Amid a discrepancy between Lynbrook village officials and the owner of two properties on Merton Avenue about whether or not the houses should be considered zombie homes, Building Supervisor Brian Stanton said the homeowners must remove boards from the windows of the properties by mid-October.
Thomas Morash, the owner of the Rockville Centre Inn and the Holiday Inn Express on Sunrise Highway, purchased the houses, at 9 Merton Ave. and 11 Merton Ave., in the hope of converting them to parking lots for his businesses. In 2012, however, the village’s board of trustees denied an application to change the zoning regulations to make the area a parking lot, citing residents’ concerns. After another request was declined in 2015, the houses have remained boarded up.
“My village has to be kept presentable,” Mayor Alan Beach said. “Our village has to be kept presentable.”
Village officials permitted Morash to tear down the houses on 417 Ocean Ave. and 3 Merton Ave., which are now empty lots. According to Beach, Morash requested the demolition of those houses to save property tax dollars, even though they denied his request to change the zoning to enable his customers to park there.
Stanton said that in an effort to make the properties presentable, he would like to meet with Morash to “discuss with him what we want,” but Morash said he would be in Florida for an unspecified amount of time. Beach said he would prefer for Morash to sell the properties.
According to Stanton, the properties fall under the description of zombie homes, and per the village’s building code, zombie properties — those that the owner pays taxes for but does not maintain — may only be left in that condition for two years. “When the two-year-limit comes up, we’ll make a decision,” Beach said.
But in an email to the Herald on April 17, Michael Morash, Thomas’ son, who is the general manager of the Holiday Inn Express, denied that they are zombie homes. “These homes are owned free and clear from any debt,” he wrote. “The property is maintained by a landscaping company, and the homes are boarded up for security reasons per our insurance company’s recommendation.”
Residents in neighboring homes are upset about the houses being left boarded up for more than two years. “He let the buildings deteriorate to nothing,” Beach said. “He has to clean up his act.”
Ricardo Espino, who lives next door to the vacant houses, said that the Morash’s have not been maintaining the properties. He said that squatters had been living in the vacant homes for weeks at a time, and that the Morash’s never put up a fence despite Michael’s insistence that they had. “He doesn’t do anything,” Espino said.
On April 20, Espino decided to put up his own fence around his property to protect his three children from squatters. “I’m trying to cover everything,” he said. “I don’t want anything to happen when I’m not here.”
Espino said he does not want the two remaining houses to also be torn down. “I would like to see people buy the houses, have good neighbors,” he said, adding that Beach “has to do something about these houses.”