MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (PIX11) — The Westchester community of Mount Vernon is attacking the “zombies.” That’s the name they’ve given to houses they claim have been neglected or abandoned for years and have become a refuge for squatters and crime. The wrecking ball targeted another eyesore in the community Tuesday that was applauded by city officials.
Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard declared, “Promises made, promises kept.”
As the wrecking ball slammed into the home on Union Avenue, it removed another eyesore in the suburban community just 18 miles north of Manhattan. It was one of dozens of houses city leaders have targeted as zombie houses they consider a blight on their community.
“Most of these houses are fire damaged homes that have been neglected by homeowner and have been left vacant and abandoned for years. They have opened the door to squatters who now occupy the homes,” said Deputy Building Commissioner Dawnette McClaren-Nelson.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mount Vernon created a quality of life task force to identify neglected and abandoned home. They found 91 and held homeowners they could find accountable to make repairs or issued fines and liens on the property. The home on Union Avenue had been abandoned for 11 years, and it was the fourth to be demolished in the past two weeks.
Mayor Patterson-Howard said the property had been a problem for sometime. “We have had 648 police calls because of squatters and over seven fire scenes here,” she explained.
Some homeowners have risen to the occasion and have agreed to make renovations to improve the appearance of their property. City officials hope ridding Mount Vernon of their so-called zombie homes will uplift the image of their community.
“Because of the density of Mount Vernon, everybody sees this,” said Building Commissioner Patrick Holder. “It’s an eyesore, and when they stand around for years like that, it becomes a problem. House values drop. You have people who squat in these properties.”
The vacant home on Union Avenue was located next to a day care center and on a block of nicely appointed homes. For neighbors like Herbert Walton, who has lived across the street for 52 years, it was an eyesore he’s glad to be rid of.
“Today I am happy. The mayor took the time and energy to assemble everybody to actually get this done for us,” Walton declared with delight.
As the brick and mortar continued to topple at what once was a home, it was another eyesore that was gone. City officials say there is still a lot more work to be done. They said they are committed to transforming blight into light by removing the rest of the so-called zombie homes in an effort to polish the image of Mount Vernon.