Legislation Is Meaningless If Not Enforced

Filed under: INVESTIGATIONS,News |

Some have asked why we are continuing to show these things that happened years ago. We are doing this to show how the present Town Board has issued numerous press releases etc over the years. The problem is that they are not worth the paper they are printed on if they are not enforced.

The following is a press release from 2002 taken directly from the Town of Huntington Website.

At its meeting of November 19, 2002, the Huntington Town Board enacted a series of new and aggressive laws to work in concert with the Operation HAILSTORM (Huntington Against Illegal Landlords) legislation passed in July of this year. Enactment of the new laws culminate in a comprehensive and unprecedented neighborhood preservation program to halt existing illegal housing, while deterring future instances of the same.

“Our message in putting together this program is clear,” stated Huntington Town Supervisor Frank Petrone. “Those who disregard the law- and in doing so compromise the quality of life of their neighbors and all who live in this Town – will pay a hefty price, up to and including the actual forfeiture of the dwelling itself,” the Supervisor said.

Councilwoman Marlene Budd, who has long worked to address illegal housing issues threatening public safety and neighborhood quality of life added, “for the first time in the Town’s history, the odds in the game of cat and mouse between the Town and its illegal landlords will become stacked in favor of the Town. What makes our new program distinctly unique is that it will allow us to adjudicate the majority of zoning code violation cases in much less restrictive and less time consuming venues than traditional District Court,” Councilwoman Budd said.

For example, the use of the civil jurisdiction of the courts is one such additional avenue that will be used to remedy non-compliance with Town Code. “Using the civil jurisdiction, the Town may seek a court-ordered injunction to force compliance in a given zoning matter,” Councilman Cuthbertson said.

Councilwoman Susan Berland added that the Town Board is further proposing to allow for civil monetary remedies in connection with illegal housing violations. “Our present Code does not permit the Town to pursue civil relief for such violations. This new amendment will serve as an additional mechanism to seek relief in the form of a monetary reward,” Councilwoman Berland said.

The ability to use Administrative Search Warrants to gain access to and search suspected illegal dwellings was also adopted. “This new mechanism allows the Town to more easily obtain a search warrant to enforce housing codes,” said Councilman Mark Capodanno. “Prior to this amendment, search warrants could only be obtained under the more restrictive Penal Code. The use of Administrative Search Warrants will provide the Town another access option needed to promote compliance.”

Additionally, the Town Board enacted a Rental Registration Law. The Rental Registration provision requires anyone wishing to rent their premises (with the exception of legal accessory apartments or other exempt housing) to register the details of any such arrangement, including an emergency contact telephone number for the landlord/owner.

Finally, the Town Board expanded its Nuisance Code to include any residence in violation of the Town Code and Uniform Fire Prevention Building Code. In the spirit of the “Crack House Law,” whereby the Town can hold a public hearing to consider seizing a property that has been the site of two drug arrests within one year, the same repercussions now apply to repeat offenders of the Town’s zoning code.

At its meeting of October 29th, The Huntington Town Board authorized the Town Attorney’s Office to pursue four separate civil actions throughout the Town involving illegal housing arrangements. Additional civil actions will follow.

“All of the past, and most recent initiatives under the Operation HAILSTORM program should be notice enough that this Town Board will not tolerate those who knowingly, or unknowingly violate the law, placing innocent people and our very Town’s quality of life at risk,” stated Supervisor Petrone.

This is the details of the legislation. This was taken directly from the Town of Huntington Website.

ZONING VIOLATIONS BUREAU (LOCAL LAW 24-2002 ENACTED 7/2/02)
The Huntington Town Board created an internal Zoning Violations Bureau to address housing code violations. Those in violation are now cited to appear at Huntington Town Hall to be heard by a Hearing Officer appointed by the Town Attorney’s Office. Depending upon the severity of the offense, a fine of up to $2,000 per violation may be imposed. Each violation that exists for a period of seven days constitutes a separate violation subject to this fine. Failure to pay any imposed fine will result in that amount being added to the real property tax bill of the subject property where the violation occurred, which will accrue interest at the rate of 7% per year.

ADVERTISING, DISTRIBUTION OF CIRCULARS: (LOCAL LAW 30-2002 ENACTED 7/2/02)
This law requires anyone marketing an apartment through print advertising to include the legal accessory apartment permit number as assigned by the Town.

LEGAL PRESUMPTIONS (LOCAL LAW 23-2002 ENACTED 7/2/02)
Legal presumptions were added to the Code in favor of the Town obtaining a search warrant to inspect a suspected illegal dwelling. Legal presumptions include the presence of more than one mailbox, more than one gas meter, more than one connecting line for utility services, separate entrances for segregated parts of the dwelling, among other distinguishing features that point to illegal housing.

ADMINISTRATIVE SEARCH WARRANTS
(LOCAL LAW NO. 78-2002 ENACTED 11/19/02)
Administrative Search Warrants enable Town inspectors to more easily gain access to and search suspected illegal dwellings for code violations. Prior to the new amendment, search warrants could only be obtained under the restrictive Penal Code. Administrative Search Warrants provide the Town yet an additional avenue of physical access to a given premises.

RENTAL REGISTRATION LAW
(LOCAL LAW NO. 76-2002 ENACTED 11/19/02)
The Rental Registration Law requires anyone wishing to rent their premises (with the exception of legal accessory apartments or other exempt housing) to register the details of any such arrangement, including an emergency telephone number and address for the landlord/owner. An administrative fee of $50 will cover the cost of processing the Rental Registration application. Failure to register a rental premises under this law will result in remedy either through civil court or through the Zoning Violations Bureau.

NUISANCE CODE
(LOCAL LAW NO. 75-2002 ENACTED 11/19/02)
The Nuisance Code has been expanded to include any building, residence, premises, structure, place or lot, developed or undeveloped including an accessory apartment or an apartment in violation of the Town Code and Uniform Fire Prevention Building Code. In the spirit of the “Crack House Law,” whereby the Town can hold a public hearing to consider seizing a property that has been the site of two drug arrests within one year, the same repercussions now apply to repeat offenders of the Town’s zoning code.

CIVIL REMEDIES
(PUBLIC HEARING FOR CIVIL REMEDIES SCHEDULED FOR DECEMBER 10 TOWN BOARD MEETING)
This amendment will allow the Town Attorney to initiate lawsuits against illegal landlords using the civil jurisdiction of the court system, as opposed to the more restrictive criminal jurisdiction.
In a civil case, the burden of proof is lessened to a substantial degree as it is tied to a preponderance of evidence rather than to beyond a reasonable doubt. The civil jurisdiction provides for the full power of civil discovery, including depositions, discovery and inspection and document demands. This jurisdiction will allow the Town to seek a court-ordered injunction to force compliance in a given zoning matter. Failure to comply will place the violator in contempt of court. This provision will also allow for civil monetary remedies for all code violations presently not allowable in certain sections of the Code. This new amendment will serve as an additional mechanism to seek relief in the form of a monetary reward.

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