A home that's been sitting vacant on a Staten Island block three and a half years after Sandy is collapsing, and neighbors say their complaints about it have been ignored for years.
The structure has been the eyesore of Mason Avenue in Midland Beach for years, its walls cracking and roof rippling. Rats have made a home there, and it's likely mold still grows inside. Neighbors say they have had enough.
"We're desperate. We need action now," said Thea Friscia. "Look at it, it's melting. The house is melting."
Maureen Childs, who lives next door to the home, said, "The fire department told me if I hear creaks, run. They say get out of the way."
Keri Mullen, whose yard sits right behind the vacant house, says she feels punished after years of complaining to the city: Building inspectors have placed a vacate order on her backyard, saying it is too close to a potential collapse zone.
"I was told verbally that it would be a $5,000 fine if anyone is in that backyard, whether it's us or anyone coming in," she said.
Kathleen Cole, former owner of the house, told NBC 4 New York that she never intended to leave behind a vacant home, but was forced to endure a long nightmare of dealing with her insurance company, mortgage lender and the city's Sandy recovery program.
“I struggled for almost four years to do the right thing and rectify the situation,” she said. “We fought with the insurance company for over a year regarding cleanup costs and final payout.
“I had to wait months for an engineer to come on site to inspect my house.”
Cole said her family was one of the first to sign up for the NYC Build It Back Program in July 2013, but was removed from the program when she unsuccessfully tried to short-sale the property to a builder.
She eventually got back into the program with help from former Congressman Michael Grimm's office and several months later was given the choice of rebuilding or taking a state buyout. By then, the house appeared to be beyond repair, she said, adding that she took the buyout
Records show a number of complaints have been made to the Department of Buildings in the last four years: In November 2012, someone complained that parts of the house were collapsing; in July 2014, another caller told 311 that the roof was collapsing.
In December 2014, the buildings department issued an unsafe building violation but two months later, the violation was dismissed. Then, this past month, there were complaints that the walls were leaning in.
State inspectors are now checking the property, and drawing up plans for an emergency demolition. A state spokeswoman could not confirm an exact date for when the house would be taken down, but said they need time to ensure the structure can be demolished safely, and with minimal impact on neighbors.