City seeks help in identifying ‘zombie properties’ – The Recorder (subscription)

By JOHN PURCELL

Recorder News Staff

Amsterdam residents are being asked to help identify zombie properties, so banks and absentee landlords can be held accountable for derelict buildings throughout the city.

A section was recently added to the City of Amsterdams website, http://www.AmsterdamNY.gov, for residents to submit complaints on vacant properties. The digital form can be found on the citys website by clicking on the Zombie Property Initiative link, which is located within the contact us section on the side menu.

I am hoping that people will take the time to submit properties so we can address as many of the problems as possible, Kamille Brody, building coordinator for Amsterdam, stated in an email. Who better knows our neighborhoods than the people who live there? We will use the information gathered for our local database and also forward the information to the state for further investigation.

The outreach is part of the citys grant funded effort to tackle so-called zombie properties, which are vacant and abandoned homes not maintained during the foreclosure process. In October 2016, Amsterdam was awarded $150,000 through the Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative, which the state Attorney Generals Office established with funds drawn from a settlement agreement with Morgan Stanley.

Amsterdam used the grant funds to hire Brody, an independent consultant, to serve in the position. The grant supports position for two years.

I am working to identify owners and lien holders of vacant and abandoned properties both business and residential with the intent to hold the parties accountable for the costs involved with rehabilitation, resale, or demolition on the properties, Brody said in an email.

Brody is tasked to create a more accessible database from information received.

The city engineer has a list of abandoned properties, but the new database would be easily searchable and provide more details about properties, according to Nicholas Zabawsky, of the Amsterdam Urban Renewal Agency.

The new database would also make information more readily available to departments and agencies involved with handling properties, such as building inspectors, city firefighters and the Capital Region Land Bank.

Zabawsky said the database allows Amsterdam officials to be aware of where problems are in the city.

It doesnt mean the city has the resources to deal with the problem immediately, but at least knowing what the scope and nature of the problem is a good starting point, Zabawsky said.

Mayor Michael Villa said the zombie property initiative is a method to support accountability for abandoned or derelict properties in the city.

Its another step in a very long process of trying to bring our city back up to where it needs to be, He said. Whether its housing or economic growth, its all part of the process, which is going to be a long process and a slow process to get us where we need to be.

The states Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative coincided with the passage of the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act, which State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman authored.

The new law requires banks to register any property abandoned by its owner with the state Department of Financial Services. Banks must also maintain such properties throughout the foreclosure process instead of only after the process had been completed.

We now have recourse to go after them whether it needs to be boarded up, maintained or grass cut, Villa said. It gives us a lot more leverage than weve had in the past.

Schneiderman had said banks would face significant fines for non-compliance with the new law.

Brody is also working to help homeowners who are in risk of foreclosure while identifying owners of dilapidated vacant properties.

It is also my job to identify properties that are at risk of foreclosure and those in need of serious repair, and to help those owners get in touch with agencies that may be able to help them out, Brody said in an email.

Anyone with questions about the citys zombie property initiative can email Kamille Brody at [emailprotected]

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City seeks help in identifying ‘zombie properties’ – The Recorder (subscription)

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