“Operation Take Back” cracks down on illegal housing in the Village of Mastic Beach.

Working with Suffolk County Legislator Kate Browning, Mayor Maura P. Spery gives her administration the task of eliminating illegal squatting in the Village of Mastic Beach. 

SEPTEMBER 2, 2015, VILLAGE OF MASTIC BEACH, N.Y.: Squatting in the Village of Mastic Beach has just become a whole lot harder. Using laws already on the books, Mayor Spery has empowered Public-Safety Supervisor, Pat McCall to eradicate illegal housing in the Village of Mastic Beach. Using the code name “Operation Take Back,” the Village has shut down thirteen (13) homes that were illegally occupied. 

“This is a great waterfront Village; a beautiful, warm and caring community that devious people have taken advantage,” said, Public-Safety Supervisor Pat McCall. “With the support of the Village Mayor, Board and Court, removing these transients through the eviction process has happened rather quickly and smoothly.” 

The perfect combination of situations has enticed some to occupy the area illegally. Foreclosures from predatory lending practices, the rapid increase in rents and Hurricane Sandy have given squatters the opportunity to move into empty waterfront homes across Long Island. 

“Sandy left hundreds of homes uninhabited and vulnerable across the Island. Many owners have no idea there are people living in their homes until they return and see the mess. The people feel violated and rightfully so. We cannot have this illegal behavior continue in our community. Quality-of-life in this Village is a top concern of my administration, and the Village of Mastic Beach has been quite pro-active by employing ‘Operation Take Back’,” states Mayor Spery.

“Operation Take Back” is a coordinated program spearheaded by the Village’s Department of Public Safety. Working closely with the Suffolk County Police Department, the Village program has closed down thirteen (13) illegal properties in two (2) months. The goal of “Operation Take Back” is to increase safety in the community by maintaining safe and legal housing throughout the Village of Mastic Beach.

Mr. McCall said, “The support of neighbors is crucial. Sometimes the offenders take minimal care of properties just to stay under code enforcement’s radar but the neighbors know what is going on. We want law-abiding residents to understand they are not alone in this—the Village cares about getting these squatters and illegal renters out.” He added, “If a strange family shows up in the middle of the night, call us. Let us know what is going on, we will contact the owner and end the nightmare before it begins.” 

Under New York State law, squatters are classified as tenants and receive temporary rights after living in a property for thirty (30) days. For an owner to reclaim property from a squatter once the thirty days have been established, the owner must be able to prove his/her rights to the property. Then, legal eviction proceedings can proceed, which is a long and drawn-out process. 

Deputy Mayor Bruce Summa said, “It’s best to get to the squatters out before they have been living at the property for thirty (30) days. Then the course of action is to work quickly with the property owner.  In some cases the owner is on an extended trip, in the military, or lives elsewhere because of personal or medical reasons—the owner may not even know that squatters occupy their property!”

“Suffolk County continues to feel the negative impacts from the 2008 housing crisis, which left in its wake a tremendous amount of foreclosures,” stated Legislator Kate Browning. “In addition, Hurricane Sandy also caused many homes to become vacant throughout our South Shore communities. Whether privately owned or bank-owned, I have been very successful in ridding squatters from these dwellings through the standard eviction process. However, working in conjunction with property owners, the Suffolk County Police Department and the Village of Mastic Beach, this costly and lengthy process can be avoided by enforcing the 30 day rule, or submitting No Trespassing Affidavits to our police department before squatters settle into a home. Through these partnerships, we have effectively prevented dozens of homes from becoming future problems, and will continue to do so until the housing crisis is eliminated.” stated, Legislator Browning.

“If you intend to live illegally in an abandoned home, don’t do it within the Village limits. It is a privilege to live in this village—and you have to do it legally,” said Mayor Spery.