Sheepshead Bay ‘zombie homes’ plagued by squatters, mold, and feral cats

Used needles can be seen inside a Lake Avenue court home.
Photo by Trey Pentecost

Sheepshead Bay homeowners claim their block is plagued by three so-called “zombie houses,” derelict homes left vacant since Hurricane Sandy, which have become mold-infested blights occupied by drug addicts and packs of feral cats.

“I have noticed needles in the yard and in the houses along with make shift beds,” said Missy Haggerty, a third-generation Lake Avenue resident.

The properties located at 4, 5, and 14a Lake Ave. — part of the “courts” area of low-lying side streets between Shore Parkway and Emmons Avenue — were abandoned by one Zalman Weber after suffering sever flood damage during the 2012 super storm, and city officials have sought for years to contact him in an effort to either remediate, or demolish the dilapidated homes, according to Sheepshead Bay Councilman Chaim Deutsch.

In the meantime, his properties remain in a state of ruin. Throughout the wreckage of 5 Lake Ave., family pictures, baby’s clothes, and moldy stuffed animals remain abandoned by Weber’s former tenants, who fled from Sandy’s 90 miles-per-hour wind gusts and 14-foot storm surges nearly eight years ago, according to Haggerty.

“This is somebody’s belongings from Sandy, they up and left it. They were the renters,” Haggerty said.

And mixed in with the haunting collection of deserted household items are scores of used hypodermic needles, which squatters have discarded seemingly at random. During an Aug. 8 visit, this reporter found syringes littering the front yards, entrance ways, and floors of the abandoned homes, and piled on make-shift couches and atop soiled mattresses there.

And while locals aren’t thrilled by the prospect of heroin addicts shooting up down the block, the toxic black mold that infects the air around the forsaken zombie homes is far worse, according to Haggerty, who lives one door down from 14a Lake Ave., which is so mold infested, she avoids opening her windows.

“Let’s say I want to open my windows while I clean my house, the mold spores are airborne and will get back into my home,” said Haggerty.

Deutsch now says he’s given up trying to contact Weber, and is working with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to seal the homes at some point this month.

Officials at the city housing agency decided to seal the home at 6 Lake Ave., which is not owned by Weber, following an Aug. 8 inspection, according to a spokeswoman for the department.

The Department of Buildings will additionally deploy inspectors to conduct structural stability inspections of all four buildings to determine if they pose a hazard neighboring properties, the spokeswoman said.

Reach reporter Chandler Kidd at ckidd@schnepsmedia.com or by calling (718) 260–2525. Follow her at twitter.com/ChanAnnKidd.

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