By Chris Parsick
As it remains in disrepair, a blighted house on Sheep Pasture Road in Port Jefferson has become the center of a difficult situation for the Village of Port Jefferson.
The house, located at 49 Sheep Pasture, has for years been a sore spot for surrounding residents. There have been examples of squatters and vagrants moving in and out of the home, the interior has become unsafe for entry and the surrounding property became overgrown. The building has since been boarded up, and the village takes care of the lawn.
As Port Jefferson began the process of demolishing the derelict building back in 2019, officials were informed by members of the Port Jefferson Historical Society that the house had significant historical worth. Historians estimate it could be one of the oldest buildings in the Port Jeff area, potentially dating back to the 1740s, according to the book “The Seven Hills of Port” by the late Robert Sisler and his wife Patricia. State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) also stepped in to request the house be preserved. This has left the village in an interesting dilemma.
“It’s a Catch 22,” said Trustee Kathianne Snaden, who as the liaison to code enforcement has worked with constables to look after derelict property in the village. “It’s our responsibility to do it, but not incur the cost.”
Snaden said she has been working to transfer the property to the ownership of the Town of Brookhaven now that the house is on the Historical Registry. Richard Harris, the village’s recently hired deputy attorney, is currently in the process of locating the owner.
Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
However, every day that the owner is not found is a day that the house becomes more decrepit.
“The house is in major disrepair,” Snaden said. “Somebody needs to do it and fast, because the house is deteriorating.”
The owner of the house is reportedly TAB Suffolk Acquisitions, an elusive real estate company reportedly based at 63 George St. in Roslyn Heights, according to the town. The owner has in conversations with TBR News Media reporters called himself Sam, but would not return calls after initially being approached on the phone. Officials say the company has bought multiple local properties in foreclosure sales but has not done any improvements on them afterwards.
The home is just one example of many so-called “zombie homes” on Long Island. The Town of Brookhaven has taken a unique approach to dealing with these derelict properties, having to negotiate with owners and related banks, and then if either the owner cannot be found or persons do not make required repairs in a set time, the town demolishes the structure on its own dime. A lien is then placed on the property for both the demolition and any back taxes owed.
In 2019, the village signed an agreement with Brookhaven for town workers to assist in clearing derelict property.