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LI Home Thought To Be Abandoned Demolished, Owner Sues After Losing Everything

WEST HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A Long Island homeowner is suing the Town of Hempstead after finding his house had been demolished without his knowledge.

Phil Williams, a 69-year-old veteran, took a leave of absence to recover from a knee surgery in Florida. When he returned to his West Hempstead home, it was gone.

Along with the home, Williams lost all of his possessions within the house -- including his furniture, collections and jewelry, WLNY's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

The house was demolished as part of an ongoing effort from the Town of Hempstead to clean up the scourge of 'zombie' houses.

"They went too far - this house should not have been demolished, and they went too fast," Bradley Siegel, Williams' attorney, said. "They had all the signs to know that someone was living here."

Town officials said they "followed all proper procedures" and notified Williams with repeated registered letters beginning last October. The house was torn down in May.

Williams said that he did not receive his mail while he was hospitalized.

"Somebody could have called me, somebody could have notified me and said 'hey listen here is whats going on,'" Williams said. "But the town, they took everything, its just gone."

Town officials said the house was a hazard, and that they held a public hearing on the house in February. Williams said he never got notice of that, either.

Some neighbors thought the house was abandoned.

"The house was abandoned, that's the way it looked," one neighbor said.

But Siegel argued that's just not the case.

"He [Williams] was paying his mortgage," Siegel said. "There was no foreclosure -- it was not a zombie house."

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