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zombie home

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An outside building at 49 Sheep Pasture Road is filled with debris. Photo by Kyle Barr

Two homes in Port Jefferson have caught the eye of both neighbors and village officials, and not for any positive reasons. 

The blighted homes on 49 Sheep Pasture Road and at 101 Nadia Court have received several complaints from residents, who said the properties are dangerous and need to
be remediated. 

The boarded-up house at 49 Sheep Pasture Road. Photo by Kyle Barr

Code enforcement officers confirmed at the May 20 village board meeting that they had been looking at these particular properties as part of the village’s zombie home task force. Acting chief of code enforcement Fred Leute Jr. said there were bottles littering the site, evidence of drug use and used needles. Human refuse was strewn in one section of the house. Officers displayed images of the inside of the home on Sheep Pasture Road during the board meeting.  

Leute added that people occupied the home in the middle of the day and had likely used the abandoned home as a drug den. 

The Sheep Pasture home, which is now boarded up, will soon be demolished. The board voted unanimously May 20 in favor of the proposition. 

Code enforcement said they had previously investigated the house on Nadia Court, where they saw the door had been left open. There was mold in the basement, and the pool was filled with stagnant water, something neighbors who attended the meeting said was of a larger concern with children and pets in the area.

Ray and Linda Hawkins, who live on Nadia Court, said the owner has been largely absent from the location.

“He hasn’t lived there for several years,” Ray said. “His car hasn’t been used there.”

Leute said upon entering the home the house “looked like someone just got up and left,” as things were left on the stove and plates left on the tables. He added the house did not seem to be built to a good standard, with water damage already causing major issues to the ceiling, though engineers hired by the village had not identified major structural damage that would necessitate demolition.

The owner of 101 Nadia Court is David Ferguson, a Stony Brook University professor of technology and society and applied mathematics and statistics. Ferguson has worked on several projects with the National Science Foundation regarding computer science, including developing computer science courses for liberal arts students and innovating on human-computer interfaces.

Through email, Ferguson said his bank, Teachers Federal Credit Union, has plans to take over control of the property, and that a contract is currently being developed to take over control.

The house at 101 Nadia Court. Photo by Kyle Barr

He also said the village has been in contact with him over making the “repairs.”

“It was my understanding that the village would make the repairs and add to my taxes,” he said over email.

A spokesperson for TFCU relayed that the credit union was in talks with Ferguson.

“We are aware of the issue and is in contact with the member on a resolution.”

At the May 20 meeting, the board voted to remove the conspicuous decking from the rear of the property on Nadia Court and to cover the pool so it would be inaccessible.

The zombie task force has identified 27 homes within the three-square-mile village that need remediation, and five have already been reclaimed. Comparatively, the Town of Brookhaven has a list of nearly 2,000 derelict homes.

One such home in the village that has already been demolished was on California Avenue, and a contractor has puchased the lot who Leute said plans for a new house at the site

“Now it’s going to be a nice family there, hopefully, who will be a good component to the community,” he said.

While neighbors have said these complaints have gone on for years, Mayor Margot Garant said the village has to be cautious when going after blighted property, as the system has been built to make sure municipalities could not simply take over people’s homes.

A rock, that sits in front of a home in Rocky Point and is believed to be a boulder deposited from glaciers thousands of years ago, is part of a Suffolk County spending controversy. Photo by Erin Dueñas

By Erin Dueñas

The massive boulder that sits in front of the boarded-up house at 30 Sam’s Path in Rocky Point looms large in the childhood memories of Annie Donnelly, who grew up there. When she was 8 years old, the rock was the place to be in the neighborhood — the place local kids would gather for use as a clubhouse or a fort or even just to climb. Years later, teens would find the rock made a great place for a first kiss or a first swig of beer.

“It was the focal point for so many of us,” said Donnelly, who is now retired and living in Florida. “It was the go-to place for many of our first times in those days.”

The rock, which measures 50 feet long and 35 feet high, was even the site for Donnelly’s wedding reception in 1971.

The home which the rock sits in front of, at 30 Sams Path, was purchased last year for $107,000. Photo by Erin Dueñas
The home which the rock sits in front of, at 30 Sams Path, was purchased last year for $107,000. Photo by Erin Dueñas

“There was a dance floor built by my dad behind the rock and we decorated it with flowers from around town,” she said. “It was an enchanted wedding.”

With her fond memories, it comes as no surprise that Donnelly supports efforts spearheaded by Suffolk County legislator Sarah Anker to acquire the property and turn it into a “pocket park.” Donnelly recalled that her father never minded when kids played on the rock, even though it sat on his front lawn. “Any kid could use it,” she said. “We knew it belonged to the town and everyone in it.”

According to Anker, efforts to acquire the property where the rock sits began after campaigning in the area last year, and listening to neighbors who weren’t concerned with the rock, but more with the dilapidated, empty house behind it.

“Neighbors asked about doing something with the zombie home,” Anker said. “Revitalizing the property was the main objective of the initiative.”

Anker pointed out that she never submitted legislation for the county to purchase the property with tax dollars like it’s been reported — stressing that public funds would not be used to purchase it. She said she is in talks with several not-for-profit organizations including the Nature Conservancy and the Peconic Land Trust, who may have an interest in helping to purchase the property for public use. The house was purchased though, last year, for $107,000, and the current owner has signaled that he could be willing to sell.

While some like Legislator Rob Trotta (R-Smithtown) says it’s “preposterous” and “embarrassing” to buy a rock, community members and historical leaders view the piece of property differently.

“Rocky Point is very proud of this rock,” said Rocky Point Historical Society President Natalie Aurucci Stiefel. “It’s a natural wonder and the town takes pride in it.”

“Neighbors asked about doing something with the zombie home. Revitalizing the property was the main objective of the initiative.”

—Sarah Anker

She said that the rock is likely how Rocky Point got its name. Local legend contends that it was once a spot frequented by Native Americans in the area, lending it its nickname, Indian Rock. Stiefel said that like many of the rocks on the North Shore, the boulder was deposited from glaciers thousands of years ago.

Anker said that there are many benefits to revitalizing the spot, which as it stands now, depreciates the value of the entire community. She noted the historical and natural value of the rock, as well as value of remediating the blighted area.

“There’s also the educational value,” she said. “I imagine a child looking at that boulder from thousands of years ago in awe.”

Dot Farrell, of Sound Beach, said she passes the rock frequently and considers herself sensitive to the historical significance it plays in the town. But she has reservations about what the acquisition of the property could mean for the town.

“Pocket parks become drug hangouts,” she said. “We don’t need another one.”

She also questioned where the money would come from to maintain the property, even if the initial purchase was made without tax dollars.

“It’s going to need ongoing upkeep and there are so many other things to spend money on,” she said. “I prefer my town didn’t take on anymore obligations that they don’t need. I want my town to be as fiscally savvy as I try to be.”

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