Irondequoit Must Turn Over “Zombie” Home Records, Judge Rules
July 22, 2016
A judge has ruled that Irondequoit wrongly withheld records about the town’s vacant homes from the Democrat and Chronicle, which had filed a Freedom of Information Law request for the records.
The town had claimed that release of the records could endanger public safety because it could make criminal activity more likely at the vacant homes, often called “zombie homes.” However, state Supreme Court Justice Ann Marie Taddeo found that argument lacked specificity and ran afoul of the state’s public access laws.
” … An argument can be made that that public awareness of ‘zombie’ properties will only increase neighbors’ attentiveness and, perhaps, may result in a decrease of criminal activity,” Taddeo wrote in a decision released Friday.
Also, the judge ruled, the town cannot try to claim that a release of the records would be a violation of privacy because “disclosure of records relating to issues of real property shall not be deemed an unwarranted invasion of public privacy.”
Taddeo wrote that most of the information about the vacant properties would already be accessible online now.
Taddeo ordered that the town make the records available within 30 days. She declined to order the town to pay legal fees for the Democrat and Chronicle.
Town officials declined to comment Friday.
“We are pleased that the court recognized the purpose and intent of the law, especially here, given the public nature of property records and the frequently obvious nature of vacant property,” said Sarah Snyder Merkel of the Wolford Law Firm, who represented the Democrat and Chronicle in the lawsuit.
The original FOIL request was made by Democrat and Chronicle staff writer Meaghan M. McDermott, and was supported by comments from Bob Freeman, executive director of New York state’s Committee on Open Government.
Source: Democrat & Chronicle