Fire-damaged Greenport home ordered condemned and demolished

JULIE LANE FILE PHOTO | The Greenport Village Board has ordered that the fire-damaged home at 620 Second Street be demolished.

It was a raucous Greenport Village Board meeting Monday night at which members unanimously voted to require that a fire-damaged North Fork Housing Alliance house at 620 Second St. be condemned and demolished. But NFHA executive director Tanya Palmore said Tuesday morning that the alliance’s attorney will seek an injunction to stop the demolition.

If the NFHA action is successful, there’s no telling how long before neighbors could expect relief from conditions they characterized as both dangerous and threatening to their health.

Ms. Palmore said that as of Monday, she had a promise from New York State, which is providing funding for the renovation, that money would be forthcoming at the beginning of September and reconstruction could begin by the middle of that month.

Village Board members passed a separate resolution asking the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to inspect the premises, in response to neighbors’ concerns that several are suffering from respiratory illnesses they believe the dusty, burned-out structure is causing. The board also approved bringing in qualified animal control officers in response to neighbors’ complaints that the building is overrun with rats and raccoons and that animal feces can be seen all over the property.

“I do understand the neighbors’ concerns,” Ms. Palmore said, but she added that her job is to push the renovation forward in order to provide additional Section 8 housing for low-income residents.

Village attorney Joseph Prokop was authorized by the Village Board to immediately seek court approval for condemnation that, if granted, would result in an order to the NFHA to demolish the structure. If the NFHA failed to do so, the order would allow the village to have the house demolished at the NFHA’s expense. But if an injunction is granted, Ms. Palmore said she has no idea how long it would be before any action could be taken, either to rebuild or demolish the structure.

That’s why Second Street neighbors, tempted to celebrate the Village Board action Monday night, remained skeptical.

“We’ll celebrate when the house is down,” said neighbor Steve Helinski.

Neighbors planned to go to Village Hall Tuesday to file a complaint with building inspector Eileen Wingate about the condition of the house.

That structure and an adjacent house at 618 Second St. were heavily damaged by an August 2008 fire. The house at 618 Second St. was demolished and is due to be rebuilt, Ms. Palmore said.

But given that three years have passed without action on the house at 620 Second St., neighbors maintain it can’t be rebuilt.

Neighbor Bunny Ferrer called it “a burned-out shell.” She asked board members to condemn and demolish the house before something awful happens there.

Another neighbor said the structure has been so badly damaged that it can’t be rebuilt, and another described it as “a nightmare.”
“Does the North Fork Housing Alliance mean more to the board than the people who live in this village?” Mr. Helinski asked. “I didn’t buy a house in a burned out slum. Would you buy a house next to that?”

Rafael Ferrer drew a laugh when he said he was stopped from building an artist’s studio on his Second Street property because it was considered “a blight in the neighborhood” — the same neighborhood that has now had to endure the burned structure for three years.

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