Fines For Illegal Housing Conversions Jump

Clarkstown Town Board passed tougher fines and penalties for town code violations


The Clarkstown Town Board’s ramping up of fines and penalties for town code violations got the approval of Rockland County Deputy Fire Coordinator John Kryger on Tuesday night. The board passed sweeping changes in 26 chapters of the town code including those pertaining to housing and fire code violations. Kryger, who is also a volunteer firefighter in West Haverstraw, said he was glad to see the town taking action against “slumlords.” 

Kryger was one of two people who spoke during a public hearing on amendments to the town code.  The board voted unanimously to update and increase fines and penalties for violations relating to building construction administration, graffiti, dogs and other animals, massage establishments, littering and posting, parking, noise, property maintenance, recycling, solid water transportation and disposal, vehicles and traffic, and zoning. Additionally the new local law includes provisions for dealing with “double woods” or double utility poles that stand in the town right of ways. 

Town Attorney Amy Mele said the intention of the changes was to implement a “three strikes and you’re out process.” The amendments set penalties for first, second and third offenses and established minimum and maximum fines. The first time a housing code violation is issued, the fine would be no less than $2,500 and could go up to $15,000.

On Wednesday, Clarkstown Building Inspector Peter Beary said over the past 16 months the town received 47 complaints about possible illegal conversions. He explained that 13 were found to be violations and of those seven went to court. Two of the seven cases that went to court have been adjudicated and five are still outstanding. 

Mele said each week that a violation is not corrected it is considered a separate and additional violation subject to a fine. She said the 2012 fire at an illegally converted home in Valley Cottage prompted creation of a committee to review the fines and penalties in the town code. 

Councilmember George Hoehmann said Clarkstown’s new sanctions were probably the most stringent in the area. 

“This is among the highest in the region,” said Hoehmann. “They should really act as a deterrent." 

The updated provision for double woods defines what they are and allows a 90-day window for utilities to shift their equipment from the old pole to the new pole and removal of the old pole before fines are imposed.  Mele said Orange & Rockland had raised questions about the amendment and she would meet with their representative and if necessary, the town board would amend the local law in the future. 

ALW April 11, 2013 at 06:00 PM
I've been wondering the same thing. The welfare/medicaid/section 8 fraud that is probably going on would make us all sick. Everything paid for in cash; no paper trail for anything; ficticious LLC's created to hide who is buying up everything. No one has the guts to look into this...not the local, state, federal government. The county is being trashed and everyone is looking the other way. It sickens me.
Joe Ciardullo April 11, 2013 at 08:31 PM
I had spoken on this based on the following: http://nyack.patch.com/articles/burned-valley-cottage-home-had-illegal-apartments http://nyack.patch.com/articles/rockland-fire-officials-begin-crackdown-on-illegal-housing I had inquired if there was going to be preferential treatment since the owner was on the Parks and Rec board. I was not happy with the fine, that was give, it was not enough. My statement was that for these types of violations the initial fines need to be much higher to act as a true deterrent
Watchdog April 11, 2013 at 09:51 PM
I believe the definition of a family was changed in Clarkstown a few years ago to say that if you can fog up a mirror and you live in the home, you are part of the family. I believe the rationale was to conform to NYS definition but I suspect it was something else. I wonder if anyone knows if there s a maximum occupancy level in Clarkstown?
paul lauro April 11, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Joe Klien !
Andromachos April 12, 2013 at 11:04 AM
New Square and Kaser are two of the poorest communities in the state of New York and among the 100 poorest in the whole United States. http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_the_poorest_places_in_the_United_States#section_1 What we need is to get some jobs training and back to work program into them. We need to help them. We have ignored their plight for long enough. They need education and opportunities to better themselves. I am sure they would be grateful.


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