Absentee landlords John and Theresa Muzio denied East Williston Village inspectors access to their 8 Sumter Ave. house for a second time on Friday, Jan. 31. The uninhabited and neglected property has been the subject of controversy and public criticism, resulting in numerous hearings and court proceedings, but rarely have the Muzios themselves appeared.
East Williston contractor J. Galvin Construction arrived at 2 p.m. to survey the property for demolition. The village had been granted demolition rights by a February 2012 court order, and the plan was approved by the village board in October last year. A survey is required prior to demolition, East Williston officials said.
At first, the owners questioned the validity of the court order. “You’re all going to be sued,” Theresa yelled at the inspectors. “You know that, right?”
The surveying crew called Nassau County Police to Sumter Avenue at 2:15 p.m.
“There’s nothing for them to look at,” said Theresa, demanding to see a warrant to enter the premises. “We need to know what [East Williston is] looking for. This is harassment.”
The officer patiently told the couple, “I’m just the middle man. I know this is an ongoing thing and I’ve been here in the past.”
When police presented the Muzios with a freshly validated court order, the couple still refused J. Galvin’s entry. “This is the second time this order has been violated,” the officer said to the Muzios, explaining they could face additional penalties. “If you don’t want to allow them in, that’s your decision. The next time, [East Williston] is just going to get a contempt order from the court.”
The East Williston Planning Board denied Mineola-based BNL Construction subdivision approval to build two houses on the property last September by a 4-1 margin, which would have led to a sizable payday for the Muzios. BNL at the time estimated two homes would’ve each fetched a $950,000 asking price. “This has been going on too long,” Theresa stated. “We haven’t been able to go forward on anything.”
The board held numerous hearings for concerned East Williston residents. BNL would have needed to pay an estimated $200,000 in outstanding tax liens on the property if a deal was struck.
“The village didn’t let us do what was needed,” Theresa said of the BNL deal.
Homeowners on Sumter Avenue had previously expressed concern about the condition of the property at village meetings, citing broken windows, overgrown weeds, raccoons, rats and more.
“I don’t think that man should be rewarded for being such a horrible neighbor,” Lenore Carella of Sumter Avenue said at a recent meeting. “It’s not fair. He’s been a blight. He hasn’t cared about anything on his property.”
In late January, the Muzios filed an order in Nassau County Supreme Court to stop East Williston from demolishing the home. Deputy Mayor Bonnie Parente hoped for a finding of contempt, but said the court hearing was postponed.
“We’re hopeful that Mr. Muzio will be held in contempt,” Parente stated. “We’ve always been open and reasonable in allowing the Muzios to give us alternatives. They have not at this point.”
After the contractor inspects the house, the Muzios would receive a demolition date. Officials said the Muzios would have 30 days to remove any personal property.
“You have the right to be secure in your own home,” John said. “What did we do wrong? They have no probable cause.”