Friday inspections could lead to demolition of fire-damaged home in Greenport

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Neighbors gather at the fire-damaged home on Seecond Street in Greenport.

A fire-damaged house at 620 Second St. in Greenport is still standing, but neighbors hope two Friday morning inspections will result in demolition of the structure that has marred their neighborhood for more than three years.

Engineer John Condon, hired by the Village Board and the North Fork Housing Alliance, which owns the structure, hired engineer Bob O’Brien to inspect the property. The two are to file their separate reports by Friday, Aug. 12.

Neighbors stood vigil outside a chain link fence surrounding the building while the engineers joined Village Trustee David Murray, village administrator David Abatelli, building inspector Eileen Wingate and housing alliance officials Barry Latney and Tanya Palmore in inspecting the building from the basement to the second floor.

“I’m an honest man; I call it the way it is,” Mr. O’Brien said when neighbors urged both men to issue findings that would favor demolition.

One engineer was overheard saying he thought the structure could be saved and renovated, but since the neighbors and press were kept at a distance outside the fence, it wasn’t clear whether it was Mr. Condon or Mr. O’Brien who made that comment.

Neighbor Steve Helinski thanked the village for the inspection, which he said he hoped would help “to get rid of this monstrosity.”

An inspection earlier in the week conducted by an animal control officer revealed no presence of rats or raccoons, according to Ms. Wingate. Neighbors had complained of vermin living in the house and said there were feces around the property that posed a health hazard.

A Suffolk County Health Department inspection, requested by Village Board members at their July 25 meeting, has yet to take place, Ms. Wingate said. The health department inspection request came after neighbors complained of respiratory problems they thought were caused by dust from the building.

The house was one of two that went up in flames in August 2008. The neighboring structure at 218 Second St. was demolished, and there are plans to eventually rebuild it.

But neighbor Bunny Ferrer came armed with copies of village code she said should stop any effort to renovate the still-standing structure.

The current house is a three-family structure that is a non-conforming use in the neighborhood. According to village code, it can’t be “restored, repaired or rebuilt for other than a conforming use after damage from any cause, unless the nonconforming use is reinstated within one year of such damage.” Three years have passed since the house operated under its previously granted nonconforming use, Ms. Ferrer told village officials.

Ms. Wingate said she recalls a discussion soon after the fire about the building having a nonconforming use but hasn’t reviewed the minutes of that meeting and doesn’t recall whether the issue was resolved.

“We’re looking for a resolution,” she said.

No one could have imagined that the renovation would have taken this long, Ms. Wingate said.

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