After years of neglect, a derelict Third Street home that was considered an eyesore and sometimes attracted squatters was demolished by Riverhead Town last Wednesday.
Although the home had been vacant for several years, town attorney Bob Kozakiewicz said his office first took notice of the property about 18 months ago, when the town was considering its potential as a parking lot for visitors to the state Supreme Court building.
It was around that time that nearby East End Financial Group filed a complaint about the property. Code enforcement inspected the property and recommended that the house be demolished due to its condition, Mr. Kozakiewicz said. Over the next several months, his office notified the owner, who agreed to allow the house to be razed.
Chrissie Curtis, an assistant at East End Financial Group, said the abandoned property had been an eyesore for years, but that its deteriorating condition was a cause for growing concern. By last summer, she said, the partially boarded-up house had also become home to vagrants.
“It was unsafe because of the people hanging out there,” she said.
In August, the business had enough of the building and filed a complaint with the town’s code enforcement department. They were thrilled with the timely response.
“It was commendable,” Ms. Curtis said. “They responded to us immediately.”
Donald Higgins, a Manhasset attorney who owns the Third Street property, said the house had been vacant since he purchased it several years ago. While he originally hoped to house his law office there, he said, “plans changed.” Mr. Higgins said he has no immediate plans to build on the site.
The blighted Third Street property is one of many in Riverhead officials are currently addressing, Mr. Kozakiewicz said, adding that he expects the town attorney’s office to rectify many of those situations during 2015.
“We try to gain compliance first,” he said. “When we see an unmovable object or ‘the writing is on the wall,’ so to speak, that is when we take the next step.”
That next step involves asking that the Town Board vote to tear the unsafe structure down at the property owner’s expense.
In fact, the town held a public hearing on Tuesday over a home in Baiting Hollow that both it and the state Supreme Court have deemed unsafe because of a third- and fourth-floor addition.
Owner Eugene Lafurno defended his home, which he calls “The Epiphany,” at a public hearing in Town Hall on Tuesday. He has consistently maintained that the addition is a cupola permitted under a religious exemption, though Mr. Kozakiewicz said at the hearing that cupolas are not intended for human occupancy.
Citing several deficiencies, town engineer Ken Testa called the addition a “safety hazard” and Supervisor Sean Walter said he would give Mr. Lafurno until March 20 to come up with engineering plans demonstrating that the structure is safe.