NHP suspected squatters ordered to evict, remain in home

NHP suspected squatters ordered to evict, remain in home
The formerly abandoned house on Brussel Drive in New Hyde Park that neighbors say is occupied by squatters. (Photo courtesy of Jerry Jacobs)

After months of neighborhood squabbles, pleas to the Town of North Hempstead and a civil lawsuit, the residents of a New Hyde Park neighborhood were able to get the courts to side with them and vacate their suspected squatter neighbors.

But with delays in the eviction process, the suspected squatters remain in the home. Residents say they may have won this battle, but are still in the midst of the war to kick them out of the neighborhood.

“They picked the wrong neighborhood to pull their antics,” neighbor Al Moline said.

The individuals, 19-year-old Margaret Grover and 29-year-old Denton Gayle, moved into the Brussel Drive home in August with their baby and dog. The couple drives a Porsche Cayenne with a Pennsylvania license plate.

Neighbor Jerry Jacob said police were alerted to the living conditions at the foreclosed home occupied by the family and investigated the dwelling in October. This is when they discovered the home had no electricity, hot water or plumbing, Jacob said, which led to the arrest of the two individuals.

Both of the suspected squatters were charged with endangering the welfare of a child and pleaded not guilty.

In addition to the child endangerment charges, Gayle was charged with second-degree obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest.

In October, the Town of North Hempstead Building Department determined the home had failed its inspection and was unlivable without working bathrooms.

The couple presented in court a lease for the home at 39 Brussel Drive after they were arrested and removed from the home in October. They claimed they had been illegally locked out of the home by the landlord Edward Iacono.

The couple submitted a two-year lease to the court from Iacono on June 1, declaring they were renting the property for $1,500 a month. It also included a rent-to-own provision.

Iacono did own the home, but he has been dead since 2016 and the house was foreclosed in 2013.

In December, Nassau County District Judge Christopher Coschignano granted them occupancy of the home on the grounds that the landlord was not alive and therefore could not sign a lease with the couple nor illegally lock them out.

Nevertheless, neighbors who have had some confrontations with the couple were not convinced the lease was valid, challenging their court-granted occupancy in a lawsuit.

On March 6, the judge reversed his original order granting them occupancy of the home and ordered the squatters to be evicted.

Grover and Gayle have appealed the judge’s eviction order, claiming there is no legal standing for their eviction, the New York Post reported.

While the court ordered their immediate eviction, Moline said the warrant of eviction has not been provided to police and therefore they are unable to evict the squatters yet.

“It’s frustrating because nobody has the piece of paper that says ‘here you go, sheriff, go in there and do your job,’” Moline said.

The town said it is giving the bank 90 days to finish the foreclosure. If not done, they said they will take over the property using the state’s Zombie law, which permits municipalities to inspect, secure and maintain vacant and abandoned properties.

The town said it would also pay for the commercial movers and 30 days of storage required for the eviction. This is a necessary requirement before police can move forward with an eviction.

“Right now, the Town of North Hempstead is the only entity being proactive,” town spokesperson Umberto Mignardi said. “To that end, we’re demanding an expedited foreclosure and in fact, have already filed a petition and commenced a proceeding in Nassau County Supreme Court.”

The town’s petition dated March 14 asks for the bank to move forward in the foreclosure and complete it within three months.

For months the residents of Brussel Drive have been living with the suspected squatters who they say created an unsafe environment, putting the neighborhood on edge.

“We lose sleep over this because now we’re so nervous, we’re so scared, especially for our kids,” Jacob said after several run-ins between the unwanted newcomers and residents.

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