MIDLAND BEACH — Homes left damaged by Hurricane Sandy are being taken over by squatters, Staten Island residents have complained.
People living in storm-affected neighborhoods of New Dorp Beach and Midland Beach have told local civic groups and community boards that squatters are shacking up in homes that were standing empty.
“People are moving into these houses that have been left vacant and taking occupancy of them,” said Community Board 3 member Jerry Goldman during a meeting Tuesday night.
“I never even thought of this. This is the insanity that’s going on.”
Residents said that squatters look for homes that have had recent repairs and have been re-hooked to electricity supplies. They break in and start living there.
To make it harder to evict them, some have started to send mail to themselves in the homes they're squatting in, said Dee Vandenburg, president of the Staten Island Taxpayers Association.
“They’re sending themselves mail to prove that they live there,” she said. “We’re making everybody aware of it so they keep their eyes open.”
Yasmin Ammirato, president of the Midland Beach Civic Association, said that several residents have found squatters in their properties, or have seen people looking around the homes for ways to get in.
She said as the weather gets warmer, the threat grows because the squatters won't need heat to live in the houses.
"For homes that have not been fixed and have no heat or hot water, the issue is greater because once the hot weather comes, there is no need for any services," she said.
Anthony Gambino, who lives on Wavecrest Avenue in New Dorp Beach, said that last month he chased two squatters out of a neighbor's house with a baseball bat.
He said the residents looked like they may have been using drugs in the house. He heard about them from an elderly neighbor who lived next door to the squat.
“I wasn’t comfortable with that,” he said about the squatters. “I took charge, and a lot of the neighbors appreciated it.”
He said the locks to the door and windows were broken in the house, leaving it still vulnerable to future squatters.
“The landlord or somebody has to come and board it up,” he said.
Out of 17 houses on his small beach block, he estimated only about six or seven families still live in the area.
Ammirato said they have reached out to police to keep on the lookout for squatters, but urged homeowners to check up on the property themselves.
"We have alerted our membership to please keep tabs on your property," she said. "It's only a matter of time when the heavy police presence will be gone."