Republican Legislator Hofstein Expresses Disappointment Over Actions Concerning Illegal Housing And Volunteer Firefighters’ Safety

Republican County Legislator Lon Hofstein

Republican County Legislator Lon Hofstein

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.

Sincerely,
Lon Hofstein

(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.)

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  • Joe Ciardullo

    A few observations and thoughts. I totally agree with what Lon and other have
    expressed when it comes to our volunteers and those less fortunate that are
    being taken advantage of that rent these illegal subdivisions of homes. The illegal subdivision of housing is not limited to specific areas. Lon touched
    on the burden that illegal subdivisions cause towns and the county. To clarify, people need to be reminded about this financial cost as well, and it cost every law abiding taxpayer.

    First off, we need to treasure our VOLUNTEERS who risk their lives to protect our lives and property. Without these brave men and women, volunteering their time, imagine what the taxes would be if we had to support paid fire departments. If we don’t treat them fairly and do whatever we can to make the job safer, then we as a society have failed.

    Second, every taxpayer is subsidizing the illegal housing owners. Many taxes are based on the zoning of the home (sewage, garbage collection, emergency services, etc.) This is based on formulas that average the
    number of people that are supposed to be in a single family. When you have 20 people in a home that is zones for a single family that has an average of 5 people. The rest of us are subsidizing those additional 15 people, through higher taxes on the above mentioned services, since the volume of sewage, garbage, etc. goes up given the amount of people crammed into the house, yet the collected taxes remains based on single family. Multiply this by the amount of illegally converted homes, and you start to see big numbers in terms of cost increases that all legal families need to share.

    School taxes are also based on the zoning and assessed value of the home. Clarkstown school district pays close to 19k per student. The children living in these illegally subdivided homes are not paying their fair share towards education. Everyone else is picking up the increasing tab for education.

    Third, existing home values decline when you have illegally subdivided homes. You end up with numerous cars parked all over the place, on streets and front yards. Often these homes are not well maintained. When you go to sell your home, you’ll end up with less money, and the county ends up with less taxes collected as well.

    I applaud County Executive Ed Day and the members of the illegal
    housing task force, along with Legislator Hofstein, Meyers, and Carey who sponsored this resolution.

    Remember, everyone loses, except for the “slum” lords that are currently laughing all the way to the bank, but hopefully for not too much longer.