An East Hampton property owner was arraigned on February 10 in East Hampton Town Justice Court on 28 misdemeanor charges related to code and building violations, after the Enforcement Division and the Town Building Department responded to a complaint of “deplorable living conditions” at a property on Northwest Landing Road.
Sydney Griffin, 75, was charged after an investigation found that Mr. Griffin’s single-family home at 82 Northwest Landing Road had been split into four separate units housing four different groups of tenants. The house had no central heat, and each unit was heated by space heaters, all running on extension cords. The house also contained refuse and food waste, according to the release.
Tom Preiato, East Hampton Town’s chief building inspector, said after being alerted by the Department of Human Services, he went to Mr. Griffin’s house to check on conditions there. Upon arriving at the house, Mr. Preiato said he met Mr. Griffin’s nephew, who happened to be delivering soup to Mr. Griffin, who was not home at the time.
“I walked into a very, very cold house,” said Mr. Preiato. “I knocked on all the doors and nobody answered, so I opened up the door, and saw this toddler standing next to a space heater.”
Mr. Preiato said while the situation sounds a lot worse than it is, Mr. Griffin is “still in code violation.”
In a phone interview on Tuesday, Mr. Griffin challenged the facts as presented by the town in the court filing. “It’s all a big mistake,” he said. “I’ve got no idea what the heck’s going on … There are only three people living in this house. It’s not divided into four sections. And there’s no waste. We have garbage pick-up every week.”
Mr. Griffin said he lives in the house, and the other two occupants of the house, both adults, pay $750 per month in rent each, and one of them is a good friend. “He’s been living with me for the past five or six years,” he said, “and he called the other day because we ran out of gas for heat.” He said there are no children living in the house.
The house, which Mr. Griffin said he built himself in 1963, is wired for heat, but because “we don’t have that much money, and it took a couple days for the [gas] delivery,” there was no heat in the house upon code enforcement officers’ arrival.
Additionally, East Hampton Town Police took possession of unsecured firearms, which were discovered at the house during the building department and the code enforcement’s investigation. The release said the firearms were surrendered by a family member of Mr. Griffin.
Mr. Griffin, who described himself “senile and hard of hearing,” said he used to have a “small, .22 rifle” in his house. “I have no idea what happened to it. It looks like somebody took it. It used to be laying in the corner of my bedroom.”
East Hampton Town Chief of Police Michael Sarlo and Director of Code Enforcement Betsy Bambrick could not be reached for comment. East Hampton Town Attorney Mike Sendlenski declined to comment.
Mr. Griffin said he has not hired an attorney because “there’s no need to. There’s nothing to be represented. I’m not a lawbreaker.”
The case was adjourned until February 24 in order to allow Mr. Griffin to “bring the property to compliance,” according to the release.