‘Zombie house’ draws frustration of Bayside Hills community

zombie house
50-48 212th St. in Bayside Hills
Photo by Ethan Marshall

Several Bayside Hills residents have been voicing their frustration with what they refer to as a “zombie house” on 212th Street.

The house, located at 50-48 212th St., has remained unoccupied and uncared for since its owner passed away in 2021 and the doors remain locked up at the behest of the late owner’s daughters.

zombie house
A broken window of the zombie house. Photo by Ethan Marshall

Those who live in the neighborhood have expressed health and safety concerns due to the condition of the zombie house. Windows were left open, making the interior vulnerable to weather conditions. The grass in the front lawn has been left to grow multiple feet high. Neighbors have reported seeing vermin go in and out of the house and people have also recently started dumping garbage on the property.

According to neighborhood resident Marianne Downes, the property had not been in good shape well before the owner passed away. However, some neighbors would assist the home owner every so often. Downes noted the house really fell into disrepair after the death of the home owner.

“The house has now gone through winters and summers with screens ripped and windows open,” Downes said. “Me and the next-door neighbor have noticed that there’s lots of things going in and out of that house. I feel confident that it’s a health issue, a sanitation issue and a fire issue.”

Downes said she and many others in the neighborhood have called 311 on numerous occasions. However, the city hasn’t taken any action because those sent to look at the house haven’t been able to get inside. A note on the door from the daughters of the late owner says the locks have been changed. There’s also a note from a mortgage company there.

Residents have already contacted the office of Council Member Linda Lee, who in turn reached out to the Department of Buildings (DOB). However, the residents in the neighborhood haven’t noticed anything done yet to address the zombie house.

“It’s an eyesore,” Downes said. “There’s people who had been looking to sell their house across the street. But how do you sell the house across the street from this mess? And there’s three cars and a boat parked in the driveway. I don’t know who’s got ownership of any of that stuff.”

zombie house
A car and boat sit on the driveway of the zombie house. Photo by Ethan Marshall

With the interior of the zombie house being exposed to the elements thanks to the windows being open, Downes believes there is likely damage inside significant enough to warrant tearing down the house. She believes the Department of Buildings, as well as the Department of Health, need to be involved in this and at the very least get into the zombie house. She also believes they should have the front of the house cleared out, including the tall grass, which she believes is actually in violation of the maximum allowable height under city law.

“I just feel like the city needs to get involved,” Downes said. “The Department of Buildings has done absolutely nothing. Someday, other people in the neighborhood may want to sell their house too. This is definitely affecting the home values and everybody’s quality of life. It’s disgusting.”

According to Bayside Hills Civic Association Board Member Tom Louizou, the organization has reported the zombie house to both CB 11 and 311. After receiving the report, CB 11 contacted the city in regards to clean-up options.

“For the past three years, we have watched the property and house at 50-48 212th St. deteriorate to a de facto abandoned status,” Louizou said. “The owner of record passed away and the estate has failed to maintain the property letting it become a public health hazard. With open windows, head-high weeds, shrub overgrowth and foundation issues, this ‘zombie’ house has become a refuge for vermin both inside and outside. City government intervention to remedy a clear and present threat to the health and safety of the surrounding residents is urgently needed.”

A DOB spokesperson told QNS  they have conducted multiple inspections of the zombie house in response to the numerous 311 complaints. During an inspection last October, DOB found that the façade had fallen into disrepair, with cracks in the bricks. Additionally, they noted the boat and two vehicles without license plates being stored in the driveway. Consequently, a request for corrective action from the property owner was issued, as part of their Homeowner Relief Program, ordering the building owner to correct the violating façade and parking conditions.

A subsequent inspection was conducted on Jan. 6, in which inspectors found that the violating conditions had not been corrected. As a result, two violations were issued to the owner for the façade issue and the dead vehicle storage issue. A follow-up inspection conducted on May 1 showed the violating conditions had still not been corrected. As a result, the owner was issued another two follow-up violations.

Violation hearings for the four DOB-issued violations were held at the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), resulting in a total of $11,935 in penalties being issued to the property owner. DOB noted the property owner may face additional enforcement action if they continue to disregard DOB’s orders to correct the violating conditions.

As the residents wait for the zombie house to be addressed by the city, Queens Council Member Robert Holden and Borough President Donovan Richards recently introduced bills meant to eliminate neglected properties in the city like this. The first bill, Intro 1146, would prohibit the use of plywood to board up properties that have been foreclosed upon or abandoned. Any points of entry would be required to be closed by the owners of the properties.

The second bill, Intro 1147, would require property owners to post a $5,000 bond to the Department of Finance when facing foreclosure. The bond would be sent to the Commissioner of Finance to be used for the purpose of addressing housing maintenance and building and sanitation violations during vacancy or foreclosure.

“Zombie buildings are eyesores and detriments to their communities that impact our neighbors’ quality of life,” Richards said. “These common sense bills will help address numerous issues that these zombie buildings create and I look forward to working with Council Member Holden to further address these concerns.”

According to a representative for Council Member Lee, her office is currently trying to get in touch with the caseworker on this matter for an update. QNS has reached out to the office of CB 11 District Manager Joe Marziliano and is awaiting their response.