Second Street fire opens old wounds in Greenport

Almost three years after two houses on Second Street in Greenport, belonging to the North Fork Housing Alliance, were heavily damaged by fire, neighbors witnessed another house fire Saturday, this time at 632 Second Street.

It was a small kitchen fire that was quickly extinguished and there was no structural damage, said NFHA executive director Tanya Palmore.

But for neighbors, it reignited long-standing frustration with the remains of the house at 620 Second Street. Work there was to begin by the end of June, but Ms. Palmore is still awaiting a check from the state to pay for the work. The plan to renovate the house has received state approval. There are also plans to rebuild the house that stood at 618 Second Street, which was demolished after the August 2008 fire. All three houses are owned by the housing alliance and are part of the federal Section 8 program.

Ms. Palmore has already filed for a permit to rebuild at 618 Second Street and is filing for a building permit for the house at 620.

She met with Greenport Mayor David Nyce and Trustee David Murray to discuss the situation. The mayor had threatened to order the structure at 620 to be demolished if renovation work hadn’t begun by the board’s July 25 meeting. Ms. Palmore said she hopes work will be under way by then, and that she has done everything in her power to move the project forward and has promised to keep Mr. Nyce and Mr. Murray in the loop.

In an email to The Suffolk Times Tuesday, neighbor Bunny Ferrer complained that the inaction has resulted in lowering property values of houses on the block.

“There are houses on our block that are for sale and though they are terrific houses, no one in their right mind would buy on this block,” Ms. Ferrer said.

That the mayor has continued to give NFHA additional time to rebuild after almost three years is unfair to other property owners, she said.

“No other resident would have so much leniency from a mayor who is supposed to serve and protect the whole community,” Ms. Ferrer said. “Every time it rains, there is a stink of burnt wood. Every time someone comes to visit, we have to explain the unexplainable. Now the raccoons live in the house, play on what is left of the roof and come out at night, wandering around as if they own the place,” she said.

If the house at 620 Second Street is demolished, Ms. Palmore would have to start the entire process with the state all over again, since the permission she has is for a renovation, Mr. Nyce said. Given that residents who were displaced by the fire are hoping to return to the renovated house, he doesn’t want to act to further delay the project, he said.

“What we’re trying to do is balance the needs of everybody,” he said.

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