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Berland wants to tackle Huntington Town's vacant buildings

By: 
By Rohma Abbas
Publication: 
Northshoreoflongisland.com
Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland. File photo by Rohma Abbas
May
4
2014

In a stated effort to increase public safety, Huntington Town Councilwoman Susan Berland is sponsoring legislation that would mandate owners of vacant buildings to register their properties with the town.
Berland is sponsoring legislation that will be up for a public hearing at a town board meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

The legislation would require owners of buildings, dwellings and structures that are vacant for more than 120 days to register those properties with the town's Department of Public Safety.

Berland said the purpose of the legislation is twofold: to create a registry to share with fire departments, enabling emergency responders to use the information before running into a burning building; and to get in touch with a property owner if the neighborhood runs into issues with a vacant property.

"The idea is to have these properties registered so that if people don't keep them up properly, we have easy access to reach them in that case and it helps the neighborhood," Berland said.

Registration would include providing the street address and parcel number of each vacant building, the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all owners "and any other information deemed necessary by the Department of Public Safety," according to the law.

The law would mandate annual registration and the fee to register a vacant building would be $250.

Failure to register a vacant building could result in a fine ranging from $1,000 to $15,000 for each failure to register, according to the law.

Berland said she was first inspired to propose the law after recently hearing about a Huntington Station fire at a vacant building.

"It came to my attention it becomes a dangerous situation for firemen and first responders because they're coming to a house and the assumption is [there are people] living in the house," she said.

Berland said her proposed legislation is "another faction" of the town's anti-blight legislation, which the councilwoman also spearheaded. That legislation "assigns a point system to various types of blights, fines the property owner if the blight is not removed and places the property owner on a public 'blight registry' until the property is clean and code compliant,'" according to the town's website.

When reached by phone this week, Huntington Manor Fire Department Chief Fred Steenson Jr. spoke in support of Berland's proposed legislation. He said it would help first responders "size up" a fire.

"It's only going to benefit us," he said.

The public hearing on the proposed legislation is set for 2 pm on Tuesday at Town Hall.