Lackawanna Asking State to Help Enforce Zombie Property Law

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. -- Lackawanna resident Robert Fleck isn't shy about voicing his opinion about an abandoned house at 149 Kirby Avenue.     

"Look at it. It needs a lot of work," said Fleck. "It makes the property look bad, the value of the property."

Mayor Geoffrey Szymanski is on the same page.

"Throughout our winters, it's becoming more and more dilapidated and bringing down the value of all our homes around here. If you look around all of these homes around here have new roofs, they're investing in their properties and then you have this one haunted house style home over here that's really bringing down the neighborhood," said Szymanski, (D).

Szymanski says that's the impact zombie properties can have on neighborhoods. But last year, state lawmakers passed legislation to hold banks accountable for the properties caught in foreclosure limbo.      

"The law was changed to allow municipalities to hold banks accountable for the maintenance of these properties when they remain vacant throughout the foreclosure process," said Kate Lockhart, of the Western New York Law Center.

But Szymanski says not all banks are complying with the law.

"I'm calling on New York State to move forward and to help us once again to start getting these banks motivated to start doing the work that they're obligated to do. This is bringing down our neighborhood, not just Lackawanna, not just Western New York but all of New York State by having banks being absent in their obligations in what they're supposed to be doing," said Szymanski.

Under zombie property law, banks could face a $500 a day fine for non-compliance. State Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, who spearheaded the push for the law, wants to increase that fine to $1,000 a day.   

"Really, this is a starting point and we're encouraging the banks that aren't complying currently to be better actors," said Lockhart.

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