From the NY Times:
Amid the 75 houses inside the oak-lined, no-outlet neighborhood, a single home stands unoccupied, a celebrity eyesore.
Inside the house, the baseboards have been torn from the walls, with wires visibly protruding. The back deck is deteriorating, and the foundation may be pitched slightly toward the wildlife preserve adjacent to the back yard.
Around here, in a section of town called Fieldstone, everyone knows the peach-colored colonial with a sagging facade as the spy house, where a flock of Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested the Murphy family six years ago, on June 27, 2010.
Richard and Cynthia Murphy were really Vladimir and Lidiya Guryev, Russian spies, part of a Northeast corridor cell that was soon sent back to Moscow by the United States government in an exchange. The Guryevs and their two talented, popular daughters, Katie and Lisa, became an inspiration for the FX show “The Americans.”
They are long gone, but the unoccupied house remains a frustrating story of its own and an unwanted symbol of betrayal for the community.
“The whole thing is pretty creepy on a psychological level,” said Elizabeth Lapin, who lives about 60 yards from the spy house. “The spies resumed a normal life in Moscow, and we’re left with this reminder. The neighborhood was wounded, and it became part of a TV show. Until the house has another family, the story isn’t written.”
The F.B.I. tore the place apart on the day the Guryevs were arrested, after dragging them away in handcuffs.
That began a Dickensian, bureaucratic process: More than a year passed before the family’s green Honda Civic was repossessed from the driveway; two more years went by before the place was technically put up for sale by the United States Marshals Service in April 2013.
The 1,830-square-foot home with a “recently updated kitchen” was originally listed at $444,900, and several neighbors expressed interest. Later, the price was reduced to $365,500. Would-be buyers, however, were told by the broker, Fast Track Real Estate Company of Waldwick, N.J., that the property was either in escrow or not for sale. Structural questions lingered, and potential buyers wondered if the deed was fully cleared.
Then last month, on May 16, Santander Bank, based in Boston, acquired the deed as a lienholder.
The Russians, it turned out, owed money.
The sales process was reset to square one this spring. The federal government had by then remitted about $38,000 in property taxes on the spy house over the last three years. The Marshals Service also kept the home winterized and occasionally sent landscapers to mow the lawn.
But when Santander first took over, the property was ignored and the weeds grew higher. Public Service Electric & Gas had taken to parking its equipment in the driveway. A contractor came to look at the crumbling front steps but did not return.
“It’s not safe,” said Chris Delaney, who lives across the street from the spy house. “It could catch fire. You worry if there will be people squatting in there, and what bothers me the most is it’s a giant waste of money. What was the government doing for five years?”
“We have been working with the approved brokers and we are ensuring that the property is being maintained in preparation for sale,” a Santander spokeswoman wrote in an email.