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New bills proposed by state Sen. Avella would address abandoned homes

Under a new proposed law, abandoned homes like this one in Howard Beach, would become the responsibility of the lender.
THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Abandoned homes have been a problem in Queens neighborhoods since Superstorm Sandy and the recession. But a breakaway group of state Senate Democrats, including Senator Tony Avella, has introduced a proposal they claim will solve much of the problem.

A bill they’ve called the “Zombie Property Act” would force lenders, including banks, to maintain abandoned homes in New York so that neighborhoods are not dotted with dilapidated properties abandoned by the owners and taken over by mortgage holders.

The measure is one of several bills that are being put forward by the state Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference, of which Avella is one of five members, as part of the group’s “Invest New York” agenda.

“We’re catching squatters and kids going in these abandoned homes,” said Joe Thompson, who runs a civilian patrol in Howard Beach. The neighborhood is ailed with dozens of destroyed homes that were abandoned after Sandy.

“These squatters are getting in there and doing drugs and high school aged kids are putting graffiti all over the place,” Thompson said. The homes pose a danger to people in the area, he said, and they also severely reduce the value of neighboring homes.

“It was kind of like their playhouse,” he said. Last year Thompson tackled the problem by investing his own money in cleaning and maintaining a home on 155th Avenue and 77th Street. He boarded the windows, cleaned the surrounding lawn and even enlisted another resident to power wash the walls.

If the zombie bill, which is co-sponsored by Avella, passes, lenders that hold mortgages on the abandoned properties would be given the responsibility of doing what Thompson is doing.

“These abandoned homes are a waste of resources that could be developed into great things,” Avella said.

Within the Invest New York agenda, Avella will be tasked with pushing through bills that address paid family leave, providing affordable housing for veterans and a proposal that would grant seniors a 10 percent discount on any DMV transaction.

“I’ve always worked toward these things,” Avella said. “This will help people because these are people issues.”

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