggies are here!” during late night arrivals to the house.
“For three years we complained about that house,” Gessner continued. “I can’t tell you how many times the cops were there. I can’t tell you how many times [Child Protective Services] was there. I wish they would just put that house for sale. One of us would buy it, because who knows who’s going to be in that house next.”
Another neighbor, Dominick Thorne, said when he was able to get in touch with the CDC, it was explained to him that the tenants were having personal issues.
“Well take your drugs and your personal issues to someone’s else’s neighborhood because we care about ours,” Thorne said. “We cannot, cannot continue to allow [the CDC] to rent out this property. If you’re required by law to allow them to do it, then maybe there needs to be a change in the statute.
“I promise my neighbors and I will continue to protect my neighborhood, where I’m proud to live. And if I have to push it up and go further and get petitions and get the law changed, I will, because corporations are ruining our villages, our homes, the very places where our kids play. It’s absurd. It is absolutely ridiculous
“This corporation has been able to attack our community and our lifestyle.”
Trustee Thomas Ferb pointed out that only a very few of the “couple hundred” or so households receiving rental assistance in Patchogue Village are problematic. He urged the CDC to place a family in the home that would be appropriate for the otherwise tidy, working-class neighborhood.
“Three years is a long time,” he said. “The kids [in the neighborhood] were 2, now they’re 5. The kids were 5 now they’re 8. So I would urge the CDC to find somebody for this place who’s going to be appropriate for the community. There are lots of good people on Section 8. Find a good family, introduce them to the neighbors and help them become part of the community.
“They can do that,” Ferb added “There’s thousands of people looking for affordable housing on Long Island. Putting the right family in that house; that’s the solution to the problem.
“We can’t do that; only the CDC can.”
“I think my client realizes that I’m here tonight because good will is at its end and it’s time to do something affirmative to help the neighborhood,” Doyle said. “I think that’s fair. I think it’s in their best interested to do it. I think it’s cost effective to them. And I think the neighbors deserve it.”
Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri said if the house continued to be a problem the local authorities would address the village code to prevent such quality-of-life issues from persisting.
Doyle started his message to the Village Board Monday night by saying he promised the CDC would be more responsive to the community moving forward.
“If people feel they haven’t been listened to, I’m here to apologize on their behalf,” he said. “If people feel disappointed in their treatment, that ends today. I promise you that.”
“This is not going to happen again,” Krieger said. “These people work hard all day. You think they deserve to come home and have to deal with drug activities in the backyard and people screaming at night?
“The CDC better think about who they’re putting in this house, because we are a neighborhood that’s very accepting. We’re not rich people. We understand that CDC puts people in these houses and people on Section 8 need a place to live, families need a place to live.
“Put a good family in this house, next to the Gessners, and they’ve got friends.”