Tags Posts tagged with "Illegal Housing"

Illegal Housing

A home on Stony Brook Road was condemned after the Town of Brookhaven found the homeowner had the garage and basement illegally converted into apartments that housed Stony Brook University students. Photo from Town of Brookhaven

Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) had a warning for unscrupulous landlords who illegally turn residential homes into rooming houses.

“Don’t do it,” Romaine said. “We’re coming for you.”

One landlord found that Sept. 8 statement to be true March 9 when the Town of Brookhaven Law Department condemned a house at 1423 Stony Brook Road in Stony Brook, where eight people were sharing the home, according to a press release from the Town of Brookhaven. Seven of the residents were found to be students of Stony Brook University. The landlord of the ranch-style house that had been unlawfully converted to include living space in the garage and basement was not named by the town.

“This was one of the worst cases of illegal student housing that we have seen in the Stony Brook area,” Romaine said in a statement. “Off-campus housing that is not in compliance with town building and fire codes threatens the health and safety of the students who reside there and the neighbors who live nearby.”

Romaine attributed the discovery of the violations to the town’s law department and the vigilance of neighbors who contacted the town. He urged students and their families to ensure their housing compiles with town code.

At the Stony Brook Road home, the town found bedroom doors equipped with key locks, and some rooms containing refrigerators and microwaves. In addition to the illegal basement and garage apartments, with two bedrooms, a kitchen and bathroom in each, the basement had a coin-operated washer and dryer.

The law department issued the property owner several housing code violations, including no smoke detectors, no carbon monoxide detectors, no rental permit and illegal use as a rooming house. The owner’s school tax assessment relief property tax exemption was revoked, and both the Suffolk County District Attorney and New York State Attorney General’s offices have been notified for prosecution.

Bruce Sander, president of Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, said the organization reported the house to the town, calling the members the “eyes and ears of this community.”

“We are glad that this landlord will get the fines, etc. that he or she deserves, and I hope they shut this house down permanently and sell it to a family,” Sander said. “This type of landlord does not belong in any community when they openly violate the laws and put the students at risk as well as destroy property values of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

SBU offered dorm rooms on campus to the displaced students. In the last five years, the university has been working collaboratively with the Town of Brookhaven, the Suffolk County Police Department and local community groups to address safety concerns for students living in off-campus housing, according to a statement from SBU spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow.

Before the house was condemned March 9, the town notified university administration, and a coordinated effort was conducted by the school’s government and community relations, campus residences, dean of students’ office and commuter student services and off-campus living to find rooms for the students, according to Sheprow.

At the Sept. 8 press conference, Judith Greiman, chief deputy to the president of SBU and senior vice president for government and community relations, said the school takes great steps to ensure students’ safety. Among measures the university has undertaken since March 2013 are prohibiting advertisements of off-campus rentals on SBU’s website, unless the landlord can provide a Brookhaven Town rental permit, and prohibiting posting on campus bulletin boards. The university also holds tenants’ rights workshops to help students understand what to look for when renting.

In 2013, Romaine launched a mobile phone app, available on Apple iPhones and Android mobile devices, to help fight illegal off-campus housing in the town. To download the free mobile app, visit www.brookhavenny.gov from a mobile device.

Residents can also call 631-451-TOWN (8696) between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. to report housing violations. For more information or to access the town’s code book, go to www.brookhavenny.gov.

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Supervisor Ed Romaine listens to resident concerns at the town meeting. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Civic leaders in Three Village are calling on Brookhaven to put the brakes on a local law that could potentially limit the number of vehicles parked on town roads.

In an attempt to crack down on illegal rental housing in Brookhaven, elected officials mulled over a proposal at a work session late last month that would restrict the number of permitted vehicles at a rental house to one car per legal bedroom, plus one additional car. But Shawn Nuzzo, president of the Civic Association of the Setaukets and Stony Brook, said imposing “separate and unequal” laws would infringe on residents’ most basic rights as Americans by determining which Brookhaven natives would be allowed to park their vehicles on the street.

The civic president wrote a letter in opposition of the town’s proposal.

“While it is certainly in the town’s purview to determine how our roadways should be used, our laws should apply equally to all,” Nuzzo wrote in the letter. “It is unwise to create restrictive laws meant to apply only to certain members of our society — in this instance, based on their homeownership status.”

Nuzzo said he submitted his remarks on the law for the board to consider at its Sept. 17 meeting, when the town will look to add an amendment to Local Law 82 in the Brookhaven Town Code, which oversees rental registration requirements. The proposed vehicle restriction was only the latest in a string of initiatives the town put forward to prevent illegal housing rentals, including one measure that outlawed paving over front yards to make way for parking spaces.

The measures were borne out of an issue Bruce Sander, president of the Stony Brook Concerned Homeowners, helped bring to the forefront after communities in and around Three Village became hotspots for illegal or otherwise overcrowded rental homes filled with Stony Brook University students. Sander was only one of many Three Village natives to come out against the overcrowded housing debacle, citing quality of life issues such as noise and overflowing trash.

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) said at the Aug. 27 Town Board work session that he believed restricting the number of vehicles parked in front of rental homes could be a helpful tool in fighting illegal rooming houses.

“Normally, what we have to do is try to get inside to cite them, but to do that requires a search warrant, which judges are reluctant to give without probable cause,” Romaine said. “However, one of the other factors that these illegal rooming houses generate is the fact that there’s a lot of cars around. If we could control the number of cars, we would be better able to cite people.”

Looking ahead, Nuzzo said he planned on forwarding the proposal to the state attorney general’s office as well as the Southern Poverty Law Center to delve into the legality of a township restricting the number of vehicles parked in front of any given home, and whether or not the town can selectively enforce such a measure.

“If the Town Board feels street parking regulations are necessary, then those regulations should be implemented town wide,” Nuzzo said. “To target only certain residents for selective enforcement is un-American, and quite possibly illegal.”

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