In affluent Colts Neck, New Jersey, where dozens of homes are on the market for more than $1 million, city leaders and residents are aghast that a mansion abandoned since 2011 has become a viral sensation.
"From the sublime to the ridiculous, we have internet coverage about it, and that creates policing problems,” said Colts Neck Township Deputy Mayor Michael Fitzgerald. "It’s unfortunate. It’s a sad circumstance."
The 20,000-square-foot on Cedar Drive became a sensation in September when a videographer who goes by the name “The Unknown Cameraman” toured the vandalized mansion and posted the video on YouTube. In less than three months, it was viewed nearly 1 million times.
"This was such a weird story," the videographer, who wanted to remain anonymous, told NBC 4 New York. "If you’re familiar with the area, there are houses there for $2 million, $3 million -- and then this house was almost like a joke."
But residents aren’t laughing.
"Now you’ve got kids that would not have known about it. It’s on the radar. Without 24/7 surveillance, I don’t know what they’re going to do,” said Colts Neck resident Sandy Freeman.
But Colts Neck police have had their hands full with the mansion long before the video. Officers have responded to the property 40 times since 2011 for problems ranging from drugs to vandalism.
"We’ve had some first aid problems there as well," said Fitzgerald. "There’s also a maintenance problem, an aesthetic problem. Certainly, nobody wants a house that’s not cared for in their neighborhood regardless of where they live."
Fitzgerald said dealing with the eyesore has been a nightmare for Colts Neck. While the property has been officially declared abandoned, it’s tied up in a complex foreclosure fight.
"You kind of have to wait that out. And that could be years, literally," said Fitzgerald.
The home is still owned by David Findel, a once high-flying banker who was convicted of mortgage fraud in 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison. He’s since been released and launched an executive coaching business. Findel told NBC 4 New York that he wants to sell the property, but a legal battle over insurance payments stands in the way.