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Zombie property bill passes Assembly

By Patrick Donachie

A bill co-sponsored by state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) will place stronger regulations on abandoned “zombie” properties. The bill was passed in the state Assembly last week by a vote of 116-22, and he is calling on the state Senate to also pass the legislation.

“Zombie properties” are blighted properties that have been abandoned by their prior residents, often after a bank or lender has placed a foreclosure on the house. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman estimated last year that there were more than 16,700 foreclosed homes throughout the state. According to Goldfeder, the issue became worse for Queens residents in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy as homes were abandoned due to damage.

“Zombie properties are a plague on our community that drives down property values, threatens public health and undermines the character of our neighborhoods,” he said. “For families still struggling to recover from Sandy, they are also a constant, painful reminder of everything we lost in the disaster.”

Goldfeder was one of several co-sponsors of the “New York State Abandoned Property Relief Act of 2016,” which was developed in partnership with Schneiderman’s office. The bill would make mortgage lenders responsible for “pre-foreclosure” properties, in addition to properties in foreclosure. The bill would also require inspections that would help determine if properties with a delinquent mortgage have been abandoned by owners.

Additionally, the bill would establish a registry listing all abandoned residential properties in the state. It would be supervised by the office of the state Attorney General. There would also be a hotline for people to call if they saw zombie properties.

After the bill’s passage, it was referred to the Senate’s Housing, Construction and Community Development committee.

In June 2015, Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St. Albans) introduced legislation to the New York City Council that would allocate funds received from settlements with lenders to go towards communities like southeastern Queens that were hard hit by the foreclosure crisis. The legislation was referred to the Committee of Economic Development in March.

Foreclosure rates fluctuate wildly throughout Queens. According to RealtyTrac, the top Queens neighborhoods for foreclosed properties were Cambria Heights, with one in every 340 properties foreclosed, and South Ozone Park, where one in 427 properties is foreclosed. In Far Rockaway, one in 1,149 properties is foreclosed. RealtyTrac, a real estate information website, said 10 percent fewer homes received a foreclosure rating in April compared to the same period last year.

Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdonachie@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.

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