All over the country, distressed and foreclosed homes sit empty, lawns unkempt, garbage piling up, pools blackened and infested with mosquitoes. One New York City suburb is refusing to take the mess lying down.
Massapequa Park, a village in the town of Oyster Bay, voted June 11 to impose fines and potential jail time for both private and bank-owned homes in town that are unsightly at best and a health hazard at worst.
''This is a quality of life issue, yes. The place is filthy. I'm paying taxes. I have to look at their lawn and garbage. If I complain, they laugh in my face, and I've been living here 23 years,'' resident Sophie Wolchok told the local CBS affiliate. Wolchok testified at the Village Hall with photos of foreclosed homes nearby that have fallen into disrepair.
The new statute, voted in unanimously by the village board, forces irresponsible homeowners to pay $250-$1,000 fine for the first offense, $2,500 plus up to 10 days in jail for the second and $10,000 and 15 jail days for the third.
''We are instituting a stiff fine that has escalating clauses to be punitive,'' said village mayor James Altadonna, Jr., ''because we want banks and landowners to pay attention to their properties and maintain their properties like the rest of our community.''
The mayor said the fines are not meant for those going through tough times, and the village will work with families who can’t afford upkeep. Excessive litter, junk vehicles, broken lighting, unfinished construction and graffiti are all subject to fines as well. Recently, Altadonna also proposed a new law that would charge a bank $500 every time a village employee has to clean up an unkempt property that has fallen into foreclosure.