‘Zombie Homes’ suck nabes dry

A ‘zombie house’ in Throggs Neck.
Photo courtesy of Senator Jeff Klein’s office

State leaders are trying to halt the rise of ‘zombie homes’ through the recently proposed Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act.

Senator Jeff Klein, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein announced the introduction of legislation which, if passed, would reduce the problem of abandoned foreclosed homes across the state.

The effects of the housing crisis are still lingering in the form of a rising number of unmaintained, foreclosed homes across the state and city, the officials said, and the pending bill would require that banks and mortgage services maintain vacant and abandoned homes throughout the foreclosure process, a responsibility they say banks often neglect.

“We’re making a demand on the banks that they need to do something,” Klein said at the announcement on April 27.

While there is currently a law requiring banks to managed foreclosed properties, the process often drags on for years, and the banks are unwilling to manage the properties.

“They need to maintain it as soon as they know it’s abandoned,” said Klein.

To that end, the bill also includes a provision to create a statewide registry of vacant and abandoned properties through the attorney general’s office, supplemented by a toll-free hot line that residents can use to report suspected abandoned properties and receive information about the status of registered properties.

Another provision requires that homeowners are notified of their right to remain in the house until a judge declares the foreclosure complete, since many abandon the property as soon as they fall too far behind on mortgage payments.

Officials hope the bill will slow the rise in the number of these homes, which saw a 45 percent increase in the Bronx last year, because the people suffering from the phenomenon are the neighbors.

“Your entire community is damaged—property values go down; crime, arson and vandalism go up,” said Schneiderman, “It’s a huge burden on the community.”

Community leaders showed up to the annoucement at the Bronx County Building in support of the bill, echoing the official’s message.

In Harding Park, a handful of abandoned homes is having a big impact on the small community, said homeowners association president Elbin Mena. One property on Harding Park Avenue has been empty for almost five years, to the dismay of neighbors, who’s property values have been affected.

“You see a house like this, are you going to buy a house next to it?” Mena asked. “No way.”

An empty house on Neill Avenue has attracted squatters, said Al D’Angelo, from Community Board 11.

“It’s a quality of life issue,” said Al D’Angelo. “When you have abandoned properties, it hurts everyone in the community.”

Another property on Waring Avenue has been a concern of board members for years, said CB 11 district manager Jeremy Warneke.

CB 10 deals with a range of complaints about zombie homes in Throggs Neck from graffiti, rat infestations,and the accumulation of garbage, said vice-chair John Marano.

“The neighbors are calling all the time,” he said.

And on City Island, the ‘zombies’ are the bane of neighbors who take pride in their homes and streets, said vice president of the civic association Fred Ramftl.

“We can’t keep the community looking nice when there’s a derelict property, an eyesore, on the block.” he said.

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at 718-260-4591. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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