Town demolishes veteran’s house
U.S. Navy Veteran Philip Williams needed knee replacement surgery in 2014. So he journeyed to Fort Lauderdale, Florida so that a friend could assist him with the recovery. While he was gone, the Long Island town of West Hempstead, New York demolished his home, belongings and all.
“I’m angry and I’m upset. It’s just wrong on so many levels. My mortgage was up to date, my property taxes were up to date … everything was current and fine.”
In the hospital
Williams developed complications from the surgery. They affected his heart, so he had to stay in the hospital until doctors released him to travel. He was able to go home in August of 2015. But when he arrived at the place where his home once stood, it was a vacant lot.
At first he said he thought there had been a fire. When he learned the city had demolished his childhood home, he was livid.
A blight on the neighborhood
The town says it followed all the correct procedures, sending letters to the bank(s) (none of which were the bank that held Mr. Williams’ account). They sent letters to the house, which by then was obviously empty because the owner was in Florida for knee surgery. They even held a public hearing- while he was in the hospital. So they tore it down as “uninhabitable.”
Neighbors didn’t like the house and felt it was a “blight on the neighborhood.” They didn’t think anyone lived in it, so they complained to the city, who posted a bunch of stickers on the house. Since nobody was there to see the stickers, the house came down.
KOMO news reports,
“The town basically took everything from me,” said Williams, who is now staying with a friend in Florida and has only two suitcases of belongings. “The town does not have a right to take all of my property, all of my possessions.”
Williams had lived in the house since he was 6 months old. He said many of the items in the home had been in his family since he was a newborn or had sentimental value, like his late wife’s engagement ring, photos of his six children growing up and a model train set he had since he was a child. He lost all of his clothing, a bicycle he’d just purchased, dishes, silverware and other housewares.
Legal battle begins
Mr. Williams is suing the city for the loss of his home and his belongings. His attorney believes the actions of the city were un-American and totally illegal.
The moral of this story is if you have to leave for a long period of time, it’s a good idea to make some arrangements to care for your home.
There are some unanswered questions here that are raised. If he lived there since he was 6 months old, why didn’t the neighbors know him? Or did they know he lived there and just didn’t like him? In any event, this definitely was preventable.
“You see people who went through a tornado or a flood and they say they lost everything, but that’s not preventable.This was preventable. The town took my house.” Philip Williams