procedure of her predecessor, Marshall acted as the presiding officer. The purpose of this task force is to deal with...
By Bob Harris
Queens Borough President Helen Marshall convened her Illegal
Conversions Task Force July 2 at Borough Hall. In a switch from the
procedure of her predecessor, Marshall acted as the presiding officer. The purpose of this task force is to deal with illegal construction and apartments.
The other important task force supported by civic associations and block associations
is the Zoning Task Force, whose purpose is to identify and work to downzone areas so
speculators and builders cant construct large apartment houses in residential areas.
Attending this meeting were civic association leaders, representatives of several
council members, state senators, assembly members, community board managers and
city agencies. Marshall welcomed the participants with remarks that showed that her
years as a council member from western Queens had familiarized her with illegal conversions.
Marshall and her counsel, Hugh Weinberg and deputy counsel, Monica Norris, as well as Department of
Buildings Borough Commissioner Magdi Mossad, Fire Department Battalion Chief
John Acerno and Environmental Control Board Representative Ray Scanlon were there to
discuss possible solutions.
Marshall explained the threats posed by illegal apartments, such as
the hazards of overloaded electrical wiring, which can cause loss of life; basement apartments, which often are not healthy to live in; and the
strain on city services. She wants to set up workshops to inform people how to create
legal apartments. The DOB handed out a sheet titled, Resolving An
Illegal Conversion Violation.
This issue was discussed for years at Zoning Task Force meetings until the Illegal
Conversions Task Force was set up. One must remember that there is a market for illegal
apartments because we have not guarded our borders enough and have so many illegal
aliens who want rooms, even if they are small and unhealthy. Some
speculators build several small illegal cubicles to make money because the fines are so
small, while others buy a house and use the illegal tenants to help pay the mortgage.
Weinberg spoke of Local Law 65, under which home contractors can have their
license removed if they do illegal work, as well as nail and mail violations, which are official notifications by the city. He didnt
mention that the owners hire illegal workers to do the construction. I
have yet to see a newspaper article about a contractor who had his or her license revoked.
A state law was passed that put any fines on the tax bill as a lien; however, under state law the tax lien only is valid for eight years,
although the building violation remains until it is corrected. This can be picked up
by a title search for a mortgage unless the buyers use cash and dont care about a
violation because they will create more violations. It was brought out that some
owners use relatives with the same name so ownership is hard to trace.
Mossad spoke of eight inspectors who work during the day or night
looking for illegal building. Each inspector usually makes 13 stops per shift. Mossad said the system works on complaints, inspections and enforcement. In
May there were 1,271 inspections with 356 violations given and 249 with no action
necessary. Four apartments were vacated. Why havent I read of these activities in
Mossad said that trucks shouldnt be parked in front of
houses or in driveways at night. Trucks parked at a curb is a police problem, while parking
next to a house is a Department of Buildings problem.
During the meeting people complained that a curb cut
permit is issued for one location and then the owner puts the curb cut somewhere else and
paves the lawn, parking cars or trucks on it. Mossad said that one can only pave
at the side of a house. Ha! Ha!
The DOB notifies the city Finance Department if there is an illegal apartment so the
income can be taxed. A 1997 law says that illegal apartment income should be reported to
the IRS, but they want a social security number, which is not easy to obtain if there even is one. People dont have to let inspectors into the house and, if an illegal apartment is found in
a building, the tenants dont have to pay rent.
Scanlon said that the Environmental Control Board is a quality-of-life
tribunal. It adjudicates thousands of violations a year and can impose fines. There
are 425 cases being heard and the fine stays on for eight years and has an interest rate of 9 percent. The
ECB is open to the public.
I would be happy if I could read articles about fines paid and violations removed. This
is how we preserve our quality of life. The Buildings Department complaint number is
227-7000. The Queens Liaison of DOB is Sam Schecter, reachable at 520-2472.
Good News of the Week
This all sounds so efficient and effective.
Bad News of the Week
More and more illegal conversions are creeping into fine one- and two-family homes and the citys quality of life is being lowered.
©2002 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.