Massena mayor willing to wait to see how state ‘zombie property’ law works out
Sunday, July 10, 2016 - 5:12 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Mayor Tim Currier says the village is no longer considering a “zombie property” law now that the state has passed one and set up a hotline where people can report them.

“We want to see how this plays out. It’s a new law,” Currier said. “If it fits in with the rest of what we’re trying to do, there won’t be any need for [a local version].”

Zombie properties are foreclosed properties owned by banks or holding companies that fall below code standards. Since they are in foreclosure, they can skirt maintenance and upkeep laws.

“I’m really pleased the state took the steps to do this. It’s a long time coming,” the mayor said.

There are more than 200 abandoned properties in Massena, many of which are owned by lenders.

Currier says Massena leaders are, however, looking at establishing a registries for vacant and rental properties. They recently passed a blight ordinance that assigns point values for various building defects. Once a property hits 100 points, the village can take legal action to have the problems remedied.

“Want to see how it (state zombie property law) fits in with ordinances like the blight,” Currier said.

A new hotline is available to St. Lawrence County residents to help identify vacant and abandoned “zombie properties.”

“The cracked windows, boarded-up doors and overgrown grass of zombie properties suck the life out of neighborhoods by lowering the property value of nearby homes and attracting criminal activity,” said North Country Sen. Joseph Griffo, R-Rome.

As part of the new legislation, a hotline -- online and by phone -- has been created to report abandoned and dilapidated properties. The registry will allow zombie properties to be identified so that the proper banks can be contacted and held accountable to maintain the pre-foreclosure properties they are responsible for.

If someone spots a neglected vacant property, they can report the location to the State Department of Financial Services by either calling (800) 342-3736, or by filing a complaint at http://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumer/fileacomplaint.htm.

When submitting a complaint, the person will be asked to provide their name and address, as well as the address of the vacant property. They then use the drop-down menu to select the complaint as a “vacant property,” and the agency will begin looking into it.

“For many people, owning a home is the American Dream, often the reward of years of hard work and savings,” Griffo said. “Yet, when zombie properties spread like mold throughout a neighborhood, these eyesores devalue the surrounding homes and keep communities from reaching their true potential. I encourage the public to call this hotline if they see a neglected property so that we can speed up the process to restore the home’s appearance and lessen its drag on the neighborhood.”

The Zombie Property Act will take effect in September.

The hotline will give homeowners who live near an abandoned property a head start, so that when the law is in place, the owners of these run down properties will be notified that they are required to maintain them.

For years, homeowners haven't known where to turn when a nearby home is abandoned, so this new hotline gives them a single point of entry to report an abandoned house, though a toll free phone number or online, Griffo said.