A New York man says he left his home on Long Island to have knee surgery in Florida. However, when he returned to his West Hempstead property, there was no home to be found. Philip Williams, 69, says there was nothing left of his Long Island home except for a grassy lot. When he asked about the whereabouts of his home, the Town of West Hempstead, located on Long Island, said they had demolished it while he was away.
The New York Post reports that 69-year-old Philip Williams was shocked when he returned to his Long Island property following eight months in Florida. The man allegedly left his New York residence in December of 2014 to have a knee surgery performed in Florida. He spent the next eight months recovering in the sunny state, not realizing that his home on Long Island was being demolished.
The man says when he finally returned to West Hempstead, his home was completely missing. A grassy lot sat where his home formerly resided. However, it wasn’t just his home that was missing. Williams says that all of his personal belongings were gone as well. However, when the man approached the city about his home, he was informed that they had demolished it after numerous complaints about its state of disrepair.
The city claimed that they received numerous complaints about the home from neighbors in May of 2015. They claim that they sent letters to Williams warning him that the home must be repaired to remain on the premises. However, Williams says he never received any of these letters and that it should have been evident to the city that someone lived in the home, as all of his belongings were inside. Despite the items in the home, the city says they had no other option but to demolish the home because it posed a safety concern to other residents.
“Hempstead Town followed all proper procedures with regard to property owner notification relating to proceedings. The structure posed a danger to the public and was taken down in accordance with the law.”
However, Philip Williams disagrees. He says that the city shouldn’t just be able to demolish people’s homes and that he is suing the city for the “unjust” process.
“You don’t expect to leave and get surgery and come back to find everything gone. I’m outraged. They shouldn’t be able to do that. This was preventable. It’s unjust and a tremendous disservice to me.”
According to CBS New York, Williams claims he lost not only his home but furniture, jewelry, and personal belongings that cannot be replaced. The attorney representing the man in his case against the city, Bradley Siegel, says that the city moved much too quickly in demolishing the home and that the residence had all the signs that someone lived there.
“They went too far – this house should not have been demolished, and they went too fast. They had all the signs to know that someone was living here.”
Though the attorney claims the city moved too fast, city officials in West Hempstead say they followed procedure and that multiple registered letters were sent to the home before demolition. Williams notes that he never received the letters because he did not receive mail while he was in the hospital. However, he says that at no point did the city attempt to contact him on the phone to resolve the issue.
“Somebody could have called me, somebody could have notified me and said ‘hey listen here is what’s going on’. But the town, they took everything, it’s just gone.”
Williams did not say exactly how the city was supposed to get his contact information, as he was out of town, and he did not indicate that there was anyone in charge of the home while he was away. However, his lawyer did say that the mortgage was being paid while Williams was away and that the city could have used the bank as a point of contact.
What do you think about the city demolishing the home while the owner was away for eight months? With the first reports of disrepair coming in three months before the demolition, did the city give the man enough time to rectify the situation? Should they have attempted to locate the owner’s whereabouts before removing the home?
[Image via WLNY screenshot]