Lax building code enforcement has come to the attention of a revamped State Senate Committee that wants to gauge housing safety outside New York City. The new manual will focus on four municipalities: Ramapo, Mount Vernon, Newburgh and Albany.

According to an article in The Journal News on March 15, 2019 entitled “State panel focusing on lax housing code enforcement” by Nancy Cutler, the investigation was started by State Senator James Skoufis, the new Chairman of the Senate’s Investigations and Governmental Operators Committee. This panel has its’ own investigators and subpoena power. Senator Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat stated “Our committee will expose slumlords in the four communities we’re examining and just importantly identify best practices, determine areas where enforcement can be improved or will as recommended legislative and regulatory changes to create a safer New York State.”

New York’s suburbs are dotted with illegal, dangerous housing operated by shady landlords and allowed to continue with lax building code enforcement. Families and first responders have died in dangerously, unpredictable fires in dilapidated houses that have been carved up into illegal apartments. Landlords take advantage of tenant’s grabbing whatever apartments are available even though these apartments are illegal and rely on Cities, Towns and Villages that skimp on enforcing safety codes. Plenty of slumlords find it more profitable to ignore regulations.

Ramapo has a reputation of freely allowing dense development and barely upholding building code enforcement. This has helped foru the all-volunteer Rockland County Illegal Housing Task Force. These members attended Court hearings on cite violations reminding Judges just what is at stake. In Ramapo’s largest village, Spring Valley, gained notoriety when the State Department installed monitors in 2016 at the Municipal Building Department to oversee inspections.

In Mount Vernon, a tragic case existed in a 2013 fire that killed four members of an extended family in an illegally subdivided home. The then Mayor, Ernie Davis told The Journal News that the City never had a formal inspection program. A State audit found that Mount Vernon’s Building Department lost tens of thousands of dollars when violations were unprocessed.

Albany and Newburgh were two other sites under investigation. Other sites under investigation have reputations where landlords pay fine after fine as a price of doing business and continues to rent substandard, dangerous living quarters over and over. Gordon Wren, Vice President of the Rockland County Illegal Housing Task Force said the task force was formed to demand building code enforcement throughout the County. They complain about illegal rooming houses and other potential violations. In Ramapo, it has taken years to get Town action.

If you have been injured by living in illegal housing, contact the law firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800 or on the web at White Plains-Injury-Lawyer.com.

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