Extreme ‘zombie’ property baffles neighbors, city officials

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – West Northrup Place is a one block dead end street in Buffalo’s University Heights neighborhood, where neighbors know each other, and they keep their properties ship shape.

But there is a ramshackle property so rundown it is the first thing a visitor might notice, even though it is far down in the middle of the block. The vacant property is known as a “zombie” home because it really is not a home, it has no one giving it life.

Neighbors call it an eyesore, and the mortgage has changed hands several times, which Mickey Vertino, president of the University Heights Collaborative said, makes it is nearly impossible for city officials to take action.

“We just want to find out who is responsible for it, get it cleaned up, or get it on the market–get us the ability to rehab it, fix it up, and put a family in here–and improve the quality of life in this neighborhood.”

Actually, city officials indicate the owner has been to prison and has no means of paying back taxes, which have resulted in thousands of dollars in liens attached to the property.

Jim Steinwachs, lives two doors away from the zombie home, and is frustrated with all the red tape, “The main problem is the owner on record is this guy that is out in the wind, he is gone. They finally found him, but there is nothing they can do until they go through the motions of getting this guy out of the picture.”

Neighbors are especially incensed because the house seems to be in good shape, considering it has been vacant for years, and there is actually interest in buying it.

At the very least, folks like Darren Cotton would like for the city to cut the grass, but city officials say their “Cut and Clean” crews are all backed up with other properties in need.

“This is a stable neighborhood. You look at the houses around here and some of them are selling for over $100,000. So to just let this sit here and rot and be vacant is just a missed opportunity.”

News 4 has learned the bank just ripped up the mortgage to 31 West Northrup Place, and let the owner have it, “free-and-clear”, but with back taxes and liens amounting to nearly $100,000, the property really is not free-and-clear.

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