The city said it will tear down a delapidated 79th Street home its neighbors have nicknamed the raccoon house because it has become an unwelcome shelter for squatters and a menagerie of unwanted critters.
Maryanne Gouras, who lives next door to the abandoned house between Third Avenue and Ridge Boulevard, said the crumbling structure has put her home in constant jeopardy.
“There’s no roof and the floors have caved in, so when there’s a severe downpour, the water comes in throught the cracks in my cellar,” Gouras said. “I still have mosquitoes like you wouldn’t believe.”
Residents say their problems began in the 1990s, when raccoon house owner Frank Landy split with his wife. Landy refused to sell the property because he did not want his ex-wife getting half. He then vanished, leaving his house to rot, Gouras said.
The building lay fallow for nearly two decades, until Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) contacted the city’s Department of Buildings in June after noticing that one of the walls was bulging. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development were called in to investigate, declaring the house structurally unstable. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development will demolish the building in the next few months — with the bill going to Landy, an agency spokesman said.
Gentile said it took a military-style operation to track Landy down.
After receiving repeated complaints about the home, Gentile sent several letters to Landy’s last known address — all of which came back marked “return to sender,” the legislator said.
Yet Gentile learned that Landy worked for the United States Postal Service and found out that he worked the midnight shift at a borough postal facility.
Gentile and Community Board 10 member Brian Kieran went to the processing station, hoping to catch Landy clocking in — but then realized that neither of them knew what Landy looked like.
Landy managed to elude them, but they left a note for the man with his supervisor. Several days later, the Councilman received a call from his quarry.
“I think that’s the first time in 15 years or so anyone’s discussed with Mr. Landy about this property,” Gentile said.
The Councilman said he and Landy discussed donating the property to needy Bay Ridge veterans, an option the absentee homeowner thought would help his image on 79th Street.
“He agreed his name is not held in high esteem in Bay Ridge, especially on this block,” Gentile said.
But Landy fell off the grid again before he could sign the property over. Gentile said Landy has no home phone or cellphone, and only makes calls from his job.
“He’s sort of a recluse and this is why we had this problem in the first place,” he said.
Gouras said she can’t wait for the bulldozer to come — and says she would rather live next to a vacant lot than Landy’s monstrosity.
“An empty lot is a lot better than what I have now, looking at this eyesore,” said Gouras.