Republican Legislator Hofstein Expresses Disappointment Over Actions Concerning Illegal Housing And Volunteer Firefighters’ Safety
To: Editor Rockland Voice
From: Rockland County Legislator Lon Hofstein
Subject: Slum Landlords and Rockland County’s Volunteer Firefighters
The Multi-Services Committee of the Rockland County Legislature met on Tuesday, May 26th 2015. One item up for discussion was a resolution to combat illegal and substandard housing in Rockland County. This resolution is meant to address issues that result when slum landlords, whose only motivation is quick and easy cash, place their own financial interests over the safety of their tenants.
As we all know, illegal housing leads to a long list of financial burdens on the Towns and Villages. In addition to the burden on government services, illegal housing often results in excessive traffic and an increased flow of sewage and wastewater that stresses our infrastructure. These landlords know that many of the residents do not have the financial capability to file a claim in the courts about the unsanitary and unsafe conditions in which they live.
We are constantly hearing about firefighters answering calls only to find residences that have been illegally converted from single family dwellings to a multifamily residences. Such actions by these slum landlords place our First Responders at serious risk due to the fact they are no longer familiar with the design of the structure. Such changes can lead to delayed time in finding people caught in the fire and potentially lead to the death of a firefighter.
Let us not forget these firefighters are volunteers who place their lives on the line every time they answer that call for the benefit of all of us. They are our friends and neighbors who sacrifice their time for our safety.
We can no longer close our eyes to the residences that have been subdivided illegally in order to enable slum landlords to charge exorbitant rents to people who can ill-afford sum slum-imposed theft.
Last Tuesday, as I sat in on this committee, a comment was made by the chairman that discussion on this topic was taking too much time and we would have to end it. I reminded the chairman that, a month earlier, thirty minutes of the committee’s time had been used to discuss a sculpture that would be placed by the side of the County building. I asked if we were being led to believe that the design and location of a sculpture was more important than the lives of our volunteer firefighters?
Subsequently, I made several motions for a vote to be taken on the issue before my legislative colleagues. Those motions would have passed easily yet the chairman of this committee refused to allow any vote to be taken and on the motion of his colleague from the Democratic Party, he adjourned the meeting.
To say that I am disappointed would be an understatement. These Legislators put the bank accounts of these landlords before the safety and welfare of our first responders.
Clearly, our first responders deserve better treatment than that.
(Editor’s Note: The Chairman of the Multi-Services Committee is Democrat Legislator Philip Soskin. The motion to adjourn was made by Democrat Legislator Ilan Schoenberger.)