STORY AND PHOTOS BY CHERYL SLAVIN
As glass shattered and wallboard disintegrated into white puffs of dust, Stony Point began the final chapter last Thursday of the almost two year saga that began when Hurricane Sandy blew through the town and wreaked havoc on the waterfront. Demolition began at 39 Beach Road, one of nine houses designated by the town building inspector as sustaining too much damage to be repaired without conforming to new FEMA standards. That requirement has proved too costly for many homeowners to bear.
For almost a year the Town Board has engaged in the process leading up to the actual demolition. After receiving numerous complaints from waterfront residents about the damaged and abandoned houses, the board determined that it had the authority to raze the eyesores itself and cover the cost of doing so by placing a lien on the property.
The board sent notices to all the property owners and opened a public hearing, which ultimately lasted four months, to address the issue. Almost every individual property owner did ultimately either contact the board or attend a town meeting, and some eventually began repairs or demolition on their own. Nine structures, however, remained unattended and the Board finally moved forward to take them down.
The property of 39 Beach Road, where the first structure was removed, is owned by Wells Fargo Bank. Deputy Supervisor Jim McDonnell, who arrived to watch the proceedings, explained that the previous owners simply could not afford to make the necessary repairs; they eventually took the loss and relocated elsewhere in Stony Point.
According to Town Supervisor Geoff Finn, who also stopped by to witness the work, it was easiest to start with the bank owned properties, especially as Wells Fargo did not respond to repeated official communications. Turn-off requests have since been placed for five other properties—four houses and a trailer—all located along the waterfront. Finn reported that the repair or demolition of the two remaining houses on the town’s original list of nine will be handled privately by their owners.
As the backhoe operated by Environmental Construction Inc. began to bite away the walls and expose interior decorating, wires and beams, both men noted that this was a sad but necessary turn of events. The unattended structures had become more than just eyesores—they were dangerous as well, incubating pests, rodents, mold and mildew. Teenagers also had begun to enter the unstable buildings, heightening the danger of injury from exposed parts or collapse.
A number of homeowners had argued that their houses could be saved, but ultimately took no action.
“It’s always unfortunate when someone has to lose a home,” Finn said. “But even now Stony Point is rebuilding, and we’re coming back stronger and better than ever.”