A mysterious abandoned house on 79th Street has become a hot topic for speculative treasure hunters — but for the family next door, it is a neglected menace.
The shack in question, located between Third Avenue and Ridge Boulevard, hasn’t housed anyone (at least any humans) for a decade or more. It is an uninhabitable mess of wood and nails, a blistering sore on the beautiful tree-lined block — and Mecca for curiosity seekers looking for the Bay Ridge version of “Flip My House.”
“Everyday in the summer,” said Maryanne Gouras, whose house connects to the troubled structure, “someone will ring the bell to ask me if I know who the owner of that house is.”
Gouras says they are all looking for a steal by taking the shambled shack off the owner’s hands, and then turning it around for a quick profit.
But for Gouras, enthused opportunists knocking at the door is the least of her problems; the dilapidation of the structure is causing serious damage to her own house.
“It has deteriorated to such an extent that when it rains, the water comes in through its roof, down to its basement, and through the connecting wall into our basement (our house’s foundation),” the family wrote in a letter to the city.
The offending building has been dubbed “Raccoon House” by locals because, as a 13-year-old neighbor pointed out, “It is kind of like the headquarters for all the raccoons in Bay Ridge.”
Like most things Brooklyn, it has an eclectic history.
The drama dates back to 1981, when a former prosecutor sold the house to Frank Landy and his bride. But the newliweds had barely finished unpacking before they started to become problem neighbors, according to Gouras. “We could hear the screaming at all hours of the night,” said Gouras. “Then they just divorced and moved out.”
The divorced duo did more than move out; they refused to sell or rent the property, and over the next two years as their visits grew fewer, the house began to suffer. Eventually, the structure was simply abandoned.
The last time Gouras saw Frank Landry, about 15 years ago, she asked him what his plans with the house were — and she learned that hell hath no fury like a man scorned.
“He said that he can’t sell the house, because then his ex-wife would get half,” Gouras said. “He doesn’t want her to get anything, so the house just rots.”
The Gouras family tried to maintain the yard, but by 2000, when the roof collapsed and the water damage began, they contacted local pols. Gouras called state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge), Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) and city officials “at least 100 times” in hopes that someone could do something — but no one would help.
And they prayed for drought.
“The foundation of our house just keeps getting warped and there is nothing we can do,” Gouras said. “I don’t know how in this day and age, someone is allowed to just damage our property, and no one will stop them.”
In 2002, the Gouras family thought they may have finally gotten a break, when Golden sent a letter to the Department of Buildings requesting that they take a look into the situation, but the inspector miraculously cleared the “Raccoon House.”
“As requested, an inspector was sent to 237 79th St.,” said agency spokesman Kenneth Lazzar. “The inspector reported that no action was necessary based upon his physical observation.”
But all that changed when The Stoop started asking about the haunted house. Within an hour of our call, Building Inspector Vasil Capito showed up and wrote several tickets.
“All I can do is write violations,” Capito said. “I am going to write a lot of violations for everything from the roof to the cracks in the structure.”
The real story about Raccoon House — one of neighborly neglect and bureaucratic wheel-spinning — hasn’t gotten in the way of a neighborhood legend that kids on the block insist is true.
The local kids tell the same story: in a jealous rage, the husband tried to burn the house down, but failed, before settling for the murder-suicide option.
“The owners died in a violent way,” the 13-year-old neighbor said. “The house is haunted by the husband’s spirit, who will never allow it to be sold. You can just feel that something lives there; that something evil lives in that house.”
Perhaps, but reports of Frank Landy’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
In fact, the 54-year-old still pays property taxes on the building, though city records show that he stopped paying his water bill years ago.
The water was cut off. But the rain still bothers Landy’s neighbors.
©2007 Community News Group
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