May 28, 2013 2:58 PMBy Carol Moran Westhampton Beach Village officials are seeking permission to tear down former Suffolk County Legislator George Guldi’s Griffing Avenue home, which has been boarded up since a fire gutted it in 2008.
Village Attorney Richard Haefeli said this week that the house now poses a danger, but Mr. Guldi’s circumstances—he has been incarcerated since 2011—have stalled its demolition.
Mr. Guldi was convicted of insurance fraud and grand larceny after misusing the $853,000 in insurance funds he received to rebuild his family home. He was later convicted of grand larceny and mortgage fraud related to his involvement in an unrelated mortgage fraud ring that targeted dozens of homes on the East End.
Mr. Guldi, a Democrat who represented the South Fork from 1993 until 2003, is in the middle of serving four-to-12-year prison sentence for his crimes.
Mr. Haefeli said he sent a letter to Mr. Guldi at the Marcy Correctional Facility in Marcy, New York, where he is incarcerated, earlier this month asking permission to demolish the home, but he has yet to receive a response. If Mr. Guldi agrees, the Village Board can move forward by scheduling a public hearing during which experts would need to testify that the home is hazardous. Village officials could then put the demolition out to bid, have the house torn down and tack the costs onto Mr. Guldi’s tax bill.
If Mr. Guldi does not agree to demolish the home, Mr. Haefeli said he will take him to State Supreme Court. Such action would require that a legal guardian be appointed to represent the incarcerated former legislator.
Village Building and Zoning Administrator Paul Houlihan said Mr. Guldi received a demolition permit in 2009, but no action was ever taken.
“I don’t think he’s arguing that the building shouldn’t be torn down,” he added, referring to Mr. Guldi. “He just didn’t have the means to get rid of it at the time.”
The house, which dates back 150 years, has been in Mr. Guldi’s family for three generations. His father, Walter, bought it in 1947 and converted it from a barn into a home.
Mr. Houlihan said he does not believe that the house is in danger of collapsing, but agreed that it is an “unattractive nuisance” and beyond repair after being exposed to the elements for four years. It caught fire accidentally in 2008, according to investigators at the time, while the former legislator and his family were away. Little has been done with the structure and its garage since the fire, and both buildings still appear charred and deteriorated, with holes in the roofs and walls.
Bank of America, the mortgage lender, has yet to foreclose on the home, Mr. Haefeli said, but has renewed a notice of pendency, which asserts its right to collect its mortgage debt if the property is sold, making that action very difficult.
Officials from the bank did not immediately return a call and email seeking comment.
Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller said village residents have complained in the past that the building is an eyesore.
“I agree with them,” he said. “It’s a very nice street. It’s an upscale neighborhood, and nobody likes an eyesore.”