Say you’re a 69-year-old vet who lives in Long Island. Now, say you’re a 69-year-old vet living in Long Island who has to go out of state for surgery. And you’re gone for six months. What do you expect upon your return? A welcome home party perhaps. Maybe a casserole from a well-meaning neighbor. What you don’t expect is to return to your house being torn down and everything you’ve ever owned gone forever. Sounds like the beginning of some horrible novel, but this is absolutely real life.
Meet Philip Williams, a man who lived in a modest two-story cottage in the town of West Hempstead. Unfortunately for him, his neighbors didn’t like his house as much as he did—according to PIX11 it was “dilapidated”—so when he left for Florida to get his knee replaced, the city tore the house down without letting Williams know. Whether this was deliberate or not isn’t yet clear, but Williams claims that he never received any notice that the home he and his wife shared before she died would be demolished in his absence.
Williams is currently fighting the town, but officials claim they did everything they could to get in touch with him before they held a public hearing in which they chose to tear his house down. That’s because they thought the house was a “zombie,” which, according to The Military Times, is a house that’s been foreclosed on and abandoned. But Williams’ house was his outright. His mortgage had been paid;even more tragically, he’d lived in the same home since he was a baby.
“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.
The vet is heartbroken, but he’s fighting for restitution. Armed with a lawyer who believes that what the town did was illegal, Williams won’t stop fighting until he’s reimbursed for what he believes was a completely preventable occurrence. He didn’t lose his house in a tornado or a fire (as he originally thought), he lost his house to a bulldozer; and if nothing else, he wants the justice he didn’t receive while he was busy recuperating.