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Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Village News
Valley Stream targets vacant homes
Christina Daly/Herald
A vacant house at 109 N. Cottage St. has been an eyesore for years and has drawn the ire of neighbors and village officials alike.

Valley Stream village officials are pressuring the owners of 18 vacant homes to do a better job of maintaining their property, in an effort to improve the quality of life for their neighbors. It’s a battle that is difficult to fight, they say, because 17 of the homes are owned by banks, mortgage companies or other large financial institutions.

“The problem is getting someone in a decision-making capacity on the phone,” said Village Clerk Bob Barra.

So the village has taken a new approach, and code enforcement officers have been instructed to issue citations to derelict properties every day for maintenance violations, including high grass, peeling paint, missing siding and boarded-up windows.

Barra said that while a bank might simply brush off a fine of a few thousand dollars, village officials believe a ticketing blitz could make a difference. “At some point,” he said, “the number is going to be high where it’s going to catch somebody’s attention.”

The ultimate goal, Barra said, is to get an attorney representing a bank to appear before Village Justice Robert Bogle, who would make it clear that Valley Stream means business.

Bogle said he has had representatives of banks in his court on several occasions, and has encouraged them to ensure that their properties are maintained and secured in a “pleasant and aesthetic manner.” In some cases, he said, the banks have tried to defer responsibility, but he has reminded them that when a property is vacant, the bank becomes the de facto owner.

“The law requires that the property be taken care of by an owner or occupant,” he said. “For those banks that are not complying, we are in the process of issuing judgments against them for a lot of money.”

In determining judgments, Bogle said, he relies on prosecutors and inspectors and, in the interest of fairness, he would visit a property only if representatives of both the bank and the village were present.

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