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The Civic Scene: New state law sets liens for illegal apartments

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Civic associations have long been upset that some owners or speculators buy property and then add illegal conversions or rooms, causing a deterioration in the community from overcrowding, too many illegally parked cars, overflowing trash cans left out for days, untended lawns and bushes, broken sidewalks and fliers all over the property, since people living in these illegal apartments generally seem not to care about the community. A neighborhood is zoned for certain size buildings so there are just so many people there, and municipal services can be provided and the neighborhood looks good.

Regrettably, these illegal apartments are all over Queens. State Senator Frank Padavan was confronted by this problem in Jamaica Estates and other areas in eastern Queens. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer was confronted with large houses in Far Rockaway which were turned into rooming houses illegally. People who did these illegal activities did not bother to pay the fines they received when caught, since there was no mechanism to collect the money.

Senator Padavan and Assemblywomen Pheffer worked in their respective houses of the Legislature to sponsor this bill. Now under this new law, if a person is given a fine by the Buildings Department for having an illegal dwelling and the fine is not paid, the amount owed becomes a lien on the property and it can be sold or auctioned by the city for non-payment of the fine.

This is an incentive for people not to build illegal rooms, since the enforced fines will render the illegal units unprofitable to build. The extra, unplanned burden on municipal services such as police, fire, water, sewers, sanitation and the schools will be lessened.

It should be known that if a person happens to have a two or three-unit apartment house and then adds an illegal conversion, the tenant in the illegal apartment and the other tenants do not have to pay rent because the house has an illegal apartment. Too bad that people who add illegal rooms to their houses do not know this legal fact prior to building illegal apartments. You can call the Department of Buildings if you notice a neighbor does not have a Building Permit displayed on the property while doing construction. The DOB's new Central Complaint Center Number is 212-227-7000.

Good and Bad News of the Week

I am pleased that Election Day was a holiday so it was special and people could be motivated to vote. But it was unfortunate that this holiday fell on a Tuesday, which wass the Sanitation Department collection day for my and others' blocks. The garbage will be collected the next day but the recycling will not be picked up until the next recycling day the next week.

I really don't know why Sanitation can't pick up the recycling the next day or at least put out notices on the houses of all who put out the recycling and then give an actual summons the next time it happens. Why can't Sanitation solve the problem of recycling cans and bags sitting on curbs for a full week after holidays?

Posted 7:13 pm, October 10, 2011
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