“Absentee landlords and lending institutions are now on notice,” declared Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino at a meeting last month.
The town had been hearing from residents and neighbors of so-called zombie homes—foreclosed or abandoned houses that have sat empty for years. They have become eyesores and many fear that their presence will drive down property values.
The town’s Quality of Life Task Force was set up last year to deal with just such issues. Saladino praised the co-chairs, Town Clerk James Altadonna Jr. and Councilman Lou Imbroto, for advancing the legislation that strengthened the town’s ability to deal with the oft deteriorating residences.
“We banned, among other things, the use of plywood on residential windows and doors to help protect neighbors from these eyesores,” Saladino observed. “We also established a mandated trust account to which the foreclosing entity, the homeowner and/or lending institution, must deposit $25,000 to cover any potential costs the town could incur from maintaining that property. This is an important step in holding banks accountable for the maintenance of properties and will allow the town to easily recoup the costs associated with the town’s maintenance of these vacant properties.”
Saladino traveled to Massapequa last month to stand in front of an empty residence. He was joined by Altadonna, Imbroto and councilmembers Thomas Hand and Joseph Muscarella as well as members of the local Breezy Point Civic Association.
According to a press release, “The new Town Code expands on the definitions of what constitutes an abandoned or vacant building, and also requires that any boarding placed on homes be completed with impact-resistant polycarbonate material, in lieu of typically-utilized plywood, to help avoid a community eyesore.”
Under the new law, plywood must be replaced by plexiglass.
“This updated Town Code strengthens the ability of our Code Enforcement Bureau to achieve compliance from property-owners and lending institutions by providing inspectors with more authority to investigate, identify and rectify quality of life concerns caused by vacant and abandoned properties,” said Imbroto.
Added Altadonna, “We are proud to work with citizens and civic associations to identify both residential and commercial properties that are impacting the quality of our communities. Together, we are taking back our neighborhoods by addressing code violations and cleaning up dilapidated and abandoned properties.”
The Quality of Life Task Force, noted a press release, will “focus on code enforcement for concerns such as illegal housing, zombie homes, noise, landscaping, and parking, among other issues.”
According to town spokesperson Marta Kane, there are approximately 110 zombie homes in the town.
LEDing The Way
Saladino was joined by Councilwoman Michele Johnson at Town Hall South in Massapequa to announce that taxpayers will save $1.4 million through the installation of energy efficient light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and fixtures at its two town halls.
The installation has been completed at Town Hall South, where more than 240 bulbs and 680 lighting fixtures were converted to LED. PSE&G Long Island fully funded the cost of the bulbs, expected to save the town a minimum of $686,000 over the life expectancy of the new bulbs. Conversion of 365 fixtures and 138 bulbs is currently underway at Town Hall North in Oyster Bay.
Johnson stated, “The town has placed a premium on efficiency and affordability with respect to its lighting at both its offices and outdoor venues. We want energy efficient lighting solutions that provide the highest quality light and cost efficiency. This new lighting system provides us long-term durability, which means less maintenance and stock.”
In addition, the Town of Oyster Bay Highway Department maintains 21,036 lighting fixtures on the roads, bridge underpasses and parking lots.
According to a press release, this has saved the town millions and the current administration has committed to replace 1,200 bulbs annually. By 2024, the hopes to complete the changeover and will no longer install sodium bulbs—a technology that is decades old.
LED bulbs reportedly consume up to 90 percent less power and last much longer than older bulbs, lowering both maintenance and replacement costs. Additionally, the town noted, “These lights provide include light disbursement with optimal uniformity and quicker on/off capabilities. The lights are also eco-friendly and will result in a reduction of CO2 emissions.”