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Aug 20, 2014 9:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Former County Legislator Blocks Demolition Of Westhampton Beach Home From Prison

Aug 20, 2014 10:20 AM

Residents of Griffing Avenue in Westhampton Beach are tired of looking at the charred and boarded-up home that has sat vacant on their street for nearly six years.

Citing health, safety and property value concerns, as well as expressing general discontent for the home’s appearance, residents are clamoring for the village to expedite efforts to demolish the home of former Suffolk County Legislator and convicted felon George Guldi.

Suffolk County Supreme Court Justice Arthur Pitts granted the village permission to demolish the house in February, but those efforts, to date, have been stymied by the former lawmaker and attorney, who is appealing that ruling from jail.

Griffing Avenue resident Darelyn Olsen described the village’s handling of the house, which caught fire in November 2008 and has been in foreclosure since 2010, as “outrageous,” “insulting” and “disrespectful” to those living near the home.

“The fact that the village has done nothing about this is unconscionable,” Ms. Olsen said inside her home on Tuesday morning. “There are people who live here and have to deal with this every day. He’s in jail for fraud—why does he have more rights than us?”

Mr. Guldi, who represented the South Fork in Hauppauge from 1993 to 2003, was convicted of first- and second-degree grand larceny and third-degree insurance fraud, all felonies, in 2011 for his involvement in a multimillion-dollar mortgage fraud scheme that targeted dozens of homes on the East End from 2002 to 2009. In 2011, he was sentenced to four to 12 years in jail, a term which he currently is serving in the Marcy Correctional Facility in Oneida County.

His home, which was mortgaged at $1.4 million in 2007, caught fire in 2008, causing substantial damage to the exterior of the house, including multiple gaping holes in the roof. It has been boarded up ever since.

Griffing Avenue resident Diana Waldron, speaking on behalf of a group of her neighbors, raised the issue of the Guldi house to the Village Board during its monthly meeting on August 7. Ms. Waldron questioned why it has taken so long to take down the house.

“I know you have plans to raze it, but we’re approaching almost six years,” Ms. Waldron said. “Forget the eyesore that it is—I think it’s a danger. It’s falling apart, and I would just like a status on why it’s taking so long and what the action plan is.”

Westhampton Beach Mayor Maria Moore explained that although the village was granted the authority to demolish the house earlier this year, those efforts have been held up by a motion filed by Mr. Guldi shortly after Judge Pitts issued his decision.

Mr. Guldi, who was a lawyer prior to being disbarred following his felony conviction, filed a motion for an appeal, claiming that he was not properly notified of the hearing about the future of his house and, therefore, could not make the necessary arrangements to protest. Although the house has been in foreclosure since 2010, the loan holder, Bank of New York Mellon, has not finished its foreclosure action and, as a result, the title for the house remains in Mr. Guldi’s name.

Mr. Guldi is scheduled to have a parole hearing in October and is eligible for release on February 12, 2015.

Since September 2013, Westhampton Beach has paid former village attorney Richard Haefeli $11,476.96 to handle litigation related to the house, although the village maintains that all of those costs—including demolition and legal fees—will be tacked on to Mr. Guldi’s tax bill. When reached by phone this week, Mr. Haefeli said the village’s hands are tied until a ruling is made regarding Mr. Guldi’s motion.

Asbestos also must be removed from parts of the building before demolition can take place, something that also is held up until the litigation is resolved, Ms. Moore said. When questioned during the board’s meeting, the mayor declined to give an estimated timetable for the demolition.

“We can’t say how long the judge will take to decide the motions that are pending,” she said.

Neighbors were not happy to learn the news.

“If you lived on that block, you would have lost your patience by this point,” Ms. Waldron retorted. “I come on behalf of all my neighbors, because I happen to be available [tonight]. It’s just disgraceful. So, duly noted, and, hopefully, there will be an action plan and this won’t go on for another two or three years.”

Ms. Olsen, a Florida resident who purchased her home on Griffing Avenue in 2008 and has spent the past six summers in Westhampton Beach, said she has seen feral cats being fed on the porch, and doors to the home are left unlocked. The area reeks of urine, she said, adding that she is concerned about squatters occupying the home, a notion echoed by other neighbors.

The dilapidated, century-old colonial has become such a defining characteristic of the neighborhood, Ms. Olsen said, that even her 4-year-old granddaughter, Chloè, has come to recognize it as “the broken house.” Ms. Olsen argued that the building is hazard to curious children who might venture into it.

“That nothing has happened yet is a miracle,” she said.

Fellow Griffing Avenue resident William Price concurred that the site is a hazard to animals and children. Mr. Price, who estimates that he has owned his home for more than 25 years and has been living there full time for at least the past three years, said he voted for Ms. Moore for mayor in June based on the understanding that the Guldi home would be removed from his street in speedy fashion.

“It’s absolutely disgraceful,” he said. “As a resident of Griffing Avenue, I view it as a risk to public safety, a target for crime and an eyesore.”

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Aug 24, 14 8:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
Run for office, Chief.
By But I'm a blank! (1283), Hampton Bays on Aug 24, 14 1:49 PM
But not, presumably, fitting for those higher up the food chain who commited billion-dollar mortgage frauds? Or the tens of thousands of Realtors and mortgage brokers who also participated in inflated assessments for sales to under-qualified buyers who could not possibly afford what they were buying?
By Funbeer (273), Southampton on Aug 24, 14 1:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Those were a small portion of the market.

The actual cause of the mortgage bubble was Alan "I found a flaw" Greenspan. After keeping rates historically low, and from his position as "The Maestro" he touted that an ARM is something every homeowner should have. If you want the cause of the mortgage bubble, look no further than the mad printer himself. He raised rates SIXTEEN times in less than three years, doubling, tripling, and in rare cases quadrupling people's previously affordable ...more
Aug 24, 14 3:32 PM appended by Mr. Z
You can also tack on a complete lack of regulation of the derivatives market, and the fact that insurance sold on Collateralized Debt Obligations was completely uncapitalized. It is unlawful for car, or home insurers to be uncapitalized. However, AIG had no problem running what amounted to a Ponzi scheme.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 24, 14 3:32 PM
1 member liked this comment
Prices rose, because CAPITAL was available. The supply of capital was available (massive money printing), and people possessed it (demand). PERIOD.

If you research the history of M2, you will understand. The capital was made available by Greenspan. The interest rates were lowered, and raised by Greenspan.

You can sit there and blame the People, or you can blame the leaders they were given an asinine basis in reason to trust them in the first place. The problem was is that ...more
Aug 24, 14 5:15 PM appended by Mr. Z
It was not only a perfect storm, it was a perfect storm which has been repeated over half a dozen times in the last two centuries.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 24, 14 5:15 PM
"The History of Greed", by David E.Y. Sarna
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 24, 14 5:38 PM
CRA mortgages were less than six percent of the bubble tally. Their impact was negligible.

By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 25, 14 5:24 PM
Without the CDO market, and falsified AAA securities (legalized gambling on the "American Dream") there would have been a lot of foreclosures to be sure, but the result would not have been so systemic. Without the enablers who created Vegas style casino gambling, insured and uncapitalized, the systemic shock would not have occurred.

Brooksly Born called the trainwreck back in 1998 and was blackballed for it. Had she been listened to, we would not be having this conversation...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 26, 14 12:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
It was government policy to bring home ownership to more people. Both parties. "Better living(and poll number for politicians) thru debt."
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Aug 24, 14 2:58 PM
The mortgage bubble existed in the commercial market as well. Last time I checked, the CRA had no place in said market. Less than 6% of the mortgages which were part of the bubble were created due to the CRA. Idiotic, and unfounded talking points garner votes as well...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 24, 14 3:28 PM
That one photo with the blooming flower in the foreground is very artistic -- don't know whether that was intentional or not.
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 24, 14 9:04 PM
This one:
By Frank Wheeler (1826), Northampton on Aug 24, 14 9:05 PM
You reap what you sew. If his parole is denied which i hope it is , especially after ripping people off millions of dollars, he' probably do his last years in prison. So that means that maybe that eyesore will stand till then unless his appeal is denied, also that the residents would have look at that rodent infested, very unsafe shack for another six years if nothing is done very soon. TEAR IT DOWN!!!!!!
By bobbybud (1), Quogue on Aug 25, 14 6:06 AM
The bubble burst because greedy fools VOLUNTARILY took on more debt than they could handle, period!!! Caveat emptor!!!! I am sick and tired of the left blaming the banks , brokers and everyone else under the sun except the borrowers who signed on the dotted line, but as we all know, personable responsibility to a liberal is like Holy Water to a vampire.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Aug 25, 14 6:26 PM
1 member liked this comment
And you obviously know next to nothing about "The Great Recession". The vast majority DID NOT TAKE ON MORE DEBT THAN THEY COULD HANDLE. That is an obtuse, unfounded, and absolute BULL**** talking point.

False promises of refinance, betrayal of the public's trust, and FRAUD were the hallmarks of securitization, CDO tranches, and UNCAPITALIZED insurance policies on derivatives (legalized GAMBLING on the "American Dream") made it possible.

Despicable, and PROSECUTABLE. But, show ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 25, 14 11:41 PM
Phil: As I stated before, the borrowers VOLUNTARILY took out mortgages that they could not pay back, interest only , borrowing 100% of the homes' value and ARMs were products offered and some fools gambled and lost. No one is to blame except the ones who signed a legal contract and then defaulted.
Z, if the mortgage payments kept coming in , as promised by the borrowers, would the bubble have burst in the same fashion, doubtful.
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Aug 26, 14 6:21 AM
I'm with bigfresh. While the banks and lenders were certainly not playing nice, one must place heavy blame on the people who signed the contracts.

If you don't understand what a variable ARM is, if you can't decide if a home is worth what you are paying for, if you can't afford more than 5% down, you SHOULD NOT be buying a home.

Granted, a lot of these people were "convinced" by the banks that it was a good idea, but I'm sorry there are too many people in this country who ...more
By Nature (2966), Southampton on Aug 26, 14 9:03 AM
Nope, you still don't get it.

Anyone who defaulted on a mortgage would have only burned the bank which made the loan. Thanks to securitization, lenders did not have to take responsibility for a 10, 15, 20, or even 30 year note. By the way, the advent of a thirty year note should tell you something.

The financial sector's lack of fiscal RESPONSIBILITY by pawning mortgages off to other institutions was not only reckless, but irresponsible.

Securitization is, was, and has ...more
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 26, 14 8:30 PM
I have a question: Could the rest of the world turn on the US in similar fashion as happened to Bear Stearns? Will the US be "the biggest short" of them all one day?
By Duckbornandraised (184), Eastport on Aug 27, 14 1:37 AM
2 members liked this comment