Zombie homes targeted by town

Ticonderoga has a state grant to start cleaning up vacant properties


Originally appeared in the Sun Community News on November 17, 2016

TICONDEROGA – A state grant will help Ticonderoga clean up numerous vacant and abandoned properties in the town.

At one time, Ticonderoga Town Supervisor Joseph Giordana said they’d identified 60 zombie properties.

“We want to reduce the number of abandoned and vacant properties,” Giordano said. “Maybe we can find some way to help people fix up their properties.”

Now the town has a state grant for $75,000 to help deal with the problems of vacant and abandoned properties and to help families who can’t afford mortgage payments or taxes avoid foreclosure.

Ticonderoga was one of 76 cities and towns across the state to receive the funds from the new “Zombie Remediation and Prevention Initiative” from the state attorney general’s office.

The town was the smallest municipality in population to receive a grant from the new Local Initiative Support Corp. program.

The money was part of the larger financial settlement agreement with Morgan Stanley, stemming from its allegedly offensive mortgage practices during the national financial crisis.

Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance Co-Director Lance Clark was instrumental in getting the grant.

“Like many small towns in upstate New York, Ticonderoga is plagued with many derelict and abandoned buildings, with many linked to the national mortgage foreclosure crisis of recent years,” he said. “These properties can create problems such as health, safety, use of the vacant properties for drugs and alcohol use, fire risks, and so on, and they seriously hurt efforts to attract new businesses and residents. Of special concern are so-called ‘zombie homes,’ vacant and abandoned properties that are not maintained during prolonged foreclosure proceedings.”

He said the new grant will provide funds to:

– Increase foreclosure preventive actions, such as counseling services and providing legal advice to persons and families at risk of foreclosure, and to launch a community outreach effort to let people know more about these services.

– Strengthen the computer database software and working tools of the Town Code Enforcement Office.

– Increase the capacity of the Town Code Enforcement Office, Town Attorney and others to enforce relevant code actions, including bringing cases to Town Court.

– Increase the town’s ability to enforce important new state laws, including the Abandoned Property Neighborhood Relief Act, which goes into effect in January 2017, requiring mortgage companies to secure and maintain abandoned properties during the foreclosure process.

– Explore relevant new policies and mechanisms, such as how the town might better be able to recover its expenditures on cleaning up derelict buildings.

Clark said the Elizabethtown-based Housing Assistance Program of Essex County helped with development and writing of the successful funding proposal. He said the Housing Assistance Program will assist with counseling and other foreclosure prevention actions, and Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance with community outreach and other implementation and reporting.

Giordano said he was very happy the town got the grant money.

“Where folks take pride in their properties, towns flourish,” he said. “In Ticonderoga, the number of vacant and abandoned properties is alarming. However, through this grant award and the partnership with the Ticonderoga Revitalization Alliance and the Housing Assistance Program, the town will strengthen its capacities and implement new processes to help remedy this issue.”