Effort to stop mayhem created by squatters


Nadia Vitel, 52, was found dead in her late mother’s Manhattan apartment on March 14. Allegedly two squatters beat her to death, and then stuffed her into a suitcase.
According to Assemblyman Jake Blumencranz, squatters are not only prevalent in the five boroughs of New York City, they are also causing problems on Long Island.
“There are many cases of squatters wreaking havoc on families all over Long Island, in Patchogue, Jericho, cases that are not sensationalized in the news, so people continue to suffer in silence,” Blumencranz said. “Some have reached out to me.”
The Republican, who represents parts of the North Shore, introduced a bill in May 2023 to put a stop to the mayhem squatters are creating.
“The numerous squatting cases and tragedies that have since occurred have only reaffirmed my commitment to getting my Property Protection Act passed,” he said. “There have been numerous incidents.”

Vitel’s murder led Blumencranz to hold a news conference on March 27 to shed light on the urgency for passage of his bill.
Squatters gain homeowner rights after living in a residence after 30 days, forcing the property owner to go through lengthy court processes for eviction, that can take as long as two years.
“The fact that someone can break onto your house and have full legal protection after 30 days is completely wrong and un-American,” he said. “Long Islanders and all New Yorkers should not have to live in fear of people trying to game the system and take away their hard-earned property and their American dream.”
Blumencranz’s bill would close the loophole in the law by clarifying the definition of “tenant,” which would exclude squatters. Police would be able to remove and arrest squatters charging them with criminal trespass if they do not have a notarized lease, title or other documents proving they are tenants. Under current law, there is little police and judges can do.
State Senator Patricia Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick proposed a similar bill on March 25. The Republican, who represents Long Beach, Garden City, New Hyde Park, and the Five Towns, said squatters have been a serious problem for a long time.
“Squatters are like a theft of property. Property owners are not getting rent and now they have to pay a lawyer to get these people out,” Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick said. “And people don’t want to buy real estate anymore because how do they buy real estate to rent knowing that at any time somone could move in and be given legal rights and not have to pay for it.”
And squatters are becoming emboldened, Canzoneri-Fitzpatrick added.
“You see on TikTok there are ‘How to squat’ videos encouraging others how to take advantage of this loophole,” she said. “The world is upside down that we’re not favoring the landowner and we’re favoring a person who is a criminal. If you steal someone’s credit card and you get caught you don’t get to continue to use the credit card.”
And the law favoring squatters encourages people who could pay their rent not to do so, she added. Because they know they can’t be forced to leave.
Blumencranz’s bill has received support from both sides of the aisle. Assemblywoman Jaime Williams, a Democrat, representing the south-eastern part of Brooklyn, a suburban area, is supporting the Property Protection Act because she said squatters are a big issue in her district.
“In this one block radius there are a group of about 12 individuals that were house hopping, and it took the police department almost two years to get them out of that house where they stayed,” she said. “The person who owned the house lived in New Jersey, and it made it easier for the squatters to live there and claim squatters rights, but they sold drugs there and there was prostitution. When Jake came up with this bill, it was just organic for me to sign on to it because we here experienced this, and it has to come to an end.”
Williams doesn’t believe squatters is a Republican issue, as some of her colleagues have suggested. It is instead a national problem, she said.