At a special meeting on October 18, the Saugerties town board was told that there are five or six so-called zombie houses that they are going to have to deal with in the coming months.
Contrary to rumor, zombie houses are not places where the undead hangout waiting for the living to visit so they can harvest their brains. They are houses abandoned by their owners because they can no longer pay their mortgage, and then by the companies that hold those mortgages because the house and property are not worth fixing up.
One such house at 508 York Street in the Malden section of the town. It has been abandoned for seven or eight years according to neighbors.
This is the home that was the subject of the special meeting as the town board sought to someone willing to promise to fix up the dilapidated home. Showing pictures of the home that house broken windows, open doors and a deteriorating porch, town building inspector Alvah Weeks said that something needed to be done. The owner would have to close up the building, or the town will have the place bulldozed. The county would put the property up for sale. Any money that comes from the sale of the property would go to the town to pay for the demolition.
The process the town has in place to do something with a zombie building is long and drawn out, says councilman Fred Costello. A new law is needed to speed things up. Neighbors of the York Street house say whatever the town could do would be a great help.
Catharine Clarke said she and neighbor Maryellen Mietus had been working for years to find out who owns the house. “The building is always open,” Clarke said. “I’ve called the police a number of times because this place is a fire and safety hazard. But they say there is not much they can do.”
“This place just seems to be getting in worse shape all the time,” Mietus added.
If no one comes forward in the coming weeks, Weeks said the town will go to bid to have a contractor knock the house down.
That ought to take care of this particular house. Without a Saugerties law in place to expedite the process, however, neighbors are likely to have to keep complaining about other zombie houses.